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Spotlight on Head Injuries Persists

The NFL recently agreed to pay $765 million to settle a lawsuit brought by thousands of former players affected by the long-term effects of head trauma. Millions of football players in leagues across the country, from Pop Warner to the NFL, are at risk of suffering similar injuries as they begin games this year, reinforcing the need for physicians to keep up-to-date on proper procedures in case a concussion is suspected.

Those who care for athletes of all levels should stay current with guidelines for concussion management, educate their athletes and coaches on the potential dangers of concussions and develop a concussion safety plan with their school or sports organization, according to an article published in the 2013 Rush Orthopedics Journal.

A concussion, typically caused by a direct blow to the head, is a common sports injury, particularly in high-contact sports such as football, hockey, soccer and basketball. The injury can have severe short- and long-term effects, causing memory problems for up to a week and increasing the danger of developing dementia, Parkinson’s disease and depression if multiple concussions are suffered. Children and younger athletes are particularly susceptible, taking up to twice as long to recover than older athletes.

A physician experienced in the management of concussion should guide the treatment, management and eventual clearance to return to play.

“Clinicians should only clear an athlete to return to competition when the athlete is symptom-free both at rest and while exercising, off medication, has a normal neurologic examination and any testing has returned to baseline levels that were recorded prior to the injury,” said Kathleen Weber, MD, the article’s lead author, a sports medicine physician at Rush and a team physician for the Chicago Bulls.

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More Information at Your Fingertips:
Read more about concussion treatment at Rush.

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