The American Academy of Neurology (AAN)—an association of more than 22,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals dedicated to providing the best possible care for patients with neurological disorders—is an advocate for policy measures that promote high quality, safe care of individuals participating in contact sports.
Concussion is a common consequence of trauma to the head in contact sports, estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to occur three million times in the United States each year. Among people aged 15 to 24 years, sports are now second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury. While the majority of concussions are self-limited injuries, catastrophic results can occur and the long-term effects of multiple concussions are unknown.
Members of the AAN specialize in treating disorders of the brain and nervous system, and some members have particular interest and experience caring for athletes and are best qualified to develop and disseminate guidelines for managing athletes with sports-related concussion. Based on the clinical experience of these experts, the AAN supports the implementation of policy that supports the following recommendations:
- Any athlete who is suspected to have suffered a concussion should be removed from participation until he or she is evaluated by a physician with training in the evaluation and management of sports concussions
- No athlete should be allowed to participate in sports if he or she is still experiencing symptoms from a concussion.
- Following a concussion, a neurologist or physician with proper training should be consulted prior to clearing the athlete for return to participation.
- A certified athletic trainer should be present at all sporting events, including practices, where athletes are at risk for concussion.
- Education efforts should be maximized to improve the understanding of concussion by all athletes, parents, and coaches.