Concussion symptoms for children under 13 years old typically last three times longer than they do for older teens and adults. But keeping them out of the classroom during recovery is not necessarily the preferred treatment any more, according to a recent comprehensive research review in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Parents should be aware that significant changes in the treatment of concussions — including a major shift to promoting active recovery — have emerged in recent years, according to Hallie Zwibel, director of sports medicine at the New York Institute of Technology’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, and lead researcher on the study.
“It used to be thought that rest was best for a concussion,” Zwibel said in a statement. “Kids were told to stay home from school and sit in a dark room for two weeks. Now we encourage them to get back to school after two days and progressively get more active, so long as symptoms don’t return or worsen.”
The article also cites children’s vulnerability to prolonged symptoms due to underlying conditions, including ADHD, depression, anxiety and stress. Study authors hope their findings can help parents manage expectations and know their best options for treatment.
“It’s important parents understand that symptoms persist in kids for about four weeks on average,” Zwibel said. “This can be alarming and feel like a long time, especially compared to adults whose symptoms last closer to a week, but it is well within a normal recovery time.”
While active recovery has emerged as the standard of treatment, Zwibel added that athletes should not compete while they are experiencing concussion symptoms. Brain swelling and death can result if an athlete receives a concussive blow while recovering from an earlier concussion. But getting young athletes to stay off the field during recovery remains a challenge.
“At this point, parents are in the best position to prevent that, and we strongly encourage them to follow return-to-sport protocols,” Zwibel said.
In other concussion-related news:
- The co-director of the Mayo Clinic Arizona Sports Neurology and Concussion Program has developed a new protocol that she says can test athletes for concussions in less than three minutes, yet is simple enough to be conducted by a layperson. Jennifer Wethe recently launched the Athletes Incident Management System (AIMS), a national collaborative project created in partnership with Mayo, U.S. Youth Soccer, InjureFree and the U.S. Center for SafeSport. According to the AIMS website, it is a “mobile, real-time injury reporting and tracking tool designed to streamline communications regarding return-to-play protocols while helping to adhere to state and federal laws regarding training and reporting and is provided at no cost to all members of US Youth Soccer.” Plans call for the project to expand to every state where U.S. Youth Soccer has associations, according to Arizona-based media outlets, and plans to expand to other sports are in the works, too.
- Beginning in 2019, the University Interscholastic League (UIL), Texas’ governing body for public high school sports, will require the state’s largest schools to report all concussions suffered by student-athletes during competition in all sports. “The new rule says all Class 6A schools must answer a variety of questions when an athlete suffers a concussion, including when the concussion occurred, whether it came from contact with the ground or another player, and so on,” reports Training & Conditioning magazine. “The answers to these questions will then be relayed to researchers with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The UIL is partnering with these groups for CON-TEX, which is the largest-ever study of head trauma to young athletes.” Jamey Harrison, the UIL’s deputy director, told the Longview News-Journal that “this is the first of its kind quality-improvement program in the country, certainly the largest.”
- Oculogica Inc., a pioneer in algorithm-based neuro-diagnostics, recently announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted a request for the commercialization of EyeBOX®, what the company says is the first non-invasive, baseline-free tool to aid in the diagnosis of concussion. EyeBOX uses eye-tracking to provide objective information to aid in assessment of patients with suspected concussion via a four-minute test. “Eye-tracking will change the practice of emergency care for concussion and will greatly assist a large number of patients,” said Dr. Robert Spinner, chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery at Mayo Clinic, via a statement. “The result will be more consistent and objective diagnoses of concussion in the emergency room and clinic, and eventually on the field.” For more information, click here.
- The number of concussions sustained by NFL players in games and practices dropped 23.8 percent in 2018. As ESPN.com reports, figures released by the league reveal “a combined 214 recorded concussions in 2018 during the preseason and regular season, compared to a record-high 281 in 2017. League executives said … that they were still analyzing the data but were hopeful that their wide-ranging ‘call to action,’ issued in response to the 2017 numbers, had put the league on a better path regarding one of the most significant challenges the league faces.”