But the region’s leading concussion experts are calling for more awareness and new prevention programs for high school athletes in other sports, especially youth hockey leagues. Together, Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine and the Dallas Stars are implementing a strict, new concussion policy for the AT&T Metroplex High School Hockey League.
“It is critical that we treat younger athletes more conservatively than we have in the past,” said Dr. Jim Sterling, a physical medicine physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who served as head physician for the 2006 U.S. Winter Olympic team. “New evidence-based research on concussion gives health care professionals guidelines for not only safe return to play but, more importantly, optimal return to classroom learning. Academics should be a consideration of any conversation concerning sports concussions.”
The new concussion policy for the AT&T Metroplex High School Hockey League will be implemented for the 2010-2011 season. The new polices requires an ImPACT™ baseline test for all athletes prior to starting play. The computer-based ImPACT™ test establishes each athlete’s baseline neuro-cognitive function.
If a player has signs or symptoms of a concussion, they can’t go back into that game —and are automatically put on a 14 day disabled list. They may return sooner if they see an ImPACT* credentialed physician who can use the post injury ImPACT* test for comparison to their baseline test. “Concussion symptoms can be very subtle,” Dr. Sterling said, “but can be significant enough to pose a great risk to the athlete. That’s why this new policy is so important.”
A player who hasn’t sufficiently healed from his initial concussion is vulnerable to a second-impact brain injury. The second concussion — even if it’s with less force or impact than the initial head injury — can lead to brain swelling and cause long-term disabilities. In extreme cases, this second injury, called second-impact syndrome, can be fatal.
Any player who suffers a concussion can only return to the rink after he receives written permission from his physician and delivers the note to the team’s athletic trainer. The athletic trainer notifies the league as well as the team managers and coaches that the player has been cleared for contact.
Skaters are also required to report any concussions that occur in practices or competitions not sponsored by the AT&T Metroplex High School Hockey League.
“Hockey is a tough physical sport and has been long known for athletes toughing out injuries,” said Keith Andresen, Senior Director of Hockey Programs for the Dallas Stars/Dr Pepper StarCenters. “But concussions among young athletes can’t be swept under the rug. Teenagers’ brains are still developing, and we now know that they don’t recover from concussions as fast as the pros.”
Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, which started its Concussion Management Program in 2008, is the region’s leader preventing and treating concussions among local athletes.
• In January 2008, Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine was the first organization to begin offering neuro-cognitive testing to schools and clubs in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for sports concussions.
• The program currently has 105 schools and sports clubs using ImPACT™.
• The program has administered more than 23,000 baseline and post-injury tests.
• 28 physicians on the medical staff at Texas Health Resources hospitals are credentialed ImPACT consultants.
“Concussions are a serious problem if untreated or misdiagnosed,” said Dr. Damond Blueitt, a sports medicine specialist on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “We have to remember, these are student athletes. There’s no excuse for putting them at increased risk for serious brain injuries when there are tools out there to improve how we can care for them. We want athletes to have a fun experience in a sport.”
For more information about the Concussion Management Program at Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, go call 214-345-5010 or go to www.texashealth.org/benhogan