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Schubert Conversation: Lessons from the Playing Field

Posted on January 30, 2013

On January 24th, the Schubert Center continued the 2012-2013 Conversation Series with Lessons from the Playing Field: Addressing Youth Sports-Related Concussions. Sports medicine pediatricians Susan Briskin, MD, and Mary Solomon, DO, from UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital presented on the risks, symptoms, and policy and practice challenges of sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Community respondents Beth Tsvetkoff, JD, Executive Director of the Ohio Alliance of YMCAs and Jim Doyle, Director of Athletics at Hawken School, joined the conversation to discuss the new concussion policies mandated by Ohio House Bill 143 (HB 143).This recently-passed legislation, which takes effect in March, contributes to the national movement addressing concussion recognition and treatment, as well as on-the-field experiences, training healthy athletes, and educating athletes,parents, coaches, and teachers on concussion prevention, recognition and appropriate treatment. The Schubert Center partnered with the Cleveland Council of Independent Schools (CCIS), the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) at CWRU, and CWRU Athletics to present this program.

It is estimated that more than 4.8 million children suffer concussions each year, and research suggests that more than half of these TBIs go unreported or unrecognized. This is worrisome because evidence suggests that a history of TBIs (especially those that are improperly treated) exacerbates symptoms, prolongs recovery time, and increases severe complications such as susceptibility to future concussions, permanent brain damage, and in some cases death.However, longstanding myths about concussions – for example, that a concussion only occurs if an athlete loses consciousness – still hinder the prompt identification of head injuries. Speakers at Thursday’s talk discussed TBI symptoms and recent precautions instituted to protect athletes’ well-being,which are also discussed in the accompanying issue brief.

The doctors and respondents emphasized widespread education on the topic to promote understanding of concussion risk, prevention, identification,and treatment. They outlined additional social pressures athletes may face when they return to school and sports practices. Since these students appear physically well compared to those with other types of injuries, peers,teammates, coaches, teachers and parents expect them to function at full capacity. However, cognitive and physical rest remain important steps in the healing process, and Briskin and Solomon noted that each athlete must follow their own individualized care plan for complete recovery, so this flawless functioning is not immediately possible. Thus, improved community awareness about the effects of and recovery process from TBIs seemed to be an area of great interest for these experts and attendees at the talk.

For more information, you can download slides from the presentation and the corresponding issue brief. A brief summary of House Bill 143 is also available here.

View photos from the event on the Schubert Center Facebook page.