Community Interventions Can Help Prevent Concussions in Elderly (Part Two of Two)

Fall prevention among older adults is a significant issue, says Nelson Cortes, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Kinesiology, George Mason University Sports Medicine Assessment, Research & Testing (SMART) Laboratory.

“The work I do specifically is not necessarily to prevent a traumatic brain injury. What we do is develop interventions in the community that can help prevent falls,” says Dr. Cortes.

He and his team meet with local churches, senior centers and assisted living facilities to coordinate fitness programming designed to help seniors improve their physical stability.


“We take the programs to where they are. Older adults are less mobile from a transportation standpoint, so we don’t want them to have to come to us.” Their program facilitates the transportation. Over the past three years, they worked with approximately 500 senior adults.

“We learned some interesting things. Program participants really benefited from the social aspect. We saw a significant increase in social satisfaction because they normally spend a lot of time alone and don’t have many opportunities for a group activity.

“Even better was that, across all the sites where we held the program, we saw physical improvements. What do I mean is, improved balance, improved muscle strength and improved reaction time.”

All of this is important because all these factors help prevent falls, meaning fewer older adults suffering from traumatic injuries such as a Traumatic Brain Injury.

On the other end of the age spectrum, there are young people playing sports who need to be taught how to play in a safe manner, to prevent serious injuries including concussion.

Dr. Catherine McGill, PsyD, Pediatric Neuropsychologist, offers the example of the UVA youth football organization that taught and fine-tuned a tackling technique called “heads up tackling,” that avoids head-to-head collision.  “And then they went out to communities and taught this technique to coaches, and they ran camps to teach it to kids. And their data shows that we had a reduction in concussions within their league because they taught the kids a better, safer tackling method.”