Friday, August 1, 2014
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How can we convince athletes to report concussion symptoms?

Even the NFL has conceded that concussions can lead to long-term, serious health issues. So why do football players at all levels continue to ignore their symptoms?

How can we convince athletes to report concussion symptoms?

With the recent nearly $800 million settlement, the NFL is conceding that head injuries occurred and led to serious long term problems. Despite this and all we hear in the media about the seriousness of concussion, the problem is still significantly under-reported. A recent study published this year showed that 4 out of 10 concussions suffered by high school athletes are never reported by the athlete.

When asked about the classic “bell ringer,” less than one out of seven are ever reported. With the recent push to educate players, coaches and parents about concussion, the way we treat concussion has changed to protect the athlete from further injury. This doesn’t help if the athlete is not reporting the injury to begin with.

It’s difficult to convince the ‘invincible’ teenager that a head injury can have serious long-term consequences. Studies show the most common reasons for not reporting a concussion were that the player believed it wasn’t serious enough, they didn’t want to let their teammates down or they didn’t want to be removed from play. What they don’t realize is that the consequences may be devastating. Symptoms such as concentration problems, headaches and depression can be permanent. In my practice at Drexel Sports Medicine, players often present after multiple concussions and many will never resolve their symptoms.

One way to help the concussed athlete is to teach the players to recognize the signs and report when a teammate is hurt. Players wouldn’t hesitate to report a player lying on the field with a broken leg. Consequences of a concussion can be much worse. Sadly, recent studies have shown that even with more concussion education, athletes were no more likely to report the injury. The fear of not being able to continue playing was the main deterrent.

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Another way to help improve reporting is to help the athlete understand that by reporting their symptoms early they will get better faster and return to play sooner. Delaying treatment will delay recovery and potentially lead to more time being kept off the field.

The bottom line is that it’s difficult enough to be an adolescent. Now we want them to admit, in front of their friends, that they are hurt and can’t play. We as coaches, parents and officials must remain alert to the signs of a concussion, checking the athletes that were just involved in a big hit or after a tough game. Put the player first and don’t push the envelope because he or she may be one of your best players. And players must be smart, honest, and when in doubt, sit the game out.


Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.

Robert Cabry, M.D. Team Physician for U.S. Figure Skating, Assoc. Team Physician for Drexel; Drexel Sports Medicine
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Whether you are a weekend warrior, an aging baby boomer, a student athlete or just someone who wants to stay active, this blog is for you. Read about our growing list of expert contributors here.

Kelly O'Shea Sports Medicine & Fitness Editor, Philly.com
Robert Cabry, M.D. Team Physician for U.S. Figure Skating, Assoc. Team Physician for Drexel; Drexel Sports Medicine
Brian Cammarota, MEd, ATC, CSCS, CES Partner at Symetrix Sports Performance
Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS Co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy, Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Michael G. Ciccotti, M.D. Head Team Physician for Phillies & St. Joe's; Rothman Institute
Julie Coté, PT, MPT, OCS, COMT Magee Rehabilitation Hospital
Peter F. DeLuca, M.D. Head Team Physician for Eagles, Head Orthopedic Surgeon for Flyers; Rothman Institute
Joel H. Fish, Ph.D. Director of The Center For Sport Psychology; Sports Psychology Consultant for 76ers & Flyers
R. Robert Franks, D.O. Team Physician for USA Wrestling, Consultant for Phillies; Rothman Institute
Ashley B. Greenblatt, ACE-CPT Certified Personal Trainer, The Sporting Club at The Bellevue
Eugene Hong, MD, CAQSM, FAAFP Team Physician for Drexel, Philadelphia Univ., Saint Joe’s, & U.S. National Women’s Lacrosse
Martin J. Kelley, PT, DPT, OCS Advanced Clinician at Penn Therapy and Fitness, Good Shepherd Penn Partners
Julia Mayberry, M.D. Attending Hand & Upper Extremity Surgeon, Main Line Hand Surgery P.C.
Jim McCrossin, ATC Strength and Conditioning Coach, Flyers and Phantoms
Kevin Miller Fitness Coach, Philadelphia Union
Heather Moore, PT, DPT, CKTP Owner of Total Performance Physical Therapy, North Wales, Pa.
David Rubenstein, M.D. Team Orthopedist for 76ers; Main Line Health Lankenau Medical Center
Robert Senior Event coverage, Sports Doc contributor
Justin Shaginaw, MPT, ATC Athletic Trainer for US Soccer Federation; Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute
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