Youth Sports And Concussions: The Argument For Pre-Season Brain Screening

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By: Dr. John Conde, DC, DACNB Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

A concussion is known as mild traumatic brain injury. It is most commonly defined as a head injury that momentarily affects brain functions. Concussions occur when an impact to the head or body causes your head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. This movement causes the brain to bounce around inside the skull creating chemical changes in your brain. If the impact is severe enough, neurons within the brain can be stretched and damaged producing a traumatic brain injury. The youth sports producing the most concussions are tackle football, boys’ ice hockey, girls’ soccer, and boys’ lacrosse. Here are some very interesting numbers concerning concussions and youth sports: 33 percent of all concussions happen at practice, 47 percent of all sports related concussions occur during high school football, 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a concussion during the season, 33 percent of high school athletes that sustain a concussion report 2 or more in the same year, 39 percent of athlete that have numerous concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to more permanent impairment. To add to these daunting numbers is the fact that most athletes with concussions rarely lose consciousness therefore they may not be reported.

Many youth and recreational organizations and high schools are implementing programs to assess for the baseline brain activity of their athletes prior to the start of the season. In essence, a snap shot of the athletes brain function is taken prior to the athletic competition so as to be able to compare neurological function after a concussion and determine the amount of injury sustained. These tests also provide a baseline marker for objective “return to play” benchmarks.  This takes away the subjective reporting of a child which in many cases cannot even accurately describe what they are feeling. Because concussions are much more difficulty to quantify than a ligament tear or fracture, traditional imaging such as MRI and CT are not fruitful. However, there are now several evidence-based technologies available to assess and treat these concussions.

Headache, dizziness, disorientation, confusion, sleep disturbance, nausea, and irritability are all symptoms associated with concussions however the challenge is in the quantification process.  The management of the concussion has to be organized into a pre-season assessment, incident report and comparable, treatment, follow-up assessment, and return to play. The piece we are going to look at here is the pre-season assessment. This is going to be composed of the neurological aspects that are most commonly seen injured in athletes with concussions. These are postural stability, working memory, reaction/processing times, set switching, learning, and dynamic and static visual acuity. Norms have been established for age groups and gender which makes comparing relatively easy. Once the data is collected and areas of deficiency identified, treatment is implemented and can be very precise. The child is then re-examined after the course of treatment and then allowed to “return to play” if the benchmarks have been reached. The equipment that is gaining the most notoriety for the assessment and treatment is the C3Logix software and the Dynavision D2. Next time your child plays a sport come in prior to the season to get a baseline assessment to ensure his or her brain health.

The Conde Center is also hosting a Conde Vestibular Disorders Support Group for those with dizziness and balance problems held at our office on Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. with light refreshments and snacks.

Dr. John Conde is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist, one of only one thousand in the country. He holds diplomate status through the American Chiropractic Neurology Board. He provides specialized care for difficult cases of back neck pain, numbness-tingling, vertigo-dizziness balance disorders, fibromyalgia, migraines, AD/HD, autism, and dyslexia. His office is located at the Atlantic Grove in Delray Beach, FL and can be reached at 561-330-6096, drconde@thecondecenter.com, and at www.thecondecenter.com