Home » Blog » April National Youth Sports Safety Month » William P. Meehan, III, M.D. (Sports Concussion Doctor): I Owe My Career Choice To A Single Patient

William P. Meehan, III, M.D. (Sports Concussion Doctor): I Owe My Career Choice To A Single Patient

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Two years ago, in recognition of April as Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam asked 30 experts to write a blog answering two questions: first, how or why did they get into their field, and second, how have they made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.

Today, we reprise the blog submitted by William P. Meehan, III, M.D., Director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Sports Concussion Clinic, and Research for the Brain Injury Center at Boston Children's Hospital.

By William P. Meehan, III, M.D.

Why did I get into my field?

I owe my career choice to a single patient.

About six years ago, I was a fellow in pediatric emergency medicine. A young, competitive figure skater came into the emergency department suffering from post-concussion symptoms after an injury she sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Although she was weeks out from injury she was having difficulty finding a physician to manage her concussion and help her return to skating safely.  She had seen many doctors in her area, but none was confident managing concussions; none had an expertise in brain injuries; and none was willing to take her on as a patient.  Dr. William P. Meehan, III examining young patient

Instinctively, I called the Department of Neurology to arrange an appointment for her. I was informed, however, that they did not manage traumatic injuries, such as concussion. Next, I called the Department of Neurosurgery and was reminded that concussion is not an operative condition. So, I called the Division of Sports Medicine, and was informed that they take care of concussions quite frequently. However, they take care of sport-related concussions. As this patient's injury was sustained in a motor vehicle accident, the Division of Sports medicine was not an appropriate place for her to be managed.

As there was no acute injury or concern, I discharged her home from the emergency department. In an attempt to assist her and her family, I began reading about concussion. I would call her family periodically with things I had learned, offering advice, recommending treatments they might try. The more I read, the more I became fascinated by concussion.

Concussion, a form of traumatic brain injury, has been known to physicians since the time of Hippocrates (460 - 377 B.C.). Few physicians or scientists, however, considered it a significant enough injury to warrant investigation until the new millennium. Thus, relatively little was known about this common sports injury.

After seeing this patient in the emergency department, I started reading voraciously about concussion. Within several months, I had read five books and well over 500 articles about concussive brain injury. One of my colleagues. who noted me constantly reading, asked, "What are you reading about?" When I told him, he recommended I give a lecture to the division of emergency medicine about concussion. This lecture generated significant enthusiasm and, shortly thereafter, I was asked to write an article about sport-related concussions for a popular pediatrics journal.

And that was how is started.

Since then, I have completed a fellowship in sports medicine, co-founded the Sports Concussion Clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, completed several clinical trials and conducted multiple basic science experiments, all in an attempt to improve the way in which clinicians manage patients with concussions.

I remain grateful to that young, competitive figure skater for coming into the emergency department on a night when I was working.

How have I made a difference in a young athlete's life in the past year?

Over the past year I had the privilege of caring for a young male rugby player from England. He sustained a sport-related concussion and was having difficulty recovering. Although he had seen several clinicians in England, he was having difficulty getting basic information regarding the injury; he was not confident that his concussion was being assessed or managed properly.  Ultimatel,y after some reading about concussive brain injuries in sports, he and his family members felt that he was not being treated appropriately. After hearing about our clinic, they scheduled an appointment and flew from England to Boston.

Fortunately, the management of his injury was straightforward. We initially placed him on both physical and cognitive rest. We were able to diagnose and correct other associated medical problems which were impeding his recovery. We treated some of his more problematic symptoms with medication.  After several weeks, his symptoms resolved completely. We guided him through a graded return-to-play regimen, and he's remained athletic, energetic, and vigorous ever since. He is prepared to presume rugby with the start of the fall season.

Kids, Sports, and ConcussionsDr. Meehan graduated from Harvard Medical School, where he is currently an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric emergency medicine, and sports medicine. Dr. Meehan conducts both clinical and scientific research in the area of sports injuries and concussive brain injury which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Football League, and the Center for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology.  In addition to multiple medical and scientific studies, Dr. Meehan is the author of the book Kids, Sports, and Concussion: A Guide for Coaches and Parents

For articles by and videos featuring Dr. Meehan, click here

For comprehensive concussion information, visit MomsTeam's concussion center by clicking here