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Concussions and Sports

The media is placing a great deal of attention on athletes at all levels and their injuries. It is important to understand what some of the most highly publicized injuries are and how are they treated.  Concussions in sports are one of those highly publicized injuries that can occur during many different types of activities.  A concussion is an injury to the brain that occurs from rapid shaking, coming to an abrupt stop, or a direct blow to front or side of the head.  These are just a few of the many ways an athlete can suffer a sports related concussion.   There are several different degrees of concussions with differing levels of severity and symptoms.

Sports concussions and its long-term effects are undergoing a great deal of research into the prevention, detection and treatment of these injuries.  The symptoms of a concussion can vary from a simple headache to dizziness, loss of memory, confusion, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to loud noises and loss of consciousness.  Each person responds to a concussion differently.  Athletes who experience a concussion can have symptoms that continue for days, weeks and even months. 

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Athletic Training: A Unique Profession

From the late 70's, when I began participating in organized sports, and well before, there have been Certified Athletic Trainers working the sidelines, courts and fields.  These healthcare professionals are mostly 'behind the scenes' types of individuals, and are none too often recognized until tragedy strikes or emergency triage is needed. Most Certified Athletic Trainers can be recognized with their khaki pants and polo shirt with aJess Rix Concussion Catholic Central Athlete towel and medical kit draped over their shoulder. It is not an altogether understood profession, but has been growing tremendously over the past two decades. Most High Schools and Universities in the West Michigan area employ Certified Athletic Trainers. My goal with this blog is to introduce you to another side of Athletic Training that you may not know exists.

Many people believe that ATCs (Certified Athletic Trainers) are there to tape, stretch and ice athletes while participating in sports. Accurate as that is, there is so much more to their daily lives. Becoming an ATC requires a bachelor's degree and requires passing a demanding national board certification exam. Many ATCs hold master's degrees in Sports Medicine or Exercise Science. There are requirements for continuing education yearly, and ATCs stay abreast of the latest techniques and technologies in Sports Medicine.

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TAP evaluation of high school aged pitcherCoach my arm hurts”.  “Are you feeling ok, can you throw one more inning?”  The scene of seeing a young baseball player complaining of arm pain to their coach or parents is all too familiar.  Not many people are well-trained in HOW to handle a baseball player complaining of pain.  As physical therapists we have seen the alarming rise of sports injuries especially in younger kids.  Especially concerning is the sharp trend of overhead throwing athletes developing serious tendonitis, dead arm syndrome or worst of all the “Tommy John injury”.  I believe a lot of these throwing problems can be avoided with sound education to the athlete, parent and coaches.

Baseball is a passion of mine and I have helped lead our company in developing a throwing video analysis program.  We call our program TAP (Thrower’s Athletic Performance).  We have also expanded into doing community talks and educating local coaches and parents on what is so special about throwing that can lead to minor and major injuries.  Prevention is always the best model (something our whole healthcare system is sorely lacking).  So here goes my two cents on helping our baseball athletes.

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When Is It Safe To Return To Play?

How do I know when my child is safe to return to sport after injury?

It is becoming more and more common for kids today to specialize in a single sport.  This means that kids are playing one sport year-round, often for several hours per week.  They are undergoing significant and repeated stresses on their growing bodies.  This increase in sport specialization may be one reason we are seeing a rise in youth sport injuries in our clinic. 

Published in Blog