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Concussions are a Game-Changer

Concussions are a Game-Changer
Centers for Children Clinic Cares for Athletes Experiencing Head Injuries

LOWELL, AR. (Oct. 1, 2012) - It can be hard to watch from the sidelines. But for children who have sustained concussions on the field, court or mat, that's the safest place to be for at least a few days after their injuries, according to Damon Lipinski, PhD, a neuropsychologist in the Sports Concussion Clinic at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)/Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) Centers for Children in Lowell.

Dr. Lipinski's clinic specializes in diagnosing concussions and helping young athletes fully recover from these injuries before they get back in the game. He says that 90 percent of kids diagnosed with concussions recover within 14 days and can resume play once fully healed.

Studies show that nearly 4 million concussions occur every year among kids who play sports and take part in other recreational activities. About 5 to 10 percent of athletes involved in contact sports experience a concussion during play.

"Most kids may need to sit out for a game or two - maybe a week of practice - and can return to play without difficulty," said Dr. Lipinski, an assistant professor of Pediatrics in the UAMS College of Medicine. "In those kids, recovery is pretty quick. But the only way to determine when a child is ready to return is not based on time, but resolution of their symptoms."

Some children do take longer to recover, especially if they experienced previous concussions. Treatment by a multidisciplinary clinic like the one at the Centers for Children is important for their long-term recovery as professionals focus on getting the child back to school and sports as quickly and safely as possible. At this clinic, families will benefit from a team that also includes a neurologist, neuropsychologist and social worker who follow athletes until they have fully recovered. The clinic accepts patients Monday through Friday at the UAMS/ACH Centers for Children at 519 Latham Drive in Lowell, AR 72745, and can be reached at (479) 750-0125.

Concussions can affect kids in many ways. These include physical, emotional, cognitive and sleep impairments. By visiting a program trained in diagnosing and treating concussion, families will receive careful evaluation of all possible symptoms, as well as guidance to address concerns. This might include, for example, working closely with the school to provide extra help or support while the child is recovering.

"When a child is concussed, their brain is stressed, and physical and mental activity can slow recovery," Dr. Lipinski said. "This is why it is important to limit physical activity, as well as activities that require a lot of thinking or concentration such as reading. Rest is critical for recovery."

The Sports Concussion Clinic uses a five-step concussion management model based on the best-practices plan developed by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. This treatment plan starts with ImPACT baseline testing and progresses to post-injury tests and additional neuropsychological and vestibular testing that determine when it is safe to return to school and athletics.

If a child has suffered a hard hit during a game and appears dazed, confused and clumsy, or experiences vomiting, loss of memory or loss of consciousness, families are encouraged to seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Bear in mind that concussions do not necessarily require direct impact to the head but can also result when the body has been jolted resulting in a rapid movement of the head.

Children with a concussion should never return to sports or recreational activities on the same day as the injury. Second Impact Syndrome, a rare but catastrophic event, can result when an athlete suffers a second concussive injury before fully recovering from the first that results in brain swelling that can lead to permanent brain injury and even death. The Centers for Disease Control provides several tip sheets that will be helpful to families, available at http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html

Arkansas Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children. The campus is celebrating 100 years of providing Care, Love and Hope in 2012. Over the past century, ACH has grown to span 29 city blocks and house 370 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. For more information, visit www.archildrens.org.

UAMS is the state's only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children's Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS' Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com.

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