Earlier this month, 37 concussion specialists and researchers from around the country met in Pittsburgh to discuss the effectiveness of a common treatment option for concussions. I had the honor of representing Emory Healthcare and participating in this game-changing conference.
The goal of the two-day conference, which was held at University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC), was to get the word out that concussions are treatable injuries and should no longer be treated with strict rest alone. There were several consensus statements on the issue that were debated in detail, and ultimately agreed/disagreed upon.
After much conversation, my fellow concussion experts and I came to the conclusion that despite popular belief, prolonged rest, a common treatment recommendation for concussions, does not aid in the recovery from a concussion and can actually worsen it. This conclusion is somewhat controversial because prolonged rest is a worldwide treatment method used by almost every person following a concussion. A major takeaway from this group was agreement that concussions are treatable and under the appropriate care an athlete should recover from the injury and excel at his or her highest performance levels.
Attention to traumatic brain injuries has increased over the past few years mainly due to an increase in sports-related injuries, especially from football. Athletes in the United States suffer around 300,000 concussions every year, but many mild concussions go undiagnosed and unreported so the number is even higher. Each concussion is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all way to treat them. Symptoms are not always visible, making it hard to definitively know when it’s safe for an athlete to return to play.
Because concussions are unique to each patient, assembling clinical profiles with common symptoms and treatments is key to the future development of concussion research and therapies. Active rehabilitation of concussions includes managing overall activity, subthreshold cognitive and physical activity, and focused therapy. Depending on the clinical profile with which a person suffering a concussion best aligns, the treatment plan may include certain specialized therapies, periods of rest, or cognitive exercise.
While this agreement did not produce immediate treatment protocols or guidelines, our hope is that the conference will spark more research on the subject. Over the next few months, the other physicians and I will compile our findings to be published in a medical journal, which will generate additional papers. As these papers are shared publicly, I am confident we will begin to move the ball forward regarding current and future concussion research and care.
We are proud that Emory Healthcare is recognized as a leading concussion program, as evidenced by our role during this national conference, and because of the amazing opportunity it will afford us to play an active role in changing the way concussions are treated for generations to come.
About Dr. Pombo
Mathew 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.