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Tackling Concussions: September 12, 2013

The school of hard knocks . . . new data finds high school athletes sustain an estimated 140,000 to 300,000 concussions a year, with football players making up about half of the injuries.

“They vary in severity. Occasionally it will just be the person is a little cloudy isn’t quite following commands. He’s glassy-eyed. It could be more severe where they’re blacked out laying face down on the ground,” says Dr. Charles Springer, orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Orthopedic surgeons often serve as the team doctor, so they’re on both the sidelines and frontlines, making on-the-spot decisions.

“A concussion is suspected they, by our guidelines, are not supposed to return to play on the day of the injury,” says Dr. Springer.

Tackling concussions means widening the playing field. It’s not just prep players who are getting hurt- but the pep players. A national survey finds cheerleaders ranking third in the number of pediatric concussions.

“They’re certainly doing flips and if they land awkwardly, it could cause some damage. And what we found is this trauma can be repetitive and this repetitive trauma results in a cumulative effect of deterioration of symptoms,” says Dr. Springer.

Neurosurgeons attribute some brain injuries to second impact syndrome.

“A second head injury coming in very close proximity; could be severe with devastating consequences. The brain basically just swells more than the skull can accommodate,” says Dr. Dean Lin, neurosurgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

When it comes to taking on teen concussions, it may come down to adults using their heads.

“What I would tell parents is safety of the child is our primary concern. So if you see a doctor or a team trainer pull a kid out of play, let them do their job,” says Dr. Springer.