AMA House of Delegates

Helmets sought for wider range of sports and other activities

The AMA will promote greater awareness that even mild cases of traumatic brain injury may have serious and prolonged health consequences.

By — Posted July 2, 2012

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To help prevent traumatic brain injuries, the American Medical Association House of Delegates called for the AMA to support requiring the use of head and facial protection for people engaged in potentially dangerous athletic and recreational activities.

The policy also encourages physicians to educate patients on the importance of wearing such protective gear during these activities and says helmets should be available in commercial settings.

In 2010, delegates adopted policy supporting legislation requiring people to wear helmets when snow skiing or snowboarding. The new policy expands helmet safety to “potentially dangerous athletic and recreational activities,” but does not define what those activities are.

“Protecting our youth from accidental injury is already a valued public health priority of the AMA,” said Vanessa A. Stan, a regional medical student delegate for the Michigan State Medical Society. She spoke on behalf of the AMA Medical Student Section during virtual reference committee testimony. “This resolution can help address [traumatic brain] injuries by including & a broader range of popular recreational activities.”

Some delegates said the policy doesn’t go far enough, in part, because the language is too broad.

“It’s a good resolution, but it only scratches the surface,” said John O. Cletcher Jr., MD, a delegate for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons from Berthoud, Colo., who spoke on his own behalf.

At least 1.7 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury in the U.S. each year. Of those individuals, about 52,000 die and 275,000 are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 75% of such injuries that occur each year are mild forms of brain injury, such as concussions, the CDC said.

Delegates directed the AMA to promote awareness about how even mild cases of traumatic brain injury may have serious and prolonged consequences. Those can include short- or long-term changes in thinking, sensation and language ability, and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life, the CDC said.

Delegates also called for the AMA to ask that all levels of hockey effectively prevent head hits and dangerous checking. “Drastic measures need to be taken to change the culture [of ice hockey] to prevent the number of head injuries involved in the sport,” the policy said.

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