Friday, September 24, 2010

Keeping Your Head: The Most Dangerous Games

by Mark Huslage, LCSW-C, CBIST
Coordinator of Brain Injury Programs, LifeBridge Health

As stories like this show us, emergency room visits are rising for concussions among student athletes. While we often focus on the risks of football, that's only one of many sports that place players at risk for significant neurological injury such as mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) or “concussion.”

Fall sports such as soccer, lacrosse and cheerleading have high rates of concussive injury, especially as the age and athletic abilities of participants increase. Thankfully, with the increasing awareness of parents, players and coaches, along with coordinated medical approaches at places like the Comprehensive Sports Concussion Program at The Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute, improved management of mTBI continues to emerge.

“It’s all about concussion awareness and paying attention on everyone’s part," says Kevin Crutchfield, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Sports Concussion Program at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute. “There are great pressures on athletes and coaches to play through injury to demonstrate dedication and the desire to win. Someone has to be willing to protect the player from further harm.”

A period of rest is needed in all cases of diagnosed concussion, with some requiring weeks or months of layoff from competitive play.

“For those student athletes who experience memory and thinking problems, temporary classroom accommodations may be needed, as well,” adds Brain and Spine Institute neuropsychologist Julie O’Reilly, Psy.D. “Families should feel empowered to make such requests, as needed.”

Despite recent advances in concussion management, there continue to be injuries that cause long-term physical, cognitive and behavioral effects. Mild traumatic brain injury has been increasingly diagnosed in workplace accidents, motor vehicle accidents and on the battlefield. Slips and falls in at-risk populations add to this burgeoning epidemic. With concussions representing 80 percent of all brain injuries in the U.S., the need for specialized care is readily apparent.

“Many of the people we see in the Mild Brain Injury Program here at Sinai received inadequate medical attention at the time of injury,” says MBI Case Manager Linda Hutchinson-Troyer. “Some went undiagnosed, while others were given only minimal care, with little aftercare instruction.” Experts in the field agree that much of the long-term effects of concussion would be diminished if early management was consistently practiced.

Health care professionals are encouraged to learn more at Sinai Rehabilitation Center's one-day conference on the diagnosis and treatment of mTBI, "Not 'Just a Concussion'—Understanding Mild Brain Injury and Its Management. " This presentation will focus on the medical, neuropsychological and clinical interventions that promote a full and speedy recovery. To register or for more information, click here.

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