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Upcoming seminar focuses on youth and concussions

Updated: 2014-01-15T00:04:06Z

By RICK HELLMAN

Special to The Star

As any sports fan who watched the Indianapolis Colts knock three Kansas City Chiefs out of their recent playoff game knows, there may be no more notorious topic in sports medicine today than concussions.

And yet the Brain Injury Association of Missouri believes the subject deserves even more attention. That’s why BIA-MO has joined with other organizations to sponsor a series of educational seminars around the state, including one Jan. 22 in Gladstone.

The pace of sign-ups has been strong, said Maureen Cunningham, executive director of the group, and some of the free sessions could fill the spaces reserved for them.

“There is more awareness and more understanding that this is not just a bump on the head, but a mild brain injury that can have short- and long-term effects,” Cunningham said.

“There can never be too much education. What’s nice about this session is that it is focused on school and team personnel. It’s more than just the basics. I call it intermediate level. These are the frontline people — team and school personnel who will work with youth as they re-enter activities in clubs and schools.”

The “Sports Concussions: Facts, Fallacies and New Frontiers” seminar is based on a new booklet titled “Concussion Management: The Team Plan,” written by Joseph F. Waeckerle, a physician who is a clinical professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and editor emeritus of the journal Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The target audience for the seminar is coaches — both for schools and recreational-league clubs — as well as athletic directors, school nurses, administrators and counselors, and game officials. The brain organization also does offer a 15-minute concussion overview session for parents when invited by schools and sports groups.

“Dr. Waeckerle’s booklet is a unique, best-practices approach to the research and practices out there now,” said Cunningham. “It focuses on five units — medical, family, athletics, school and community — all working together through open communication to help youth, from prevention and education all the way to recovery.”

Waeckerle said the seminars would dispel such fallacies as the notion that one must lose consciousness to suffer a concussion. In fact, he said, most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness.

“Another fallacy is that it must be a hard hit to sustain a concussion,” Waeckerle said. “You can have a soft fall. Say two soccer players go up for a header and their heads clash. … One student may end up with a concussion, and the other may not.”

Still another fallacy is that there is a test for concussions. Waeckerle said there is no single test, but, rather, a series of protocols to be followed on the sideline of a sporting event — followed up, if suspicion warrants, by tests of cognitive brain function and balance in a doctor’s office.

The Brain Injury Association of Missouri booklet stresses that the members of each of the five groups that encircle a concussion victim have a role to play in his or her recovery. Not only is concussion awareness and treatment recommended, it’s the law in Missouri since the passage of the Missouri State Interscholastic Youth Sports Brain Injury Prevention Act in 2011.

The bottom line, Cunningham said, is this: “When in doubt, keep them out.”

A free copy of the “Concussion Management: The Team Plan” booklet can be downloaded in PDF form at biamo.org. Look under the “Resources” link.

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