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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Concussion Conundrums: Not Just a Kick in the Head

Published October 18, 2010 11:07 AM by Lisa Lombardo
If you think you've been hearing a lot about concussions in the news recently, you haven't been imagining things. It took just one week of the start of the National Football League's 2010-2011 season to bring concussions to the forefront. On that given Sunday, players incurring concussions were quarterback Kevin Kolb and linebacker Stewart Bradley of the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers' quarterback Matt Moore and New York Giants' tight end Kevin Boss. For the Eagles, it happened just again yesterday. During Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, wide receiver Desean Jackson took a play across the middle and was crushed between two opposing players' helmets. Jackson left the game and didn't return.

No doubt the recurring incidences of concussion have gotten the attention of not only NFL football fans, but also of parents of youths who play the sport. It's gotten the notice of the U.S. Congress as well. The Protecting Student Athletes from Concussion Act of 2010 was introduced September 23 by the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. The act would require school districts to implement management plans to ensure students are informed about concussions and given the support they need to recover. The legislation is specifically designed to increase awareness of concussion signs, symptoms and risks and improve concussion safety and management for student athletes.

In New York, the co-chairman of the NFL's Brain, Head and Neck Medical Committee said he doesn't see four concussions sustained by players during the first weekend of the regular season as a trend, the Associated Press reported http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d81a81a39/article/four-concussions-in-week-1-not-a-trend-nfl-doctor-says. But Dr. Hunt Batjer said that the rate of concussions is something the league and its medical staff will closely monitor throughout the season. "It's certainly a number that caught everyone's eye. If this pace continues, it's either better reporting of the symptoms, or it is something else systemic. We must keep a close eye on this."

But therapists and trainers for high school and college athletic teams might see the possibility of a pattern. If it can happen on the professional field to players defended by packs of large, strong teammates, the likelihood of these therapists and trainers seeing a player with a concussion looms large.

The National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA), a not-for-profit organization representing 33,000 members of the athletic training profession, endorsed the act. "Now is the time to create mandated sport-related concussion guidelines," said NATA President Marjorie J. Albohm, MS, ATC. "This bill will increase student athletes' access to medical professionals trained in concussion management and build a safer environment for youth athletics. It is devastating to see an athlete collapse on the field with a head injury. Having a plan in place ensures clear, immediate and critical care."

What do you think of the legislation? Do you feel in your experience that school coaches, trainers and even parents are informed enough about recognizing and treating concussion symptoms in young athletes? Do you think the extra attention is warranted?

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