SAN ANGELO, Texas — The headlines covering concussions in athletes of all ages that made their way into the national spotlight over the past several years have yet to fade — and for good reason.
Amid the stories of professional athlete fatalities and young, high school athletes suffering lifelong damage linked to concussions, numerous research studies have surfaced showcasing the devastating and life-altering effects of untreated concussions.
Concussion is a widespread problem in all contact sports, and the statistics are alarming: According to Healthcare Communication News, each year athletes suffer 1.6 million to 3.8 million sports-related concussions, and half of patients hospitalized with a head injury are younger than 25.
However, fewer than 10 percent of concussions result in loss of consciousness, making the proper diagnosis difficult. In addition, suffering a second concussion while still having symptoms from the first can be lethal.
The subject made its way through the Texas Legislature in the form of House Bill 2038 and was put into effect immediately after approval. In summary, the bill is directed toward public schools and focuses on the prevention, treatment and oversight of concussions affecting public school students participating in interscholastic athletics.
Requirements stemming from the bill include establishing a concussion oversight team at each school and continuation of concussion management with the addition of treatment for this medical condition. The concussion oversight team enforces "return to play" protocol and recommends treatment that also is implemented at home.
Prevention of concussions is a multipronged approach that has been going on for years, but until 10 years ago it was difficult to determine the proper treatment regimen. Students must be 100 percent recovered before they are sent back into play or they could suffer severe damage.
To help ensure the prop
er care and treatment is administered to San Angelo and West Texas student athletes, Shannon neurologists and the Sports Medicine department have implemented the Shannon Concussion Clinic and a universal treatment regimen for concussions among all Shannon providers. Each medical professional administering concussion treatment has received ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) certification.
Before school sports begin this fall, Shannon Sports Medicine will reach out to area junior high and high school athletes to take the ImPACT test. The test, which takes approximately 20 minutes, measures multiple aspects of cognitive function in athletes including attention span, working memory, sustained and selective attention time, response variability, nonverbal problem solving and reaction time. At the end of the test a "baseline" is reported.
If an athlete suffers a head injury, an ImPACT-certified medical professional administers a follow-up and then compares the outcome to the baseline result. From there, a treatment plan is established on an individualized basis. The plan is then shared with the school district.
Treatment involves eliminating certain activities that stress the brain. This can include no texting, television or video games along with modifications in the classroom setting. It is up to parents to make sure these rules are enforced at home as well.
A concussion is a very serious problem, especially in adolescents. A concussion that is not diagnosed or treated properly can lead to permanent brain injury, which may not be apparent in the sense that the injury does not consist of using crutches or walking with spasticity, but a child who has had multiple concussions could suffer permanent disability in various parts of the brain. This may be a huge problem that affects college, career, relationships — their lives. Knowing how to diagnose a concussion and treat it correctly can make a huge difference in a young adult's life.
Shannon Sports Medicine provides on-site injury assessment when the team is present at sporting events. Parents may also seek concussion evaluation or treatment for their children by calling the Shannon Concussion Clinic at 325-658-5681 or 800-458-8384.
Dr. James Williams is a Shannon family practice physician and medical director of the Shannon Concussion Clinic, ImPACT certified.