Posts Tagged ‘concussions in athletes’

Concussions in Young Athletes Live Chat Takeaways

concussion260x200Concussions in young athletes are a hot topic as the fall sports season begins again. Concussion rates are rising sharply among U.S. kids and teens, researchers report, and concussion diagnoses more than doubled between 2007 and 2014. According to the CDC, more than 248,000 U.S. children and teens land in the emergency room each year because of a concussion sustained in sports or recreational activities, such as bicycling, football, basketball, soccer and from playground injuries.

We hosted a live chat on Tuesday, August 9th with Dr. Jeffrey Webb, pediatric sports medicine physician at Emory Sports Medicine Center to address this important topic. Thanks to such a great turnout, we were able to answer quite a few questions that were submitted both prior to and during the chat. Below are some highlights from the live chat. View the full chat transcript here.


Question:What are the treatments for a concussion?

Dr. Webb: The most important treatment initially is rest and avoidance of anything that worsens symptoms or contact to the brain. Healthy habits such as eating right and drinking a lot of fluids also seem to be helpful. Sometimes physical therapy and vestibular therapy can help speed up recovery.

Question: Is imaging needed to confirm a concussion?

Dr. Webb: No, imaging is not needed to confirm a concussion. A CT scan and/or MRI does not show a concussion. It is more of a functional disturbance than structural problem. An athlete only needs these scans if there is concern for a more serious injury, like a skull fracture or brain bleed.

Question: It’s really good to hear you say that plenty of sleep will help in the recovery process. I’ve heard in the past that when a child receive an impact, that we may suspect is a concussion, that the 1st thing to do is to not allow them to fall asleep, if they feel the certain urge to. Is the “urge to fall asleep” a common side affect of a concussion, and if so, should we prevent a player from doing so?

Dr. Webb: This is something that has changed in the last 10- 20 years with management of concussions. We used to tell parents to wake their child up frequently the night of a concussion. We now know that sleep is important for recovery, and it is important to let them sleep. The only exception would be if someone had a skull fracture or bleed in the brain, in which case they would probably be admitted to the hospital and have much more serious symptoms than a standard concussion.


Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this live chat. You can find the full chat transcript here and learn more about concussions by clicking below.


Key Steps To Diagnosing And Treating Concussions

orth-concussion-checklistv3The current medical definition of a concussion is essentially a ‘transient alteration in mental status that may or may not require loss of consciousness that may result from a direct or indirect blow to the head.’ The struggle many of us feel when we read this is, ‘What does that mean?’

It is critical for orthopaedic surgeons who work on the sidelines of athletic teams, athletic trainers, athletes, parents of athletes, coaches and school administrators to be able to correctly recognize and diagnose a concussion. After an athlete suffers a head injury, any misdiagnosis may lead to severe brain damage, prolonged disability, and even death.

However, a concussion may be tough to diagnose if a person does not know what to look for, or if an athlete does not report his or her symptoms. A concussion can present itself in a variety of ways, making it difficult for non-concussion experts to detect, diagnose and treat. Other than temporary loss of consciousness, which is most recognizable, other signs and symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Headache or “pressure” in head.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Balance problems or dizziness, or double or blurry vision.
  • Bothered by light or noise.
  • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy.
  • Confusion, or concentration or memory problems.
  • Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down.”

Concussion diagnosis

While signs and symptoms of a concussion generally show up shortly after the injury, some symptoms may not show up for hours or days. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States. However, it is believed that around 50 percent of concussions go unreported.

Because the effects of a concussion are not always visible, many athletes return to their sport too quickly following a head injury. That’s why it’s crucial to educate parents, coaches and other athletic officials about the importance of having head injuries examined by a specialized physician who has experience caring for patients with concussion.

Concussion treatment

According to recent studies, 79 percent of Americans believe there is no way to cure a concussion and only 29 percent of Americans believe all concussions are treatable. These days, a concussion is fully treatable, but the key is to identify risk factors that may prolong and complicate recovery early on. At Emory, our team of concussion experts pioneer and utilize the latest treatment therapies to deliver treatment plans developed for each athlete. Some treatment recommendations include cognitive and physical rest, while others require more aggressive therapies. No two concussions are alike; therefore no two concussion treatment plans should the same.

To schedule a consultation with a concussion expert at Emory, or to see one of our sports medicine specialists, please request an appointment online or call 404-778-3350.


About Emory Sports Medicine Center

The Emory Sports Medicine Center is a leader in advanced treatments for patients with orthopaedic and sports-related injuries. From surgical sports medicine expertise to injury rehabilitation, our sports medicine physicians and specialists provide comprehensive treatments for athletic injuries in Atlanta, Dunwoody and Johns Creek. Constantly conducting research and developing new techniques, the sports medicine specialists at Emory are experienced in diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of sports injuries, including concussions.

