New GAA programme to improve treatment of concussions
Recognise the symptoms of concussion straight away, remove a player from the field and the rate of recovery will halve.
That's the advice of leading University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre (UPMC) clinical director Dr Michael Collins who will head a major GAA seminar on the topic in Croke Park tomorrow.
The GAA have been pro-active on concussion with their 'if in doubt, sit them out' policy.
The association have teamed up with UPMC for the National Concussion Symposium in Croke Park for the past two years.
But now UPMC and the GAA are rolling out a training programme that will focus on diagnosis and evaluation tools for concussion, identifying types of concussion and treatment and rehabilitation methods.
"We've learned a lot of ways to individually target and treat the problems that are associated," said Dr Collins.
"There are different types of concussions and if you match the right treatments to the right problems, we can improve outcomes.
"If there are 30 different knee injuries, why do we think there is just one type of concussion?
"By delaying the removal of a player by a matter of minutes, the length of a player's recovery is at risk of doubling," he pointed out.
"It takes half the time to recover than patients who continue to play 15 minutes beyond the point of having symptoms," said Dr Collins.
"So just playing beyond the injury, even for a short period of time, can double the length of time it takes to recover from the effects of concussion.
"That's easier said than done. These are not easy decisions a lot of the time and sometimes this injury doesn't manifest until after the game, until the journey home or later that evening.
"It's very simplistic to think that everyone knows a concussion is present on the field. It's a very difficult diagnosis to make. We've learned a lot but it's not easy on the pitch to make the right decision a lot of the time."
Collins has praised the GAA for taking a lead on this issue.
"They have done a great job supporting the latest and greatest information on concussion management."
Earlier this year inter-county team doctors Tadhg Crowley (Kilkenny), Sean Moffatt (Mayo) and Enda Devitt (Wexford), along with consultant paediatrician Dr Niamh Lynch, travelled to Pittsburgh for training and are now the clinical leads for the UPMC programme in Ireland.
Up to 60 medical professionals connected with inter-county GAA are registered to attend tomorrow's event.
Dr Collins says players who suffer multiple concussions may face additional risks.
"We've learned that patients who have had that many concussions in a short period of time usually there are risk factors associated with that, whether it be - I know this sounds strange - but patients with a history of car sickness, migraine or anxiety end up getting more concussions but the problems are treatable when the problems are identified and rehabilitated."