Had a Concussion? Don't Panic, but Do Be Cautious

A new website on how to treat head injuries notes that a single concussion isn't cause for alarm.

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Here's a new online resource for parents who want to know the bottom line about the risks of concussion and other sports-related head injuries: MTBIFacts.com.

I cottoned onto it thanks to its creator, Dominic Carone, a neuropsychologist who runs the Neuropsychology Assessment program at SUNY Upstate Medical University. He saw my recent blog post alerting parents to a review article in this month's Pediatrics that spells out the risk of playing hurt. Carone created the site last month to publicize the latest science on traumatic brain injury, an area of medicine that's rife with controversy and misunderstandings.

Carone gave me a shout-out (thanks, Dominic!), but also pointed out that the studies showing long-term cognitive deficits in people with concussions were done on professional athletes, who undoubtedly endured multiple concussions in the course of their careers. There's no evidence that a single concussion causes long-term damage, and Carone notes that he'd hate to have parents and kids panicking over that diagnosis. Wise advice.

The research done so far on long-term effects of multiple concussions on brain function has been mixed; it's one of those classic cases of "more research needs to be done." But there is no debate that getting a second concussion before recovering completely is particularly risky; thus my caution that young athletes, parents, and coaches realize that this is no time to play hurt. The American Academy of Neurology provides a "sideline" evaluation as part of their guidelines that all coaches should know, and also spells out what kinds of tests should be done, and how long someone who suffers a concussion should be sidelined, depending on the severity of the injury.

Most people who suffer a single concussion are healed within seven days, with no long-term ill effects. So, play ball! But please, first be willing to be benched for that crucial recovery period.

Here's the lowdown on how to tell if your child has had a concussion, and what you can do to protect kids' heads. Serious head injuries have been a major problem for soldiers injured in Iraq, and may increase the risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Corrected on 1/6/09: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported Dominic Carone's last name.