It’s not everyday that the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) takes an official position on an ethical topic; they have released fewer than 2 dozen position statements in the last 20 years. But today, this organization of more than 22,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals have gone public on a topic near to our hearts: Concussion in sports.
The organization’s recommendations (which cover all ages, not just professional athletes) are:
1. Any athlete who is suspected to have suffered a concussion should be removed from participation until he or she is evaluated by a physician with training in the evaluation and management of sports concussions
2. No athlete should be allowed to participate in sports if he or she is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion.
3. Following a concussion, a neurologist or physician with proper training should be consulted prior to clearing the athlete for return to participation.
4. A certified athletic trainer should be present at all sporting events, including practices, where athletes are at risk for concussion.
5. Education efforts should be maximized to improve the understanding of concussion by all athletes, parents, and coaches.
According to an Associated Press article in the News & Observer:
The doctors group recognizes it isn’t necessarily feasible. One official called it a gold standard to strive for.
“We understand completely that is undoable in today’s environment, but we think that is a correct way to organize our priorities,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, chairman of the academy’s sports neurology section. He said that if a certified athletic trainer is not available to a school, perhaps contact sports should be avoided.
The overall message is the same one we’ve been hearing all year: Concussions are serious medical conditions that need to be spotted and treated immediately.
In the past few months, we’ve learned that concussion rates are soaring for student athletes (Blog: Concussion Rates Soaring), and that the long-term effects of concussion are potentially devastating (Blog: Concussion Linked to Dementia). While the recommendations from the AAN may seem extreme, the goal is to raise awareness and to keep brains safe. Who can argue with that?
Associated Press article in the News & Observer: Brain Doctors Issue Warning on Concussions