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Sports concussion program helps students and providers

Dr. Jason Brayley is part of a team working to educate parents and students about concussions. - Photo courtesy Jennifer Aalgaard
Dr. Jason Brayley is part of a team working to educate parents and students about concussions.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Jennifer Aalgaard

In May 2009 the Zach Lystedt Law went into effect in the state of Washington. This law requires that ALL student athletes with suspected head injuries be removed from play until cleared by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of sports-related concussions.

The Law was enacted after Zach Lystedt, a 13-year-old linebacker at Tahoma Junior High, experienced a hard hit to the head during an eighth-grade football game. Zach did not get up, lost consciousness on the field and eventually fell into a coma.

Zach was on life support for 37 days before regaining consciousness. He’s spent the last two years undergoing a complex rehabilitation process.

The new law is a major shift for many schools and may impact pediatricians and primary care providers’ offices with an increase in office visits related to sports injuries.

The MultiCare Sports Concussion Program, a collaborative, multidisciplinary program, was implemented to partner with both schools and pediatric providers to help schools meet the Zach Lystedt Law requirements; collaborate with and provide consultation services to pediatric providers treating concussion cases; and, most importantly, ensure that student athletes are returning to play safely.

MultiCare Sports Concussion Program’s goal is to provide leadership and state-of-the-art care for adolescent/teen/college athletes with concussions. The program brings together the vast knowledge and expertise of:

• The sports medicine specialists at MultiCare Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Covington, Gig Harbor, Puyallup and Tacoma

• Pediatric neuropsychology and neurology specialists at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center

• The MultiCare Good Samaritan Neuropsychology department

The physician leads of the program are Dr. Jason Brayley and Dr. Mark Mariani. Both are sports medicine physicians with MultiCare Orthopedic and Sports Medicine who provide a wide range of care to adolescents and adults, including collegiate and professional athletes. Their background, training, and perspectives allow them to be tuned into the unique needs of athletes and active individuals.

The program specifically focuses on treating injured athletes who are children and young adults, making it the only program of its kind in the South Puget Sound region.

What is a Concussion?

Concussions are common injuries associated with numerous sports, particularly “contact” sports such as football, soccer and basketball. A concussion is most often caused by a sudden direct blow or bump to the head. However, it can also occur as a result of an indirect blow to a different part of the body.

The brain is made of soft tissue. It’s cushioned by spinal fluid and encased in the protective shell of the skull. When you sustain a concussion, the impact can jolt your brain. Sometimes, it literally causes it to slosh around in your head.

The result? Your brain doesn’t function normally. If you’ve suffered a concussion, there may be difficulty with memory, vision may be disturbed or balance may be altered. In short, your brain is confused. While the consequences can be serious and life-threatening, as in Zach’s case, there are many less obvious, but still serious issues which can arise, such as difficulty with schoolwork.

There are some common physical, mental, and emotional symptoms a person may display following a concussion. Any of these could be a sign of concussion: confusion or feeling dazed; clumsiness; slurred speech; nausea or vomiting; headache; balance problems or dizziness; blurred vision; sensitivity to light; sensitivity to noise, sluggishness; ringing in ears; behavior or personality changes; concentration difficulties or memory loss.

If a young athlete is suspected of having a concussion, an adult should monitor him or her closely. It’s important to watch for behavioral changes. Young children, especially, may not be able to fully communicate what they are feeling, so it is critical to watch them closely. Do not give medications, including aspirin, which may cause internal bleeding, to a child without consulting a doctor first. The athlete should be rested and not allowed to return to play (including exercise) until properly evaluated by a physician knowledgeable about concussions and sports injuries.

For more information, or to discuss how MultiCare Sports Concussion Program can help your practice manage the care of patients with concussions, call 253-372-7121 (Covington), 253-446-0750 (Puyallup) or 253-459-7000 (Tacoma, Gig Harbor) or visit multicare.org/sportsconcussion.

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