Athletes of all ages who are suspected of suffering a concussion should be evaluated by a specialist before they return to sports, according to a major doctors group. There has been a great deal of concern over potential lasting damage from head injuries. The statement by the American Academy of Neurology follows rules already adopted in college sports and pro football aimed at preventing and better treating blows to the head in competition. Research involving NFL players has suggested repeated concussions may have long-term consequences, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Doctors want to get the message “to the athletes, their parents and their coaches that a concussion is not just a ding, or getting your bell rung, but it is an injury to the brain,” according to Dr. Mark Halstead of Washington University. He says that concussions “need to be treated as if they are a big deal.” The neurology academy is the most authoritative medical group when it comes to concussions. And its new advice sweeps across all ages and types of athletes. The academy also calls for a certified athletic trainer at every sports event and even practices where there is risk of concussion, something that would be a dramatic change in youth sports.
Dr. Jeff Kutscher, chair of the Academy’s sports neurology section, said the Academy’s current guidelines on managing concussions and when to return to play were written in 1997, and experience since then has shown they are inadequate. Experts hope to publish new guidelines by 2012, following a careful review of published studies, he said. The group’s new statement was meant to offer guidance in the meantime for child and adult athletes. Key points include:
In September, the U.S House voted to have experts draw up federal guidelines on handling concussions in school-aged children. The bill awaits further action. Kutscher pointed to recent studies that suggest long-term consequences like decreased mental ability, dementia, depression, anxiety and changes in personality as helping draw attention to the risk of concussions.
Source: Associated Press
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