July 31, 2012
On April 27, 2012, Governor Rick Scott signed Florida’s
youth-concussion law, making Florida the 38th state to have such a
law. The law sets tougher restrictions to prevent youth athletes who have
experienced a concussion from returning to their sport too soon.
The law could create numerous challenges for pediatricians
and general practice physicians who are now required to either provide medical
clearance for the concussed athlete or refer them to another practitioner who
is able to test and clear the patient before they could return to on-the-field
action, either in practice or in a game.
“This law emphasizes the importance of concussion management,”
says Randy S. Schwartzberg, M.D., a board certified orthopaedic surgeon
specializing in sports medicine at Orlando Orthopaedic Center. “And we support
it for taking a step in the right direction.”
The law requires athletic trainers and coaches to take an
athlete out of a game or practice immediately following a suspected head
injury. The player is then required to receive clearance from a doctor before
returning to practice or to play in another game. Another provision of the law
mandates that parents sign a concussion-information form before their child can
participate in school sports.
Orlando Orthopaedic Center’s Michael D. McCleary, M.D., is a
primary care sports medicine fellowship trained physician with the ability and
necessary equipment to easily, safely and quickly manage concussions in
athletes of all sports.
“By requiring athletes suspected of having a concussion to
be evaluated and cleared by a medical professional before returning to play
allows for proper evaluation and treatment,” Dr. McCleary says.
Dr. Schwartzberg adds, “An estimated 140,000 high school
athletes suffer concussions annually nationwide and, unfortunately, many return
to play before they have fully recovered.”
“In fact, I am a proponent of preliminary baseline and
follow-up testing before and after a concussion, respectively, so all symptoms and
signs can be assessed as accurately as possible,” he adds. Orlando Orthopaedic
Center is able to perform such tests at their five office locations thanks in
part to the ImPACT program.
The computer-based ImPACT test essentially tests an
athlete’s ability to recall and process information to help Dr. McCleary
measure the brain’s functional level, which may be abnormal with a concussion,
even where no obvious symptoms are perceived. Concussions may lead to social
development issues, dampen learning abilities and cause mood swings in young
individuals. In some cases they may result in permanent brain damage or death.
“Once the diagnosis
is established, treatment consists of physical and mental rest to allow for
proper brain function to be restored,” says Dr. McCleary. “After the athlete’s
symptoms have resolved, we repeat the ImPACT test to confirm that full
neurologic function has returned to baseline.”
Both physicians recommend athletes taking a baseline ImPACT
test at their schools or at Orlando Orthopaedic Center prior
to the season that is truly representative of the individual so there is a
record to compare if a concussion does occur. If not, their results are
compared to “norms” of individuals based on age, gender, academic level and
several other factors.
“There is a lot of
misunderstanding of these injuries by athletes, coaches, and even physicians,
so treatment by a medical professional that has an understanding of the most
current management guidelines is essential for quality outcomes,” says Dr.
Orlando Orthopaedic Center launched a “Same Day, Next Day”
campaign this year wherein anyone attempting to schedule an appointment will be
seen at one of their five offices within two business days. This quick
turnaround time may be the difference in getting athletes back to the sport they
love quicker while minimizing consequences
that could result from a concussion.
To learn more about what Orlando Orthopaedic Center can do
to evaluate and clear your student-athlete patients that may have had a
concussion, visit www.OrlandoOrtho.com/Concussions.
Concussion Video Resources
Article by Corey Gehrold