Concussions Among High School Athletes At "Epidemic" Level, Doctor Says
Nearly one in five athletes playing contact sports suffers a concussion each season, enough for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to label this traumatic brain injury an “epidemic.”
The Concussion Management Clinic at Providence Saint Joseph’s Hycy and Howard Hill Neuroscience Institute is the only hospital-based program credentialed by ImPACT – Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing – a well-regarded computerized concussion evaluation system.
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The Providence Saint Joseph ImPACT program, run by neurologist Michael M. Marvi, M.D., diagnoses, evaluates and treats sports-related concussions and determines the safest time for the athlete to return to play.
With proper management, most athletes recover from concussions completely and can return to play following an appropriate period of recovery. However, knowing when it is safe to go back to the game and avoid serious brain injury is crucial. Coaches, parents, physicians and teammates share that responsibility.
“Coaches and other team players can learn to evaluate a player who suffers a head injury and should document what occurred and observe the athlete for at least a few hours,” Dr. Marvi said. “Parents then have to be very diligent – symptoms can change and that’s very important to know. If there are any severe symptoms, including unequal pupils, balance problems, slurred speech, blurry vision, continuing nausea or vomiting or any decline in mental status, they should head to the Emergency Department immediately for evaluation.
“Finally the players themselves should be very aware of the symptoms, and not (feel ashamed or feel they should hide their symptoms or) downplay them. Better to take time off rather than continue to play and have a potentially serious outcome.”
Every concussion should be treated individually depending on the patient’s symptoms and clinical test results. The Concussion Management Clinic is designed to treat each athlete individually by creating a comprehensive treatment plan and a return-to-play plan that will promote full recovery.
With the school year coming to an end, and a new crop of high school players beginning summer training sessions, Dr. Marvi urges coaches and school personnel who deal with student athletes to recognize the signs of concussion and understand the need to recover before returning to play.
“Ignoring the symptoms of concussion or allowing players to return too soon can have tragic consequences, ranging from impaired memory to learning disabilities or even rarely to coma or sudden death,” Dr. Marvi said.