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Neurologists: Take athletes with concussions out of games quickly

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted April 1, 2013

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Athletes suspected of having a concussion should be removed immediately from the game or practice and assessed by a licensed health care professional with training in the diagnosis and management of concussion and other more severe brain injuries, the American Academy of Neurology says. Signs of a concussion include changes in balance, coordination, memory and sleep, as well as headache, sensitivity to light and sound, and loss of consciousness, the AAN said.

The recommendation is part of the organizations’s new sports concussion guidelines, which were published online March 18 in Neurology (link). They update the AAN’s 1997 guidance on the subject.

The guidelines encourage doctors to prohibit athletes with a concussion from partaking in any activity that worsens symptoms or poses a risk of additional brain injury. There is insufficient evidence to support absolute rest after a concussion, the AAN said.

When a patient remains symptom-free without taking medication, physicians gradually can return the individual to a normal athletic routine. There is no set timeline for how long after developing a concussion an athlete can return safely to practice and games, the academy said. Rather, doctors should make such decisions based on individual assessments of patients.

Athletes of high school age or younger should be managed more conservatively before they return to play, because data show they take longer to recover than do college athletes, the AAN said.

In developing the new guidance, a panel of experts selected by the AAN examined at least 40 reports and studies on concussion and traumatic brain injury published between 1955 and June 2012.

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