Adolescents among most at risk from head injuries

Untreated symptoms can result in a number of disorders including mood changes, depression and anxiety


Adolescents are among those most at risk of concussive injuries in sport. Following studies carried out in the USA, children were found to be much more vulnerable to concussion and the likelihood of the injury being diagnosed was much less than in professional athletes.

Dr Mickey Collins, a world authority on concussion was in Dublin this week to take part in the UPMC Beacon Orthopaedic Summit 2013 - Sports Injury Management.

His clinic in Pittsburgh sees 20,000 cases of the injury each year and in 2000 his Sports Medicine Concussion Program was the first and largest clinical program that focussed on the evaluation and prognosis for sports related mild traumatic brain injury in athletes.

“We’ve published studies showing kids are more vulnerable. In fact we’ve done studies looking at High School (secondary school) kids versus NFL players and clearly the kids take a lot longer to recover. There is a lot more vulnerabilities in that population,” said Dr Collins.

“From someone who sees High School, college and professional athletes, the High School kids by far are the ones that you have to be concerned about for many reasons.”

In many sports, there is rarely skilled medical attention available for pitch side assessment of players who take blows to the head. The likelihood is that many teenagers are concussed and go unnoticed.

In tandem, the developing brain, for many reasons, is more susceptible to concussive blows than an adult brain and without proper medical attention the problem can get worse.

“You don’t want to be overly sensationalist about this injury but what I can tell you as a clinician, who has spent his entire career with this injury is that there is a lot of sick kids out there with this injury, 90 per cent of them just because they haven’t been managed properly,” says Dr Collins.

“I’m sick of seeing that in my clinic. I don’t want to see that anymore and what really concerns me over here in Ireland, I don’t think that there is a speciality clinic like ours, where kids that do have problems actually get treated properly.

“That’s what’s concerning to me…there’s probably some people who probably do a really good job here….but I’m sure there are a lot of kids that are having problems.”

Untreated symptoms can result in a number of disorders including mood changes, depression and anxiety. At school, students may also see their grades drop.

“This is a game-changer if you don’t get it managed properly,” he says. Basically, your world is compromised in terms of how you interact with your environment academically, socially and physically.

“The spotlight on this injury is iridescent in the United States. It’s iridescent, it’s so bright and I think you are starting to see that permeate over here.”

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