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Doctors Have Ethical Obligation to Protect Athletes From Concussions

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the largest professional association of neurologists, released a statement yesterday that concluded that doctors have an ethical obligation to educate and protect athletes from sports concussion.

The paper calls on doctors to educate athletes and their families about the dangers and side effects of concussion and traumatic brain injury. The position paper also calls on doctors to make protecting the physical and mental health of young athletes a top priority.

The statement by the AAN also called for doctors to identify the risk factors related to traumatic brain injury and concussion and also the be able to better identify the number of head injuries that could cause irreversible damages.

Further, the statement calls for:

· Increased use of baseline cognitive testing

· More concussion training in neurology residency programs

· Development of a national concussion registry with mandatory reporting.

From an ethical standpoint, the statement concludes that physicians who care for athletes during and after sports-related concussion should have adequate training and experience to recognize and evaluate the existence and severity of brain injuries.

A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury often caused by a blow to the head, but can also occur when the head and upper body and jolted. A sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around in the skull which can lead to stretching and shearing of the brain which damage brain cells; as well as chemical changes in the brain.

While a concussion is classified as a "mild" traumatic brain injury because it is usually not life-threatening, the effects from a serious concussion can be long lasting and permanent at times. Common symptoms of concussion include:

· Headache

· Temporary loss of consciousness

· Confusion

· Amnesia

· Dizziness

· Seeing stars

· Nausea

· Vomiting

· Fatigue

· Delayed response to questions

Sports related concussion have been in the public spotlight lately as the effects of sports related concussions from former NFL players and college football players have been highlighted.

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