Technology helping concussion treatment, prevention

1:00 PM, Feb 17, 2012   |    comments
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St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - "It's all about hockey. You get hurt, and you come back," said CBC hockey player Eddie Rogers.

It wasn't a knee or wrist injury that sidelined him; it was a concussion.

"I was playing for my other team, the selects. I was in Detroit, and I got hit from behind, in the back of the head. After that, I felt some headaches, a little groggy," Rogers said. "I actually waited a night because the trainer, we had gotten back to the hotel pretty late. The trainer asked me a few questions, then sent me to the hospital."

Sports trainers are there when ankles sprain and wrists turn, but brain injuries can't be seen. These trainers have become the first line of defense against them.

"What we used to call ten years ago a little ding, they're definitely reporting those symptoms a lot better now," said trainer Mike Heffner.

Heffner trains more than 20 local hockey teams. He's seen sports become more physical and fast-paced in recent years.

"I don't think they fully grasp the severity of what that can lead to," Heffner explained.

Some players don't want to admit the issue for fear of being benched.

"If a kid comes over and says, 'My head doesn't hurt.' But you can visibly tell he's not being fully truthful with you, those are the kids you pull off right away," Heffner said.

Many of those players wind up with Dr. Mark Halstead, a pediatric sports doctor at St. Louis Children's Hospital. Halstead uses a computer test to measure the effects of a concussion.

"This is an injury to the brain," Halstead said. "It's something to take seriously. It's not something to play around with."

The fear of concussions can be more serious than the injury itself.

A concussion doesn't cause swelling or bleeding in the brain. It's more like a bruise that causes headaches, grogginess, memory loss and keeps the brain from working right.

It's something millions deal with every year.

"We do know that if you have repetitive concussions, you're more likely to have more severe symptoms or more likely to have one than the person who's never had one before," Halstead said. "Someone who's had three concussions is nine times more likely to have symptoms that are worse than someone who's had one for the first time."

In today's world, parents don't even need to memorize the symptoms. They just need the right tools.

For $4 dollars, the PAR, Inc. Concussion Recognition app will walk parents through a concussion checklist and even email results to your doctor.

Experts at the Mayo Clinic are putting gear to extreme tests, all in the name of brain safety.

And a Texas company created a helmet complete with sensors. When a hit registers at a certain level, players and parents are notified on iPads and phones.

Fortunately, Rogers was off the ice for just two weeks.

Doctors and trainers agree, equipment is key, but knowledge can't be undervalued either.

"We're better educating people on what to look for as far as signs and symptoms," Halstead said. "Our expectation is that somebody gets a full recovery."


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