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New Guidelines for Sports Concussions: If In Doubt, Sit It Out

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013   

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - "If in doubt, sit it out."

That's the key advice in new guidelines from The American Academy of Neurology on evaluating and treating athletes who suffer from concussions. According to the Academy, that rule is the one thing athletes and coaches need to remember.

Dr. Greg Canty, medical director of the Center for Sports Medicine at Children's Mercy Hospital, agrees. He said that over the years doctors have come to realize that there are a lot of symptoms of concussion, and many can be subtle.

"Less than 10 percent of people that have a concussion ever lose consciousness," the doctor pointed out. "That's a big change from what people used to think."

Canty said some of the signs to watch out for are headache and sensitivity to light or sound, and changes in reaction time, speech, balance, memory or judgement.

Under Missouri law, a student athlete suspected of having a concussion must be taken out of play for at least 24 hours and must be evaluated by a professional before going back into play.

Canty said it always takes longer than 24 hours to recover from a concussion, and the guidelines say that the first ten days afterward are the period of greatest risk for suffering another one. He said it's important for everyone involved with student athletics to familiarize themselves with these guidelines.

"If you look at the state of Missouri as a whole, the number of schools that have athletic trainers is extremely small," he remarked. "And so it's important for the physicians, the coaches and the parents to all be educated about 'What do we do if we think a high school athlete in a small town in Missouri has a concussion?'"

Canty said many athletes are under a tremendous amount of stress because their whole social lives center around their sports. He suspects that over the years many concussions have gone untreated.

"There's stress for them to get back out there and play, sometimes prematurely," the doctor warned. "Their families are often tied into their sports. They're right there every day getting to go back in and play their sports. They all want to please their coaches."

Even though concussions are a risk, Dr. Canty said, in general the benefits from playing sports outweigh the risks. He added that parents don't need to go out and buy expensive helmets. There is no clear evidence that one type of helmet protects better than another.

The Academy has come out with an app that coaches and trainers can download to recognize symptoms. It's called Concussion Quick Check.

The new guidelines, including that app, are at AAN.com. More information is at CDC.gov.




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