About Dr. Pombo

pombo-matMathew Pombo, MD, joined the Emory Orthopaedic Surgery faculty as a highly regarded orthopaedic surgeon, speaker, author and researcher who specializes in getting patients with injuries back to an active lifestyle. His professional interests include anatomic single- and double-bundle ACL reconstruction, rotator cuff tears, shoulder instability, meniscal/cartilage injury and repair, joint preservation in the aging athlete, and minimally invasive joint replacement surgery of the knee and shoulder.

Dr. Pombo has conducted extensive scientific research, published multiple journal articles, written several book chapters, and has presented at both national and international meetings on topics related to sports medicine, concussions, and orthopaedic surgery. He has been instrumental in bringing awareness to sports-related concussions and the new Georgia “Return to Play” Act and is one of the top regarded experts in the area for the treatment of concussions. He currently serves as the Director of the Emory Sports Concussion Program.

Dr. Pombo, his wife, and two boys, Eli and Henry, live in Johns Creek, GA. Dr. Pombo enjoys spending time with his family during his days off. Many of his patients also enjoy watching him succeed in his second career as a professional race car driver, where he can be found driving at race tracks across North America.

Concussions and Female Athletes

Concussions in Female AthletesAs the number of sports-related concussions continues to rise across the United States, equally disturbing is recent awareness around increased prevalence of concussions in female athletes versus male athletes.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States, accounting for 5–9% of all sports-related injuries. While the increase in occurrence can be contributed to greater awareness of the symptoms and consequences associated with the injury, it is believed that around 50% of concussions go unreported.

Recent data suggests an increase in the number of concussions sustained by female athletes versus male athletes – with some studies reporting the incidence of concussion in women to be double. Female athletes also experienced (or reported) a higher severity level of symptoms as well as a longer duration of recovery time. The sports in which these differences were most commonly seen were basketball, soccer and volleyball.

Why the sudden increase in female sports-related concussions? While an exact cause or scientific correlation is unknown, there are a few theories that may support why:

  • Physical Differences: women have more slender necks and smaller heads and can experience nearly 50 percent more head acceleration during head trauma.
  • Hormonal Differences: estrogen may play a role in the effects on the brain after injury, while progesterone levels may contribute to and worsen post-concussion symptoms such as headache, nausea, dizziness, etc.

However, not all studies have found significant differences in concussions between the sexes. A study of 15,802 high school athletes in North Carolina, reported more concussions amongst male soccer players than females, while female basketball players reported more concussion incidents than males.

It has been disputed that the difference between the sexes may also be due to reporting bias. Anecdotally, it’s suspected that male athletes may be less likely than female athletes to report concussions for fear of not being able to continue participating in sports. Also, the level of performance (elite versus recreational athletes) and sport types may also contribute to biased study results.

Until there’s more research to support whether an athlete’s sex plays a role in concussion risk and occurrence, all concussions should be prevented and treated the same. Parents, coaches and team physicians should be familiar of the signs and symptoms of a concussion, and provide the proper care. To make sure you know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a concussion, view our checklist and make sure to report all heads injuries to a health care professional.

About Dr. Mines

Brandon Mines, MDBrandon Mines, MD, is an assistant professor of orthopaedics. Dr. Mines started practicing at Emory in 2005 after completing his Sports Medicine Fellowship at University of California – Los Angeles. Dr. Mines is board certified in both family practice and sports medicine. He has focused his clinical interest on sports injuries and conditions of the shoulder, elbow, wrist/hand, knee, foot and ankle. He is head team physician for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) Atlanta Dream.

Dr. Mines is a rotational physician for United States soccer teams and team physician for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons along with various local high schools, colleges, and community club teams. He enjoys giving talks and lectures regarding the prevention of sports injuries. In fact, as an active member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the American Society for Sports Medicine, Dr. Mines has attended and presented at various national conferences. Through the years, he has helped all levels of athletes return to the top of their game.

About Emory Sports Medicine Center

The Emory Sports Medicine Center is a leader in advanced treatments for patients with orthopedic and sports-related injuries. From surgical sports medicine expertise to innovative therapy and athletic injury rehabilitation, our sports medicine physicians and specialists provide the most comprehensive treatment for athletic injuries in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Constantly conducting research and developing new techniques, Emory sports medicine specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating the full spectrum of sports injuries.

Related Resources

How to Recover Fully and Quickly from a Concussion
Take-Aways from Dr. Mautner’s Concussion Chat
Youth Concussion Law in Georgia- House Bill 284
Female High School Soccer Players 64% More Likely to Suffer from Concussions Than Males


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
CDC Heads Up