More and more young athletes are reporting symptoms of concussions at emergency rooms across the country. Now, the American Academy of Neuorlogists (AAN) has released formal guidelines stating those suspected of suffering a concussion should not return to play until they are evaluated by a physician. As I reported at Wired Playbook, this is a great step forward to ensure the safety of athletes. The AAN provisions also indirectly call for improvements in the diagnostic tools physicians use to determine if a player has had a concussion or not:
With more players likely heading to the hospital for medical evaluation of a potential head injury, clinical-testing procedures will have to evolve to aid physicians trying to determine if a player has, in fact, suffered a concussion. Fortunately, new research by Nadia Gosselin and colleagues suggests that advanced imaging (fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging) and brain-activity tests (event-related potential and electroencephalogram) could gain the necessary resolution to pinpoint even subtle injuries to the brain.
Beyond standard neuropsychological examinations that include simple tests that measure verbal and motor responses, these new diagnostic tools, according to the study authors, may one day provide a clear-cut method to determine if it’s safe for players of all ages to return to their sport.
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photo via Flickr / JamieL.WilliamsPhotography
Gosselin N, Saluja RS, Chen JK, Bottari C, Johnston K, & Ptito A (2010). Brain functions after sports-related concussion: insights from event-related potentials and functional MRI. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 38 (3), 27-37 PMID: 20959693