Cultural Shifts Treating Concussion

When in Doubt, Sit them Out

Imagine this: a crisp autumn day, parents cheering on the sidelines while their student athletes go head to head in an exciting football matchup. The ball is snapped, the receivers take off and the quarterback takes a split second too long to find his target and is sacked, hard, taking a severe blow to his helmet.

This can lead to an athlete continuing to play, putting them a risk for “second impact syndrome.” The Virginia Department of Health along with the Virginia Concussion Initiative have committed significant resources to efforts to improve awareness, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of concussion.

Explains Dr. Andrew Lincoln, Director of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Research, Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar, “It’s so important to let the kids, the coaches, the parents all understand how important it is to report symptoms. If a student athlete has experienced symptoms, there is often still a strong culture to hide that, keep it to yourself, and soldier on. It is going to take a change in that culture to understand that the best thing you can do for your team and teammates is to come out of the game, get healed and stay out of play for a game or two, and hopefully be back and be able to play the rest of the season.”

Changing the culture is not easy. Says Dr. Jacob Resch, PhD., Assistant Professor, Dept. of Kinesiology, University of Virginia, educating people about concussion has been, and continues to be a challenge. An athlete who returns to play prematurely is at risk for suffering additional injuries. “These may include a torn ACL, sprained ankle, or even a moderate or severe brain injury that will interfere with their academics. So that scholarship athlete may miss one or two weeks, three weeks of school, which then they’re playing catch up. It really comes down to, when it doubt, sit them out,” says Dr. Resch.