Jefferson Plays Head Games at Franklin Institute
This year the Franklin Institute is celebrating the opening of its new brain exhibit with a series of events surrounding topics in neuroscience and the brain.
The first of these events, Head Games: Sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries, covered the latest in youth concussions and sparked conversation about current and future policies. The event was led by a panel of specialists in the field and addressed everything from concussion in youth sports to the neuroanatomy of the axons--those little wires in the brain that allow the cells to communicate.
Meghan Mattson, clinical concussion assistant and field athletic trainer at the Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center and Rothman Institute highlighted the "correct" scenario for coaches when faced with an on-field concussion.
Referring to the PA Safety in Youth Sports Act, Mattson emphasized the importance of the coach’s role in return-to-play protocols and the repercussions of not following the strict guidelines under the law, which outline that an athlete, once removed from play, may only return to the game after obtaining medical clearance from a physician, neuropsychologist, or trained medical professional such as an athletic trainer.
"If coaches don't adhere to the law by receiving pre-season concussion education to know the signs and symptoms, or by putting a player back into the game before clearance from a physician, they risk temporary suspension and face a permanent ban from coaching after a third violation–on top of putting the kids’ health at risk."
"Concussion exams have changed how we evaluate an injured student athlete. We are moving away from complete rest and getting athletes back into daily activities sooner, while addressing their individual symptoms as they arise. But we must get them to the physician to make this call,” said Mattson.
The lecture identified six areas of assessment covered in a concussion exam:
- Neck strain and whiplash
- The ability of the eyes to move and work together
- Psychiatric and psychological medical history, family history, and emergent symptoms
- Sleeping patterns with emphasis on a normal sleeping schedule of 7-8 hours with minimal napping
- The ability of the eyes, brain, and body to work as one
- Scores on tests such as ImPACT that address functioning in memory, reaction time, and visual processing speed
The sports concussion presentation was followed by a tour of the concussed brain at the microscopic level led by Dr. Doug Smith, director of Penn's Center for Brain Injury and Repair and was capped by a personal take on concussions from former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker, Jeremiah Trotter, who discussed the struggles he faces as a parent and football coach.
"What happens when we put the 12 year-old-football player who has been playing since age five and taught to tackle properly, leading with his shoulders, against an athlete of the same age who has not been taught proper technique? I'll tell you what - kids get hurt!" said Trotter.
The guest lectures concluded with a Q&A on ways to best train our athletes in brain health. The conversation emphasized teaching proper technique, reporting symptoms, and getting the right care in the event of a concussion rather than enacting policy changes surrounding bans in contact sports.