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Concussions and brain injury prevention – March 16, 2011

Recent activity by the NFL, NHL and others has brought attention to the problems associated with concussive injury.  A concussion is a injury to the brain caused by a sudden blow to the head or body which shakes the brain inside the skull.  This can result both from sports or other trauma such as car accidents or falls.  Repeated or severe concussions may lead to surgery or lasting difficulties with movement, learning or speaking.

Several weeks ago the NFL instituted standardized sideline concussion testing for all teams and players. This was in part due to the ongoing debate regarding the long term effects of brain injuries and mental illness suffered by professional athletes.  Margot Putukian, chairwoman of the NFL’s Return-to-Play Subcommittee and head team physician for Princeton University, stated that the testing: “incorporates the most important aspects of a focused exam, so that injury is identified and athletes with concussion and more serious head and spine injury can be removed from play.”

On Monday of this week, the NHL followed the NFL’s lead by proposing a revision to it’s Protocol for Concussion Evaluation and Management in three areas:

1)      Mandatory removal from play if a player reports any listed symptoms or shows any listed signs such as loss of consciousness, motor incoordination/balance problems, slowness to get up following a hit to the head, blank or vacant look, disorientation, clutching of the head after a hit and/or visible facial injury in combination with any of the above.

2)      Examination by the team physician (as opposed to the athletic trainer) in a quiet place free from distraction.

3)      The team physician is to use ‘an acute evaluation tool’ such as the NHL Sports Concussion Assessment Tool, (SCAT2) as opposed to a quick rinkside assessment.

Thankfully, in the past couple weeks, high school sports administrators are also following the lead from professional sports. In Butte Montana earlier this month, a committee of school administrators and doctors recommended that school officials require that high school athletes go through preseason neurological testing as part of a plan to protect players from additional injury following a concussion.  As Butte High Principal John Metz noted: “the whole philosophy behind it is you can’t ever be too safe with head injuries.”  Those who suffer from post-concussive syndrome may display many of the following symptoms:

Changes in their ability to think, concentrate, or remember.

Suffer headaches or blurry vision.

Experience changes in their sleep patterns

Display changes in ther personality such as anger or anxiety for no apparent reason.

Loss of interest in usual activities.

Changes in sex drive.

Dizziness, lightheadedness, or unsteadiness that makes standing or walking difficult.

WebMD recommends the following for reducing concussions:

Wear helmets and safety equipment when you are biking, blading, skateboarding, snowboarding, or skiing.

Wear your seat belt in a car.

Make your home as accident-proof as possible by adding lighting to dark areas, fixing uneven surfaces, blocking off stairways, and padding edges of sharp objects.

If you have suffered a head injury due to the negligence of another, feel free to contact us for a free evaluation of your legal rights.


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