A few weeks ago, CBS News aired a story that focused on the “unjustified fear of concussions.”
In the report, it was noted that there has been a decline in the number of kids playing sports. Blame was laid squarely on the shoulders of the media for too much hype over concussions. The report went so far as saying concussion hype is doing more harm than good by keeping kids out of sports.
As evidence, the report cited a seven percent decline in participation in baseball, and an eight percent decline in participation in basketball between 2008 and 2012.
But here’s the part that grabbed my attention – and if you’ve got a kid playing sports, it may have grabbed yours too. One of the experts, Dr. William Barr, Director of Neurophysiology at NYU Langone Medical Center, had this to say: “There’s really no good evidence to suggest that a child, after a single concussion, is at any significant risk for long term effects.”
Barr also indicated there was no evidence to support treating concussions with extended periods of rest – and that long periods of rest might actually mimic and prolong concussion symptoms.
What? I must refrain from using unprintable words here. There is absolute evidence about the long term effects of head injuries.
One of the features of this very unfortunate story involved a young athlete diagnosed with concussion. She was advised to rest for two weeks. That two weeks turned into a year.
This is the worst kind of example to use. Was she mismanaged and sat out too long? I don’t know. But I do know that using it as an example for how to manage concussions was misleading. Grossly misleading.
As an emergency medicine physician and one of the few doctors in south Texas certified in concussion management, I have two priorities:
• I treat head injuries seriously.
• I do everything possible to ensure the wellness of all my patients no matter what they are suffering.
My medical training and numerous, well respected studies all indicate that a concussion is a serious brain injury. Resolving it requires initial rest. Every patient is unique and every concussion is unique –and every patient with a brain injury must have a customized treatment plan.
Anecdotal evidence is the worst kind of medicine. The young athlete’s year-long period of rest is not reflective of typical concussion management, any more than the expert in this story reflects the truth about managing concussions. No one with any up-to-date training would automatically recommend an initial two weeks of rest and zero activity for a year.
This story wasn’t news. It was fiction. I urge all parents of young athletes to follow the very simple protocol for concussions: If your child has a head injury, stop all play and practice and see a medical professional. Then listen to the advice of that medical professional. Concussion isn’t about hype. It’s about health. Period.
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