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Football Players Benefit from Temple Concussion Program

Joseph Torg, MDSome of the most violent collisions in all of sports occur in American football. The average spectator has seen the following scenario dozens of times: a wide receiver hauls in a deep pass, only to be pounded by a helmet-to-helmet collision with an unseen defender. That crack-and-thud delivers tremendous force to the tissues of the brain.

Only recently has there been rapid growth in public awareness of the potential health consequences of concussions (also known as mild Traumatic Brain Injury) –fueled by new medical research linking concussions to brain damage. Thirty-one states have passed legislation to protect young athletes from multiple concussions, such as Pennsylvania's "Safety in Youth Sports Act," which took effect in July, requiring that all interscholastic athletes who leave the field due to concussion receive medical attention from clinical staff specifically trained in concussion evaluation and management.

Temple University's Concussion and Athletic Neurotrauma Program meets the requirements of that law, and offers experienced, multidisciplinary faculty who are well-suited to evaluate and manage athletic-induced neurotrauma utilizing the latest imaging capabilities, computerized neurocognitive assessment tools, and established return-to-play protocols.

"The rate of concussion among football players is not in decline, despite claims of continuing advances in the designs and materials of helmets," says Temple Orthopedist Joseph Torg, MD, a senior member of the Temple concussion program's clinical care team, which is made up of athletic trainers, orthopaedic sports medicine specialists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurophysiologists, neuropsychologists, and physiatrists. The program's team sees patients at state-of-the-art facilities at Temple University Hospital, as well as Temple Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine satellite offices throughout greater Philadelphia. Program staff work to meet the needs of team and family physicians, athletic trainers and administrators, coaches, parents, and – of course – the young athletes who are "as vulnerable to concussion as ever," according to Dr. Torg.

Enhanced protective measures – including rule changes, gradual increases in the use of protective equipment, and even new helmet designs – have done little, if anything, to drive down the rate of concussion, according to a recent study, led by Dr. Torg, of data on concussions suffered by high school football players. The more critical protective factors against concussion, Dr. Torg found, are proper fit and proper inflation of the air bladders that line most football helmets – both of which should be checked regularly, he says.

In addition to treating patients in the Temple University Concussion and Athletic Neurotrauma Program, Dr. Torg has turned his research attention to what he calls "the first and currently unappreciated step in resolving acute brain injury problems," which is to develop a "concussion susceptibility profile" to identify athletes who are far more likely to experience concussion in the first place, and who may be more likely to suffer from cognitive deficits and physical symptoms that linger long after most patients recover from concussion symptoms.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Temple physician, call 1-800-TEMPLE-MED (1-800-836-7536).

Date Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

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