Sports-related concussions have drawn enormous scrutiny to a situation that has existed for many years. Many sports expose participants to increased danger of concussions and the ongoing and unpredictable health consequences that can attend a head injury. The National Football League is facing numerous lawsuits from former players who believe head injuries have caused memory loss, depression, extreme pain and other neurological difficulties. Some argue that helmets need to be improved to protect players while others dispute that helmets are effective in any way in preventing head trauma. The situation has inspired a wave of new research into prevention and treatment technologies. Recently the American Academy of Neurology has released new guidelines regarding the effective evaluation and management of athletes with concussions.
The top recommendation of the Academy is one that is gaining acceptance on playing fields across the nation. An athlete who is suspected of having suffered a concussion must be removed from play immediately. The old days of coaches telling players to shake it off or play through the pain must be over. An athlete who has suffered a head trauma faces significant danger if allowed to continue playing.
Research has shown that younger people take longer to recover from a head trauma than older people. A child in high school or youth athletics should be treated more conservatively that a college age or older athlete. Until an athlete is free from acute symptoms and has been treated and cleared by a health care professional with specific training in concussions, that athlete must not be allowed to compete. The chances of experiencing another concussion are highest in the first 10 days after suffering an initial concussion.
A serious head injury can lead to permanent neurological impairment or even death. The stakes are high when it comes to treating a head injury victim. Young athletes may not appreciate the danger they are exposing themselves to in continuing to play after a head trauma. It is up to doctors, coaches and other responsible adults to place the athlete’s health in proper perspective.
Source: Medical Xpress, “American Academy of Neurology issues updated sports concussion guideline,” 18 March 2013