According to Dr. Anthony Martino, interim chair and associate professor of neurosurgery at the USA College of Medicine, an estimated 30-40 concussions occur each year during student sports activities in our area.
A new state law took effect in June that forbids young student athletes from playing if a concussion is suspected, until being cleared by a physician. The new law, which is now in effect in 20 states, requires coaches and trainers to learn about the dangers of concussions and the effects sport injuries have on the brain.
“It’s all about the athlete,” Dr. Martino said. “The main goal of this new law is to prevent concussions from occurring. An important step in achieving this is through education – educating parents, coaches and athletes.”
In addition, Dr. Martino said athletes should be educated on the importance of reporting any signs or symptoms of a concussion to their trainer or coach.
Dr. Martino said younger athletes are at a higher risk of concussion-related injuries because their musculature is not as developed as it would be in an older athlete. “If suspected of a concussion, nobody under the age of 18 should return to play in that game,” he said.
“When in doubt, sit them out,” Dr. Martino added. “A second impact can be worse if an athlete is already having symptoms.”
According to Dr. Martino, the new concussion management plan should include removing the athlete from play and obtaining an evaluation by a physician.
A concussion, a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions, results in a set of symptoms that may or may not involve loss of consciousness. These symptoms include seizure, amnesia, headache, neck pain, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, irritability and confusion.
The Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT), a tool used to quickly assess whether an athlete has had a concussion, is used by coaches and trainers in the field. The SCAT tool covers the symptoms of a concussion, as well as information on memory function and balance testing. To learn more about the SCAT tool, click here.
According to Dr. Martino, the most important thing an athlete can do if they suffer from a concussion is to rest. “This includes resting from activity as well as cognitive rest – no video games or television,” he said. “A concussion injury usually resolves within seven to 10 days.”
Dr. Martino along with USA team physicians Dr. Albert Pearsall, professor of orthopaedic surgery, Dr. R. Brian Bettencourt, assistant professor of family medicine, Dr. Michael Linder, associate professor of family medicine, and Dr. Martin Rohling, professor of psychology, recently gave an overview of Alabama’s New Concussion Law at the August Med Med School Café lecture. They provided an overview of concussion injuries, as well as the importance of recognizing symptoms and taking appropriate steps when a concussion is suspected.
To view video from the lecture, visit http://vimeo.com/28663108.