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Updates on How to Manage and Prevent Concussions [Video]

Update Date: Jul 22, 2013 06:13 PM EDT

Concussions are relatively common, but can lead to serious long-term health effects. Therefore, it is imperative that diagnosis and management of these common traumatic brain injuries are important.

A new paper published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) aims to help provide healthcare professionals with current approaches to diagnosing and managing concussions in patients.

"The importance of accurate and timely recognition and management stems from the consequences of misdiagnosis or faulty management that can lead to major disability or death, in both the short and long term," Dr. Charles Tator, Division of Neurosurgery, University of Toronto and Krembil Neuroscience Centre, Toronto Western Hospital, said in a news release.

Concussions can affect anyone because they can be caused by car accidents, work activities, sports, recreation and falls. Concussions can even happen without direct blows to the head, like impact to the chest that causes whiplash and a jiggling of the brain.

Recent studies reveal that that brains of young people and females may be more prone to concussions. However, athletes have the highest risk of concussions. Researchers said that athletes are particularly at risk because they may minimize or hide symptoms of concussions, which can put them at greater risk.

Researchers said that doctors play a key role in diagnosing and managing concussions.

"The diagnosis can be made only clinically because there is no proven biomarker based on imaging, blood tests or computerized neuropsychological screening tool," researchers wrote in the study.

Researchers said that the practice in most countries is to remove the concussed person from activity and begin an evaluation by a physician as soon as possible. Complete rest from physical and mental activity is recommended.

The primer in the recent paper includes a 6-point protocol to managing concussions that includes a plan to help people resume activity:

1. No activity: complete rest

2. Light exercise: walking, swimming, stationary cycling

3. Sport-specific exercise but no head-impact sports

4. More vigorous but noncontact training drills

5. Full-contact practice: normal activities after medical clearance

6. Return to full game play including contact

"Educating the public about concussion is an important component of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention," concludes Dr. Tator. "Everyone who is engaged in sports should be aware of the importance of recognizing concussion. However...the responsibility for diagnosing concussion rests with the physician, or a trained delegate in remote regions."

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