Protecting Athletes from Sports Concussions

The American Academy of Neurology said doctors have an ethical obligation to educate and protect athletes from sports concussions.

That's the basis of a new position paper from the AAN, which is the largest professional association of neurologists.

The AAN statement calls for doctors to make protecting the future mental and physical health of athletes a top priority. "The root of this is going to be education for the primary care doc, for the doc that only sees concussions every once in a while, so they're up to speed on everything that they need to do to make sure the athlete's brain is protected, not just during the injury, but for the future as well," said Dr. Rick Figler.

The AAN statement supports an increased use of baseline cognitive testing, recommends additional concussion training in neurology residency programs, and suggests developing a national concussion registry with mandatory reporting. It also calls for all physicians to educate athletes, parents, and their families about the dangers of concussions in all relevant sports.

Researchers say the goal is to identify the various risk-factors related to concussion and the number of head injuries that could cause irreversible brain damage. "These young developing brains that may have a little bit more to lose because they're being injured at a key developmental stage, that we protect them from further injury by not sending them back too soon," said Figler.

The complete statement from "The American Academy of Neurology" is available online in the journal "Neurology."

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