Column: Recognizing, treating sports-related concussions

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Commentary by Dr. Joseph Hui

 

The fall sports season has begun, and sports-related concussion visits are filling up my practice.

There are many misconceptions out there on the topic, despite its omnipresence in contemporary sports culture. In children and adolescents, symptoms are not always cut and dried. Many times, fatigue, trouble concentrating and just not feeling right are the only presenting symptoms associated with a sports-related concussion. Computer-based cognitive tests, such as the IMPACT, cannot be used to diagnose concussions without the interpretation of an experienced physician, who is familiar with the test’s strengths and limitations. Unfortunately, there is little data to support the use of headgear, specialized helmets and mouth guards to reduce occurances of concussions.

Recognizing someone has a concussion may be the most important intervention to limit its effect on the athlete in question. If an athlete sustains a second hit prior to recovering from a concussion, the results may become devastating and result in a prolonged course of recovery and a severe exacerbation of symptoms, leading to something aptly named second impact syndrome.

Seeing a medically trained professional with expertise in concussion management has a variety of benefits, especially if done early on. The first and most important is correctly diagnosing a sports-related concussion. Arming athletes and parents with knowledge regarding risk-mitigation strategies to prevent a second hit is critical. Providing expectations for both the athlete and parent also are helpful in managing its course. Often, medications and therapy may be utilized to assist in the recovery if symptoms warrant. Experienced clinicians also can get the athlete back to the sport they enjoy quickly but, more importantly, safely.  Enjoy the fall sports season!

Dr. Joseph Hui is a Riverview Health primary care sports medicine physician. He specializes in management of non-operative orthopedic issues and sports-related injuries. His office can be reached at 317-867-5263.


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