Concussion In Young Athletes: Know The Symptons And Risks

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Dr. Klein of NSPC’s Long Island Concussion Center Urges Parents, Educators, Athletic Personnel to Learn Warning Signs, Take Quick Action

ROCKVILLE, CENTRE, NY – Concussion in youth sports is a serious issue, as young athletes’ brains are more susceptible to injuries. These injuries can become more serious as players suffer repeated incidents.  Sports related concussions have generated a significant amount of attention, with numerous well-known school and professional athletes out of the game due to concussion.

There is increasing evidence that repeat concussions can have devastating results.  News reports recently revealed that the late National Hockey League player Derek Boogaard had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), a disease that can present with symptoms very similar to Alzheimer’s disease. Boogaard, who suffered repeated head injuries, was only 28 at his death.

While young athletes may not suffer this degree of head trauma, they may still experience debilitating concussions – even if the concussions are not obvious at first.  Experts at The Long Island Concussion Center at NSPC Brain & Spine Surgery (NSPC) want parents, school sports officials, educators and young athletes to become more aware of the warning signs, and of what they should do if concussion symptoms are present.

“Most spectators will notice the ‘big hit,’ but concussions can occur after minimal contact or with no head contact at all,” says neuropsychologist Gad Klein, Ph.D., who co-directs the Long Island Concussion Center with neurologist Joseph Moreira, M.D.  “Sideline assessment by athletic personnel is critical, since we often can’t rely on the athletes to provide accurate reports, as they are anxious to return to play.”

Dr. Klein cites some of the most common symptoms of concussion:  headaches, cognitive difficulty, fatigue and mood change.  While these symptoms usually resolve in a few days to one week with rest and treatment, returning to play before all symptoms disappear can lead to more concussions and longer recovery time from subsequent concussions. In children and adolescents, the possibility of severe injury, even death, is a rare but real concern if a player is concussed again before fully recovering.

Dr. Klein notes that these potential dangers should not discourage parents from enrolling their children in organized sports activities.  “Often a bump on the head is just that,” he says. “It is the job of clinical specialists to clarify the potential dangers of concussions and the methods used to manage and treat them.  Parents, athletic personnel and teachers should be taught how to recognize these injuries to ensure the safety of all children.”

Dr. Klein uses a range of tools including neuropsychological testing to assist in determining whether young athletes are ready to return to play and to evaluate their cognitive and academic abilities before and after returning to school.  Among these assessment methods is the new ImPACT Concussion System, a computerized test developed at the University of Pittsburgh, which evaluates concussion victims’ cognitive abilities. Both Dr. Klein and Dr. Moreira are ImPACT certified, and able to properly interpret ImPACT results and help athletics officials determine the safest post-concussion plan for each student.

The Long Island Concussion Center at Neurological Surgery P.C. is a multidisciplinary practice with specialists in the fields of neurology, neuropsychology, neurosurgery, pain management, and physical therapy. The mission of the Concussion Center is to provide comprehensive assessment and management of individuals with acute concussions or lingering post-concussive syndrome. Center experts provide medical and cognitive evaluations after mild brain injury, help patients understand the nature of their injury and what to expect as they recover, and manage lingering symptoms. Center staff can also work closely with each athlete’s primary care physician and assist in making decisions regarding the athlete’s ability to return to work or school, or participate in sports activities, following a concussion.