Guidelines for protecting the brain

Concussion is a group of symptoms that result from an injury to the brain.  The injury may occur after impact to the brain from an outside force or the brain striking the inner skull.  It affects between 1.6 and 3 million American athletes each year.

The American Academy of Neurology first published a series of guidelines for the evaluation and management of concussion in athletes in 1997.  Over the course of the past 15 years much has been learned on this vital topic.

Last week, this same group published the most comprehensive scientific review of concussion in sports that has ever been undertaken. This multi-disciplinary study looked at over 14,000 published studies from 1955 to 2012. The reviewers included neurologists, psychologists, physiatrists and athletic trainers.

The original guidelines were based on a grading system with the mildest being a grade 1 and most severe grade 3.  The current information shows that each patient who suffers a concussion has to be treated individually.

Some of the most important conclusions from the study include:

•  The presence of a licensed health care professional with experience diagnosing and treating concussion at an athletic event improved early recognition and recovery.
•  A concussed athlete was at greatest risk for a second concussion within 10 days of the first injury.
•  Body checking in youth hockey, hockey players wearing half visors, quarterbacks and any athlete playing on artificial turf is more susceptible to having a prolonged recovery period after concussion.
•  Male athletes playing football, Australian rugby and hockey were most susceptible, while soccer and basketball had the highest risk for females.
“The most effective treatment for concussion continues to be removal from the game as soon as a concussion is suspected,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the principal authors of the study.

This review not only presents new information but confirms the slogan that “when in doubt, sit it out.” 

The power of teamwork

The concept of “team building” is often used in the business environment.  It best applies to bringing together a group of people with a singular purpose.  In sports that purpose is usually a championship but it is often the events that lead up to attaining that goal that are most significant.

This week the Healthy Sports spring training tour is in full swing and one story that seems to dominate the headlines is the New York Yankee injury roster.  Six of the top nine productive players are either injured or recovering from an injury.  Some sports pundits are already predicting a last-place finish.

The only place where these dire predications are not being heard is among the Yankees themselves.  Instead, they have chosen to remain positive and confident that they will win another championship.

That same positive team approach also has great value when facing a health-related problem.

Recently, TV viewers have been able to witness the recovery of anchorwoman Robin Roberts from a bone marrow transplant.  The transplant was necessary after her previously successful battle with breast cancer.  A team of doctors, nurses, family members and close friends was carefully assembled for the long ordeal.  Their principle job was to provide encouragement and remain positive throughout the ordeal. 

It is no coincidence that Roberts was previously an outstanding college basketball player and ESPN host who understood the importance of having the right team in place.  In fact, studies have shown that patients who have a support team are more successful in conquering an illness and those who face a terminal condition have a better quality of life in their final days.

Little league baseball season is about to begin and for many children this will be their first experience with the concept of a team.  It is the responsibility of the adults involved to make sure that their experience is one that will serve them for the rest of their lives.