Jan 23, 2018 / Sports Medicine

A Look at New Findings in Concussion Research

At Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, we believe that sharing our research will help to prevent injuries in young athletes. Our team is committed to learning and teaching about concussions to keep them safe on the playing fields. For the last two years, members from our Center for Excellence in Sports Medicine have been invited to share results from our research at the annual American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) meeting. 

Our Team has been Busy

Shane M. Miller, M.D., sports medicine physician at Scottish Rite Hospital, has a strong interest in the prevention and treatment of sport-related concussions. Our team continues to emphasize one of our early findings that four in ten athletes treated for concussions returned to play or continued playing after their injury. Since we know this can delay recovery or make symptoms worse, we are passionate about sharing our results. 

After originally reporting on a larger group, the research team narrowed their focus to young athletes who sustained a concussion while playing soccer. Of 87 athletes, two-thirds were girls and more than one-third returned to practice or a game on the same day as their injury. From this data, girls are reported to be five times more likely than boys to return to play on the same day as their concussion. 

As this work has evolved, another study with partners at local institutions is continuing to develop. The ConTex Registry was designed to monitor patients over time to learn how factors before, during and well-after injury impact the outcome for patients. Some key areas of the study include how injuries occur, type of sport played, management strategies during recovery, and treatments and outcomes. With time, this type of comprehensive database can provide a wide range of helpful information for care providers. One of the goals of this project is to set a standard of care for future patients after a concussion. 

What’s New from Our Team

Our research team and local partners have looked at smaller groups within this project with new findings including:
  • Poor sleep is connected to worse concussion symptoms and longer recovery time.
  • Anxiety symptoms following a sport-related concussion lead to more time before returning to play. 
  • In female athletes, delayed presentation to clinic is associated with longer time to clearance to return to play following a sport-related concussion. 
With this evidence suggesting sooner is better, our medical staff have incorporated sleep quality and mood assessment early in their management. Also, Miller and team continue to look for opportunities to educate the community, both medical and non-medical, that early intervention and proper diagnosis are key for young athletes to safely return to their sport sooner. Some evolving work will look at why young athletes return to play without receiving medical attention, how social and psychological factors impact recovery and much more.

Back to the basics: What every parent, coach and young athlete needs to know about sports-related concussions

A concussion is a brain injury that disrupts normal brain function. The usual cause is a sudden blow to the head, neck, or body that shakes the brain, damages cells and creates chemical changes. Knowing if and when a concussion occurs is very important, and there are many dangers to an athlete returning to play before their concussion is fully healed. These dangers include:
  • More signs and symptoms
  • Greater severity of signs and symptoms
  • Longer recovery time
  • Greater risk of additional concussion
  • Long-term brain impairment
The athlete may:
  • Appear dazed or stunned
  • Appear confused
  • Forget plays
  • Exhibit unsteadiness
  • Lose consciousness
  • Appear sleepier or more tired than usual
  • Seem sad, nervous or anxious
The athlete may complain of:
  • Headaches
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Nausea
  • Balance problems or dizziness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Confusion

Education regarding the various signs, symptoms and dangers of returning to play too early are crucial for parents, coaches and young athletes. If you notice a bad hit, or any of the signs and symptoms listed above in your athlete or their teammates this season, please speak up. It takes a team to protect our young athletes from concussions. If you would like to learn more about sports-related concussions or another pediatric sports medicine topic, please sign up to receive our electronic newsletter, “The Huddle.”

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