Penn State hosted the second Concussion in Athletics conference at the Nittany Lion Inn on Thursday, featuring presentations from world-renowned neurologists and concussion experts.
Described as the “best group of neuroscientists in the world, all in the same place,” by Dr. Semyon Slobounov of Penn State’s Virtual Reality/Traumatic Brain Injury research laboratory, the conference showcased some of the most advanced research and technology to date.
Director of the Neurosport Program at the University of Michigan, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher used video clips from football games to expose common misconceptions regarding concussion-inducing injuries. Specifically, Kutcher showed just how innocent a concussive blow may appear to the untrained eye.
Responsible for the publication of over 350 medical writings, Dr. Erin Bigler of Brigham Young University demonstrated several progressive methods to analyze traumatic brain injuries, using complex brain scanning known as neuroimaging.
But, for all the astonishing new information presented, there were still many questions to which the answer was, “We don’t know yet.”
Until there are studies to explain the unknown variables in concussion analysis, Dr. Gerard Gioia, Director of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., urged a widespread concussion education initiative.
For Gioia, whose expertise is in youth concussions, concussion treatment is a “team sport” requiring the participation of four separate entities, including family, school, medical systems and athletic personnel.
“There needs to be a shared responsibility at every level,” Gioia said.
This responsibility entails that each member of the “team” educate themselves as to the symptoms of concussions and most importantly, the concussion recovery process, in order to properly treat a concussed child, Gioia said.
But a blanketed series of symptom tests may not be the best approach, Kutcher argued in his presentation.
“[Concussion treatment] is not as simple as one plus one equals two. We need to put it in perspective,” Kutcher said.
Kutcher explained to the audience of about 100 that different people react to concussive blows in vastly different ways. For some, it requires a series of hits to the head to cause a traumatic brain injury, while others may be injured by just one hit.
“Concussions have many aspects. Understanding each level can help manage the treatment of the players,” Kutcher said.
Knowledge of these aspects has increased greatly in the last few decades due to the tremendous advances in technology, Bigler demonstrated in his presentation
“We’re at a fabulous technological level now,” Bigler said.
However, the technology won’t necessarily translate to better concussion treatment, Bigler added.
Bigler’s final sentiments insinuated that while concussion research has come a long way, neurologists still have plenty to work on.
“I don’t think [the technology] has done much really except from an educational standpoint,” Bigler said. “It hasn’t really translated into treatment differences because mostly this has been research-based, and it’s not in the hands of the frontline clinician whose dealing with the person who has the concussion.”
The conference continues today.