What's New in Sports-Related Concussions?

In This Issue
Concussion in the News
November 10, 2017
In 2011 a team of researchers working with biomedical engineering professor Stefan Duma at Virginia Tech University developed a 1 to 5 star scale to rate a football helmet's ability to protect from sport-related concussions. The Inquirer and Daily News surveyed 28 local high schools, scoring the helmet inventories at the schools, using this rating scale. More than 40% of these helmets were rated in the 5-star (best) category, up from 25% two years ago, but many helmets in use today do not earn top ratings. It's worth investigating the safety ratings of each helmet used, especially if the helmet is older. However, no helmet manufactured today provides 100% protection from injury.

In addition to having proper head gear, it's critical that players learn helmet-free blocking and tackling. Rule changes and changes in practice routines also help to increase safety. Additionally, new technology embedded in some helmets allows coaches and researchers to measure the level of hits and the timing of the strongest impact. The data gathered from these helmets can help coaches modify practice routines and keep players safe. Additionally, researchers use this technology to continue to improve the safety of the sport.
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As winter comes to a close, many will be heading outdoors for activities and sports. Those of us working at The Philadelphia Concussion Center at Magee Rehabilitation would like to bring you up-to-date on the latest concussion research and news.  Below you will find links to articles about developments in concussion-related diagnosis, prevention and testing.

The more we know about concussion, the more we can do to protect our athletes from long-term head injury. We hope you will continue to turn to
The Philadelphia Concussion Center at Magee Rehabilitation to keep you informed. Please feel free to contact us for any of your concussion needs.
The Latest Concussion Research
Even though concussions are in the news frequently, researchers are just beginning to understand what actually happens to the brain of a concussed individual. There may be several different conditions that cause a variety of symptoms and may require different treatment.

Current assessments used in concussion diagnosis focus heavily on athlete-reported symptoms and observed performance on balance and coordination tasks. These methods can be valuable in diagnosis, but they can also be highly subjective. There is the possibility of mistaking unrelated symptoms with those of a concussion. Researcher Kristy Arbogast points out a similarity between concussion symptoms and normal teenage behavior. "I have a 15-year-old son in my house... He's tired and irritable often. I don't think he's concussed." With this concept in mind, researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), are using balance sensing and eye-tracking technology to better understand concussion. These efforts may eventually help clinicians step away from subjective self-report tools and use objective measures to make better return-to-play decision.

In addition to researching new technology for diagnosis, clinicians at CHOP and many other sites are beginning to change their philosophy on brain rest after a concussion. Previous concussion treatment methodology supported the idea of "cognitive rest," which discouraged complex cognitive tasks such as texting, reading and video games until symptoms abated. Newer research indicates that this approach may have been too extreme. Now, 'brain-training' exercises and light aerobic activity are a common treatment approach soon after concussion, though much research is needed to determine when exercise can begin and which symptom clusters respond best to different treatment approaches.

"Heading" the ball has long been a part of the game of soccer. Although this tactic can be useful, it also poses a risk for concussion. Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine used diffusion tensor imaging to compare the brains of 49 male and 49 female amateur soccer players. Subjects were matched based on variables such as age and heading frequency.  Researchers believe they have compelling evidence that male and female brains are affected differently by heading and that women may be affected more negatively. 
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If we can be of service for post-concussion assessment, baseline testing, or educational presentations, please contact  The Philadelphia Concussion Center at Magee Rehabilitation  at 855-587-BRAIN (2724).