A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury that can occur in any sport or recreation activity. Recognition and proper response to concussions when they first occur can help prevent further injury or even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur annually in the United States, although the true incidence is probably much higher.
The latest in a series of head injuries related to sports is Germany midfielder Christoph Kramer’s head injury in the World Cup final. The incident revived concerns about the way football deals with concussions.
A new position paper released by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) states that doctors have an ethical obligation to educate and protect athletes from sports related concussion and clear them to play only when the athlete is medically ready, notwithstanding objections from players, parents or coaches.
The statement was published in the online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the AAN which was released ahead of The Sports Concussion Conference held from July 11-13, 2014, in Chicago. Experts from various fields of medicine got together to discuss the best practices for treating these athletes at this first-of-its-kind sports conference.
According to the statement, physicians treating concussed athletes should:
- Have adequate training and experience in the recognition and evaluation of both the existence and severity of potential brain injury
- Facilitate informed and shared decision-making among athletes, parents, and medical teams while protecting athletes from potential harm
- Inform athletes about concussions as well as point out both the short- and long-term risks of these injuries
- Stay up-to-date on the latest research in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of concussion that critical for any neurology professional
According to an expert reporting on the conference, athletes should not return to a sport that may cause additional head injuries until all symptoms are cleared. After that, a graduated return-to-sport program should be instituted.
Comprehensive head trauma treatment provided at leading rehabilitation centers in the U.S. includes neurological examination to assess memory, balance, level of consciousness and other brain functions. Treatment may involve unblocking airways, maintaining blood flow to the brain, administration of necessary medications such as diuretics, muscle relaxers, anti-seizure drugs and coma-inducing drugs, and also pain management therapy. Surgery may be recommended for severe brain injury.