The American Academy of Neurology issued new guidelines last week outlining a basic strategy to assess players with head injuries on the field.
It can be summed up in six words: If in doubt, sit it out.
Better to take a dizzy player out of the game after a head bash if a concussion can’t be ruled out, says the academy. Other medical organizations have been advocating the same policy. The group of experts urged “state and local policymakers to implement legislation and regulations to minimize the occurrence of sports-related concussion.”
That’s already been done in Massachusetts: A 2010 law requires public schools that are part of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association to follow certain procedures to prevent head injuries and minimize serious damage from concussions.
The neurology society recommendations, however, go a bit further. The neurologists would like state health departments to set up sports concussion registries that contain medical records from student-athletes who have been diagnosed with concussions to help physicians and researchers learn more about their impact on long-term brain function and how these injuries affect academic performance. Coaches should learn to spot subtle signs of concussions by using a five-minute memory test, rather than assessing symptoms like headache, dizziness, and nausea, the society also advised.