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Format: 04/18/2014
Format: 04/18/2014

News

Allegheny General Hospital Launches Expanded Concussion Center

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

A long-standing leader in both the neurosciences and sports medicine, Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) is bringing together a team of leading experts in the causes and care of mild traumatic brain injuries to enhance its comprehensive Concussion Center.

With Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett poised to sign off on the Safety in Youth Sports Act unanimously passed by the Senate last week, Allegheny General’s expanded Concussion Center is prepared to meet our region’s increasing need for specialized concussion care.

The Safety in Youth Sports Act aims to ensure proper care for student athletes who suffer concussions in school-sponsored activities by requiring those who exhibit concussion symptoms to be removed from play until cleared by an appropriate and qualified medical professional.

Staffed by specialists in neurology, neurosurgery and orthopaedics sports medicine, AGH’s Center will provide a full array of evaluation and treatment options for patients who have suffered concussions while also focusing on concussion prevention education and research.

“One of our goals is to develop more sensitive tests to identify concussions and determine their severity,” said Kevin Kelly, MD, PhD, Director of Neuroscience Research at AGH. “We’re looking to make testing simpler to administer and interpret and hoping to create portable testing systems so that athletes can be assessed without even leaving the playing field.”

Allegheny’s orthopaedics sports medicine and neurology specialists currently use the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) computer system to provide baseline cognitive testing and to evaluate athletes who have had a baseline test and then suffered a concussion. The hospital provides athletic training and medical oversight to 15 high schools in the region.
 

Research conducted by the new Concussion Center will focus on creating testing alternatives, including options for use with individuals, including athletes, who may not have baseline data.
 

“Allegheny General’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine certified athletic trainers are experienced in the most state-of-the art methods for sideline concussion evaluation, but we want to take concussion assessment to the next level, offering on-site testing that doesn’t require a comparison to a baseline,” said Edward Snell, MD, Director of AGH’s Primary Care Sports Medicine Fellowship and Director of the Hospital’s Sports Concussion Clinic. He also serves as head team physician for the Pittsburgh Pirates, on Major League Baseball’s concussion committee and on the sports advisory board for the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Research will also be conducted to provide new objective data on the link between the severity of a concussion and the brain’s ability to recover.

“We’re working to understand why concussions can impact different individuals in very different ways,” said Jack Wilberger, MD, Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery for West Penn Allegheny Health System and Director of AGH’s Traumatic Brain Injury Program.

“While one person may weather a moderate concussion well and return to play relatively quickly, the next person may sustain a similar injury but experience more symptoms and be sidelined for much longer. It appears that more than just the severity of the injury comes into play in determining the patient’s outcome.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur each year. Of those, approximately 20 percent are sports-related injuries. Education to help prevent and manage concussions is a key focus area of the AGH Concussion Center.

For those who sustain concussions, the Center has developed comprehensive recommendations to help ensure their safety as they resume their normal daily activity levels. Physicians and athletic trainers work together to customize the guidelines to meet each patient’s unique needs.

AGH athletic trainers work with local athletes, coaches and parents to educate them on specific activities that may predispose athletes to concussions and how to better prevent them, including the use of the latest protective gear. A primary goal of the Center’s educational mission is to help athletes, coaches and parents more readily identify and respond to the warning signs of concussion.

“It’s a general misunderstanding that a concussion involves a loss of consciousness,” said Dr. Wilberger. “Most individuals who sustain a concussion may be momentarily dazed or ‘dinged’ and not appear to have any problems continuing to function. However, these episodes may be just as serious as those that do involve loss of consciousness.”

For more information on the Concussion Center at AGH, call 412.DOCTORS (362.8677).

 

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