Concussion expert shares important information on sports-related concussions

The Sports Concussion Program in the Children's Orthopaedic Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles is the only pediatric program of its kind in Southern California. The clinic's treatment and research efforts are dedicated to concussions and include a peer support group, where patients can share their experiences and give and receive encouragement during their recovery. Here, concussion expert Tracy Zaslow, MD, shares some important information on sports-related concussions.

Long-term effects of repetitive head trauma
The current medical data supports the idea that if recovery from a concussion is complete with no symptoms and your child is able to gradually return to play, then long-term effects are not expected. Concussions should not go ignored; if return to play and repeat traumas occur before full recovery, long-term consequences can occur, such as chronic traumatic encephalopahty (CTE).

What is CTE?
CTE is a neurodegenerative disorder linked to repetitive head trauma resulting in a symptom profile including dementia, aggression, depression and other emotional changes. There is recent significant attention on the topic of head injury and the association of head trauma with long-term issues, specifically relating to football players; however currently no direct causation has been shown. Further research is essential to understand the pathophysiology leading to CTE and to define the cause-effect relationship.

It starts with education
There needs to be a focus on education—education on the sporting techniques that prevent head injuries and education on the importance of following rules like "hit with the head up" in football and "head with the elbows down" in soccer. It's also important for parents to learn the signs and symptoms of a concussion so that when they occur, proper rest and treatment can be done to prevent long-term issues.

Important facts and tips on head trauma
The following points reflect the most up-to-date medical practices regarding head trauma and sports:
•Loss of consciousness does NOT occur in the majority of concussions.
•Helmets are helpful to prevent serious head injury, such as fracture or bleeding in the brain, but they do not prevent concussions.
•Athletes with a suspected concussion must be removed from play or training. When in doubt, sit out!
•Athletes should not return to play after a suspected concussion until evaluated by a medical professional experienced in the care of concussions.
•Sleep is currently the best "medicine" to enable initial concussion recovery.
•To facilitate recovery after a concussion, get cognitive rest (limit brain activity), and refraining from schoolwork and screen (TV, computer, tablet, phone) time.
•Returning to school is important and must take priority over returning to sport and screen time.
•Rushing return to play puts an athlete at greater risk of delayed recovery or further injury to the brain.
•Listen to medical professionals regarding when to go back to play; this helps with full concussion recovery and prevention of re-injury.
•Learning appropriate technique in sports (i.e. hitting in football or heading in soccer) helps prevent head injuries.

Standard CT scans and MRIs will appear normal in isolated concussion injuries, as concussion is a functional rather than structural injury.


Children's Hospital Los Angeles  


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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