How to handle concussions the right way

the sports doc tsp

By @StefanKubus –

Dr. Jeff S. Pierce, MiHockey columnist “The Sports Doc,” spoke at the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association annual Summer Meeting in July on concussion and injury prevention in youth hockey.

Among all ice hockey injuries, head, neck and shoulder injuries collectively comprise 34 percent, the greatest piece of the pie. Pierce said that if the coaches and parents in attendance could take anything away from his presentation, it was that many concussions and other injuries are preventable with proper education and training.

“Basically, the take-home message from today, one on concussion severity, that it’s not just on a cookbook piece of paper, that you actually have to look at the kid, understand what they’re doing, but the message is that, with proper training and proper education, a lot of stuff is preventable,” Pierce said. “And that’s really our goal, is to start preventing injuries. That’s part of the Look-up Line, it’s not to change the game, it’s to change what we can do to make it a safer game.”

helmet graphic

The annual estimated incidence of ice hockey-related injuries among 9-to-14-year-olds increased by 163-percent from 1990 to 2006. And from 2008-12, the game-related injury rate of 4.18 rose to 6.08 per 1,000 athlete exposures.

Part of the solution involves minor adjustments that will go a long way in keeping players safe should they find themselves in vulnerable positions.

“And understanding the mechanics of some of these injuries that can be prevented, such as the simple thing of stopping from putting their hands outward into the boards and onto the ice, but to use their forearm, understanding that the helmet is not protective gear to go into the boards with. We still have to go into the boards properly and teach them how to do that.”

Pierce also stressed the importance of the six-step recovery approach for handling concussions. In order to advance to the next step, the patient must be symptom free for 24 hours.

The first step is resting, meaning no school or work for the first 24 hours and could mean remaining seated or lying in bed if the symptoms are severe enough.

The next step is light aerobic exercise, such as walking or stationary biking for intervals as short as ten minutes at low intensity. No weight/resistance training is allowed at this point.

Third, the athlete can ramp up the level of aerobic activity. He or she can walk or cycle as much as comfortable, but still no resistance activities, weights or sudden changes in body position.

Fourth, the player moves on to sport-specific activity training with no contact, progressing to more complex drills, ramping up the aerobic activity. Here, he or she may begin progressive weight/resistance training.

The fifth step is a full-contact practice following medical clearance. Should that run smoothly, the final step is, of course, returning to game play.