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Experts Present an Updated Guideline in Treating Concussions

Update Date: Mar 12, 2013 03:20 PM EDT

Science is always changing as research reveals new findings every day, which is why is it important to update and revamp traditional beliefs surrounding different topics. The international panel of experts of the University of Calgary's Brain Injury Institute meets every four years since its start in 2001 in order to analyze the new data behind sports-related head injuries. The panel comprising of 32 experts from different nations met this past November in Zurich, Switzerland to revise and update the guidelines for treating concussions during the actual event and also in follow-up care. The panel published its paper, the updated consensus statement in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The co-chair of the panel, Dr. Willem Meeuwisse stated that the panel's goal is to update doctors, athletic trainers, and other health-care personnel on how to treat athletes that suffer concussions. Their goal is also to inform sports professionals regarding possible ways to alter sports' guidelines in order to prevent an increased rate of concussions. This year, the updated consensus changed certain medical care options that doctors and trainers have used in the past.

The one particular medical change is that athletes who suffered from a concussion might not need to rest past 10 days. Previously, athletes were told to rest as long as they needed before getting back into physical and mental activities. However, an extended period of rest has not been proven to be any more beneficial for the athlete. The paper stated that roughly 80 percent of athletes recuperate after a week to 10 days of rest.  The 20 percent that do not might require extra care and tests due to other underlying health factors. Furthermore, light exercise a few days after a concussion have been seen to help the body heal as well. However, the experts stressed that all athletes need medical clearance before participating in sports.

A suggestive change to sports' guidelines informed sports officials about the possible side effects of increasing armor. The experts stated that since some sports are promoting the use of extra padding and "better" quality equipment, athletes might actually start to hit or tackle each other harder. The experts stressed that even the best quality helmets, mouth guards, and all the extra padding cannot protect the brain from suffering a concussion.

"While some of the newer technology show a reduction in some of the forces that you can measure in a lab, we're not seeing any reduction in concussions, which means it's not probably having the degree of effect on how the brain moves inside the skull, which is really the issue," Meeuwisse said. "And some people are concerned that putting more padding on is going to let people hit harder without hurting as much, but yet may have as much or more brain effect."

These new set of guidelines will hopefully help change the way the game is played and how athletes get treated. Although there is no direct link between brain diseases and concussions in athletes, several cases of athletes' deteriorating brains suggest that there might be a relationship to watch out for.

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