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Concussions In Hockey: Playing It Safe In Youth, High School And College Games

It seems like a day doesn't go by these days without concussions being in the news.  Not only have the National Hockey League, National Football League and Major League Baseball all revised their concussion protocols in the last month, but several states have enacted laws designed to protect youth athletes from the risks of returning to the playing before their brains of healed, including a second concussion, catastrophic injury or even death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are between 1.6 million and 3.8 million brain injuries that occur in sports each year - and 63,000 occur in high school athletes alone. The National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) and National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) have joined forces on a national and local grassroots campaign to educate the public, athletes, health professionals, coaches, parents, administrators and others about concussion in sports. The overarching objective of the campaign is to raise awareness of the importance of identifying concussions and implementing appropriate management when they do occur.

As a centerpiece of the NAN and NATA efforts, and in light of the heightened awareness of concussions in the NHL and the trickledown effect to high school and college sports, a 12-minute educational video titled "Concussions in Hockey: Signs, Symptoms and Playing Safe," is now available nationally. The video was originally developed in 2009 and in light of recent concussions in hockey news, the associations are reinforcing its important messages. Sponsored by the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association, it features comments from the NHL's Mike Modano and retired NHL players Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros. It is free as an online download on affiliated websites, including www.nanonline.org, www.nata.org/health-issues/concussion/video, www.nhl.com and www.nhlpa.com; and upon request, at a cost of $10 at www.nata.org/brochures/.

"Given the recent advancements in concussion research, education among coaches, parents, athletes, the media, and other influencers is critical," said athletic trainer Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, professor and chair, Department of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "The invisible nature of concussions makes it imperative that athletes and coaches properly recognize the signs and symptoms of concussions, in order to foster quicker diagnosis and medical care when needed."

"Concussions can be serious injuries if not treated properly. Concussion symptoms can affect players in all areas of their lives including their physical, emotional and cognitive functioning," said Ruben Echemendia, PhD, NAN past president, director of the NHL's Neuropsychological Testing Program and chair of the NHL/NHLPA Concussion Working Group. "Swift and appropriate evaluation by trained sports medicine professionals is crucial before an athlete returns to play. That is why we counsel students and coaches to err on the side of caution and ‘when in doubt, sit out.'"

This educational campaign explicitly urges athletes to immediately consult with their athletic trainer, team physician or coach if they think they might have a concussion. "Even if an athlete's symptoms appear to be very mild, if they don't feel right, they must immediately tell somebody in charge," Echemendia said.

Want to learn more about concussions? For the most comprehensive and up-to-date concussion information and news on the web, visit MomsTeam's concussion center.

Posted April 1, 2011

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