If you still don’t believe brain injury is a serious issue, consider that more than a million American athletes experience a brain injury every year, and every one of those injuries dramatically ups the chances of that individual suffering long-term brain damage. Some aren’t lucky enough to get a second chance and receive permanent brain damage after their first traumatic brain injury, though that number is thankfully low.
With data like that, it isn’t surprising that the American Academy of Neurology has changed their guidelines to help evaluate and treat athletes dealing with TBI, and keeping them from repeat injuries. One of the biggest changes is a hard-line stance on removing players from action immediately after they are suspected of suffering a concussion.
“We’ve moved away from the concussion grading systems we first established in 1997 and are now recommending concussion and return to play be assessed in each athlete individually,” Dr. Christopher C. Giza told Medical Daily. In the past, the guidelines suggested removing players for roughly a week if they appeared to suffer a concussion, but those timelines have been removed in favor or relying on medical professionals’ opinions on when athletes should return to the field.
The guidelines do suggest that if doctors clear a player after assessing them on the sidelines, they can return to play, but any player believed to have suffered a concussion should return to activity gradually, and only after symptoms have disappeared and doctors have approved the player to return.
The guidelines also note that younger athletes should be treated more cautiously. High school age or younger athletes are at much higher risks for suffering serious concussions, and they heal much slower than adult brains.