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Feature Story

January 2016


Expanding Education on Concussion in Sports

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The new film Concussion follows the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of what is now known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in those with a history of repetitive brain trauma such as concussion. While the film will bring the issue of brain injury and sports participation to many people's attention for the first time, many organizations and professionals have been hard at work trying to expand our understanding of concussion in sports like football and boxing.

The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) continues to be a leader in the areas of research and education of sports-related concussions, often sharing best practices and ideas with other professionals and thought leaders nationwide and around the world. In 2008, AMSSM welcomed Dr. Omalu to its 17th annual meeting in Las Vegas, where he presented a feature lecture titled "The Link Between the Field and Dementia." His presentation provided information on CTE from a historical perspective and discussed how this condition could be induced by participating in sports like American football.

In 2012, AMSSM released a position statement titled "Concussion in Sport," which included a section on the long-term sequel of concussions, reviewing the current state of the evidence and advocating for long-term epidemiological studies. It also included a recommendation that healthcare professionals apply an individualized approach to the diagnosis and care management of sports concussion, as the severity of injury and an individual's risk factors vary from athlete to athlete.

Written by a team of 10 experts in the diagnosis and treatment of concussion, many of whom are team physicians, the statement was intended for sports medicine physicians who are specially trained to provide sports concussion care from acute injury to return-to-play.

Kimberly Harmon, M.D., lead author and head football team physician for the University of Washington, and past AMSSM president, said that the vast majority of those with concussion will not go on to develop CTE. However, concussive symptoms need to be taken seriously and evaluated by a medical professional knowledgeable in the diagnosis and management of concussion. She points out that there are a variety of tests to help physicians determine the diagnosis in sports concussion, but one of the most valuable factors is the physician's comprehensive knowledge of the individual athlete.

"It's important that whoever works most regularly with the athlete reviews his or her treatment along with the athlete's history, behavior and risk factors to figure out the best person-centered care plan."

As the community becomes more educated about the topic, AMSSM will continue to offer tips on concussion evaluation and treatment to athletes, coaches and parents via resources like SportsMedToday.com.


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