OrthoVirginia Blog

Concussions in Athletes

Major League Baseball and the players' union recently announced a new set of protocols that went into effect on opening day to deal with concussions, including the creation of the new seven-day disabled list that should give team doctors and the injured players more flexibility to address head injuries. The joint statement from MLB and the union establishes mandatory baseline testing for all players and umpires and new steps for evaluating players who may have suffered the injury and for having them return to action.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury which can involve a head impact or simply a violent shaking of the brain without direct trauma to the head. The injury is best judged on clinical grounds, since studies such as an MRI scan do not show gross abnormalities. There is ever increasing scrutiny for athletes with any head/brain symptoms to prevent long-term damage from repeat concussions, which can involve memory and/or emotional deficits, and even death. The best predictor for getting a future concussion is not the type of sport played, but rather that the individual has had a prior concussion, so these people need to be monitored even more closely.

Future directions involve continued efforts to prevent concussion with technique and equipment improvements, and to diagnose concussion more accurately with clinical and lab tests. Unfortunately to date there is no effective treatment other than allowing sufficient time for the brain to heal itself.

Concussions occur in athletes at all levels. There are between 1.4 to 3.6 million sports and recreation related concussions per year. The majority occur at high school level! So how concerned should parents be about concussions in the young athlete? Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that provides some good information and guidance for parents.

For more information on Dr. Martinelli, read his bio on our website.