The Future of Sports-Concussion Management

The prevalence of sports concussions, dangers associated with brain trauma and related lawsuits escalating into multimillions of dollars is forcing athletes, parents, coaches and athletic trainers to re-examine their knowledge, protocols, and culture protecting the players and games we love.

The brain is science’s new and exciting frontier. It is also vulnerable. The buttery, gel-like consistency floats unattached inside the skull. When force is applied, as it is many times in sports collisions, the brain sloshes from side to side, end to end, almost like a scrambling egg inside its shell.

The consequences could either take several minutes to materialize or are immediately evident. Science and the sports world are currently unraveling important information about how the brain is impacted. They have to because lives and futures are at stake, which until recently have not been as important as the wins and losses that usually take center stage in sports.

Athletes, young and old, are struggling with concussions and the effects of mild traumatic brain injuries. But they aren’t alone. Parents, coaches, athletic trainers, league officials, and virtually everybody else involved in supporting athletic development are grasping for answers to what can be done to ensure that athletes avoid the dangerous risk of short- and long-term cognitive and emotional impairment resulting from concussions.

The NFL and NHL are contending with multimillion-dollar lawsuits because of brain traumas, giving concussions an awareness level never seen before. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 3 million concussions occur per year, most experts agree that incidence rates are much higher than realized. Many athletes experience concussions more often than they actually report them.

This is forcing the sports world to reexamine its knowledge about the brain and how to protect it while allowing players to enjoy the benefits of the game and their lives, long after their playing days are over.

Unfortunately, parents and coaches aren’t typically well versed in brain matters. Moreover, the sports-therapy and athletic-trainer industries have been strapped with outdated protocols, tools, and techniques. However, now is the time for technology and science to combine and allow for the integration of resources and tools necessary for clinical concussion management at all levels.

The notion of concussion management is still a relatively new concept. Most sports teams have the task of piecing together various materials, tests, and tools to create guidelines for managing concussions. These methods, which may be adequate to some degree independently, leave athletic trainers with a fragmented protocol that can delay, frustrate, and taint the objectivity needed to help prevent, detect, and protect athletes from significant brain damage. There’s the lack of a single, reliable, and practical source of information that provides expert guidance.

I’ve been studying the brain for more than 25 years, dealing with thousands of concussions and specializing in the behavioral alterations associated with brain trauma. I found that existing concussion-management information lacks depth of understanding and realistic applications. So I began creating my own protocols for education and baseline measurement, as well as detection and recovery guidance.

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