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The Sports Concussion Program at the Slocum Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine offers a comprehensive approach to the evaluation of sports-related concussions in youth, high school, and college athletes. We have developed a program that emphasizes the significance of recognizing and properly diagnosing sports-related concussions. We also design individualized Return to Activity Plans to allow for safe return to sports and other activities following a concussion.
A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that interferes with normal brain function. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 300,000 sports concussions among children and adolescents each year in the United States. It is usually caused by a blow to the head but may occur with a whiplash injury or when the head strikes the ground. Only about 5-10% of people are knocked unconscious with a concussion. Most are confused, dazed, or complain of a headache.
The past decade has seen a revolution in the management of sports-related concussions. What was once considered a relatively benign condition is now recognized as a critical medical issue with distressing, potentially permanent consequences. Having one’s “bell rung” or being “dinged” has far more serious consequences than previously suspected. Until recently, there were more than 20 different protocols physicians could use to evaluate and manage concussions. In 2008, an international conference on sports concussions was held in Zurich. The aim of the symposium was to provide recommendations that would improve the care for athletes who sustained concussions through participation in sports. The delegates attending the conference redefined concussions and established guidelines for the evaluation, treatment, management, and prevention of the injury.
Our Sports Concussion Program Specialists:
Our Sports Concussion Program has four distinct and important components to ensure the safety of all athletes:
Not all sports-related concussions can be prevented, but the risk may be lessened through proper tackling techniques and by following the rules of good sportsmanship. In addition, our physicians are actively involved in educating athletic trainers, primary care physicians, athletes, and coaches in concussion prevention and recognition.
The key to the proper management of a sports concussion is early recognition of the concussed athlete. Certified athletic trainers in our high schools are vital in this role. If athletic trainers are not available, coaches, teammates, officials, and parents must be able to recognize the subtle signs of a concussion. However, the proper diagnosis cannot be made until the athlete is evaluated by a physician.
Slocum Center's Sports Concussion Program utilizes a variety of tools to evaluate the presence of concussions in athletes. We also monitor the resolution of symptoms to determine when he or she can safely return to school and sports. The evaluation will include a thorough history and neurologic assessment and may also include neuropsychological testing, balance assessment, and communication with parents, athletic trainers, teachers, and coaches.
The neuropsychological test we use to evaluate cognitive function is called ImPACT. Through ImPACT, we are able to evaluate, document, and measure various brain functions, including memory, processing speed, reaction time, and symptoms. With proper medical care and neuropsychological testing, our physicians are able to determine when an athlete has recovered from a concussion and can safely return to sports.
The decision to let an athlete return to playing his or her sport must be made carefully. An athlete who returns too quickly to normal activities, such as school or work, may prolong the recovery time. Returning to sports activity prior to complete resolution of a concussion may put the athlete at an increased risk for another concussion. When deciding upon when an athlete is ready to return to play, neuropsychological testing plays an important role.