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Local High School Coaches Can Benefit From CDC’S New Initiative To Help Them Recognize And Manage Sports Concussions

UPMC Sports Medicine Doctors Helped Design CDC’s Recently Released “Heads Up” Multimedia Educational Toolkit Designed to Protect Teen Athletes

PITTSBURGH, September 28, 2005 — Local high school coaches along with coaches nationwide now have free access to a new multimedia educational toolkit, recently created and released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),to protect teen athletes from a serious but often underestimated health threat – concussions. Concussions are a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a blow or jolt to the head that can range from mild to severe and can disrupt the way the brain normally works. More than 300,000 sports- and recreation-related TBIs occur in the United States each year.

The CDC’s toolkit, “Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports,” includes information on how to prevent concussions and identify symptoms and immediate steps to take when an athlete is showing signs of a concussion.

UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program  doctors joined several other organizations nationwide in lending their expertise to the CDC to help create the toolkit’s message points, contents and design for the target audience.

“We commend the CDC for creating and spearheading this critically needed nationwide awareness campaign that aims to educate our millions of young athletes, and their coaches and parents about one of the most common and misunderstood injuries in contact sports,” said Mark Lovell, Ph.D. , director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, and author of numerous published studies of concussion in high school athletes.

“Research shows that each year at least one in 10 high school athletes who participate in contact sports sustains a concussion. In the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Clinic alone, we see an average of 40 high school students per week in addition to the average 100 consultations we do by phone with team physicians and athletic trainers,” added Dr. Lovell, who helped designed the CDC’s toolkit. “We also talk to a lot of concerned parents who aren’t quite sure of their children’s symptoms or how to best manage them.”

“Organized sports play an important role in helping kids stay healthy,” according to CDC Director Julie Gerberding, M.D. “However, we need to recognize that sometimes there are health risks, like concussions, in sports where collisions are part of the game. Athletic directors trainers, and coaches play a key role in preventing concussions and managing them correctly. This kit provides them with a variety of helpful tools to assist them in making good decisions about their players.”

The centerpiece of the toolkit is a video and DVD featuring a high school football player who was permanently disabled after sustaining a second concussion during a game. This player’s post-injury perspective emphasizes that it’s better to miss one game than to miss the entire season – or the promise of a healthy future. His experience highlights a rare but potentially fatal condition called second-impact syndrome, which occurs when a person who has had a concussion experiences a second blow while the brain is vulnerable. This second blow does not have to be violent or strong for its effects to be deadly or permanently disabling.

The toolkit also contains practical, easy-to-use information for coaches, athletic directors and trainers, teens and parents, including:

  • A coach’s guide with information about preventing and managing concussion and how to implement a concussion action plan;
  • A wallet card and clipboard sticker for coaches, which include signs and symptoms and emergency contacts;
  • Posters targeting athletes, which can be placed in high school locker rooms or heavily trafficked areas at school or in the community;
  • Fact sheets for parents and athletes, in English and Spanish; and
  • A CD-ROM with downloadable kit materials and other concussion-related resources.

“Concussions can happen to any athlete, male or female, in any sport, and they should never be ignored,” said CDC Injury Center Director Ileana Arias, Ph.D. “It’s not smart to play injured. This toolkit will provide coaches and parents with a common sense approach to help raise awareness and prevent sports-related concussions among athletes.”

To prevent these life-changing and life-threatening events, coaches, athletic directors, parents and teens should:

  • Use the right protective equipment during all practices and games;
  • Know the signs and symptoms of concussion;
  • Make sure their school has a year-round concussion action plan that can be used during games and practices; and
  • Keep athletes with known or suspected concussion from play until appropriate medical personnel have evaluated them and given them permission to return to play.

Toolkits can be ordered and downloaded free-of-charge online at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/tbi/Coaches_Tool_Kit.htm.

For more information about concussions, traumatic brain injury, or injury in general, visit the CDC Injury Center’s website at www.cdc.gov/injury.

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