Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Concussion Center at NYU Langone Medical Center

I was invited to the launch of the Concussion Center at NYU Langone Medical Center on March 19, 2013. The Concussion Center will provide personalized care for pediatric and adult patients with concussions.At the event there were presentations, including one from guest speaker Adam Graves, former NHL player, and a panel discussion on Head Injuries and Concussion in Sports: What You Need to Know.

There's a lot to know about concussions -- the causes, effects and treatment. Because of the dangers to young athletes who sometimes compete with concussions or suffer repeat concussions, New York State passed Concussion Management legislation in June 2012. There are now 33 states and the District of Columbia who have strict guidelines on youth athletes treatment and return to play after concussions.

Athletes aren't the only population at risk for concussions. Nearly 4 million people a year (considered an underestimation) suffer from concussions and less than 15% of them seek any medical treatment. A direct blow to the head which causes an alteration in mental state is a concussion. A person does not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion either. Depending where on the head a person receives a blow can determine the area of the brain which is injured -- memory, concentration, balance etc.

Symptoms of concussion:

  • Fatigue or insomnia
  • Feeling dazed, confused or "out of it", difficulty concentrating
  • More emotional than usual, mood swings, irritability, anger, anxious, depression
  • Headache

Guest speaker of the evening, two-time Stanley Cup winner and former New York Rangers Adam Graves. He spoke to attendees from the personal standpoint of parent, player and coach. What scares a man who has suffered 8 broken noses, having all his teeth knocked out and both shoulders dislocated is concussions because with concussions, you don't always know there is an injury. He stressed the importance of teaching proper technique in sports and the presence of Athletic Trainers (that's me!) at practices and games at all times. Graves questioned whether there has to be a direct blow to the head to receive a concussion; the whiplash effect from being pounded into the boards can still knock the brain around in the skull. Former New York Giants Captain and Linebacker Harry Carson used the egg metaphor to describe life after his concussions -- the egg wasn't broken so no one knew how scrambled the yolk was.

Although athletes are kept out of sports after suffering concussions, there is no timeline to how long it will take, to return to competition, if at all. The reason for this, according to speaker Steven Galetta, MD, is no one knows when enough is enough. For one person a few concussions are "enough" to cause serious damage and end a career, for another, just one concussion and it's lights out. Many professional, college and high school athletes have their careers cut short due to concussion. Mike Richter, Steve Young, Troy Aikman are some of the more recognizable names. I thought about former WWE Superstar Bret Hart and former Yale football player and professional wrestler Chris Nowinski, author of Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis and Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Sports Legacy Institute.

Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT3)

Changes have to be made to the way games are played, equipment used and post-concussion treatment. In November 2012, the International Consensus meeting on Concussion in Sport met in Zurich and made changes to the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool, now the SCAT3, which we went over at the event as well, lead by Dennis Cardone, DO.

Dennis Cardone, DO stated that because of recent findings and research on concussions that "contact sports are in jeopardy."

I sincerely hope not.

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