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Sports-Related Concussion Management and Safe Return to Play Protocol

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Symptoms of a concussion can vary. Knowing when it's safe for athletes to return to play after a concussion is a complex process. Sending them back into the game too soon may put them at risk for a second concussion or a more severe brain injury.

To reduce these risks and safely return athletes to play, the specialists at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program offer concussion protocols and safety tips for athletes, parents, coaches, and administrators.

Concussion Protocol During and After the Game

In an ideal case, a certified athletic trainer or doctor will:

If there are clear signs of an injury, the coach should take the athlete out of the game.

Once a trainer or doctor rules out more serious conditions, the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program urges taking the athlete to a neuropsychologist or doctor trained in concussion management, to perform:

  • A clinical interview
  • A physical exam
  • Neurocognitive testing, such as ImPACT® (Immediate Postconcussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing)

When in Doubt, Sit Them Out

There is no recovery timetable for concussions. Recovery time varies from person to person.

Each athlete should have a personal exam and treatment plan, rather than be held to a fixed schedule. In many cases, athletes may need more active treatment before returning to play.

The UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program abides by international return-to-play criteria.

Before clearing an athlete to return to play, our concussion experts will:

  • Perform a thorough exam and neurocognitive testing. Test results must be within baseline expectations.
  • Make sure the athlete is symptom-free at exertion and at rest.

All patients — from youth to professional athletes — receive the same, high standard of care.

Make an Appointment

Call 412-432-3681 to make an appointment with an expert at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Learn More About Concussions

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