LCHM Spring 2017 - 21

L C M E D S O C .O R G

ith an estimated 21 million
children between the ages of 6
and 17 participating in sports
on a regular basis, injuries are
inevitable. For many, sports-related injuries
include simple sprains or sore knees that heal
quickly with ice and rest. But for others, what
seems like a simple bump or header on the
playing field actually injures the brain and results
in a concussion.
"A concussion is a mild traumatic brain
injury that occurs as a result of a direct blow
to the head, face or neck," says Kyle Klitsch,
DO, of Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network's Concussion Management Program in
Allentown. "This starts a complex chemical
reaction in the brain that disrupts normal
functioning and can cause symptoms such
as confusion, personality changes, nausea
and dizziness."
For parents, much of the news around the
impact of concussion on overall brain health and
cognitive development is concerning. Consider
that NFL players average 400 concussions
during their careers, or that football players who
started playing before the age of 12 scored 20
percent worse in cognitive testing than those
who started later.
As kids participate in organized sports, Dr.
Klitsch recommends parents weigh risks like
these against the benefits. "Youth sports offer
kids an opportunity to exercise and build social
skills in a team environment," he says. Dr.
Klitsch recommends parents and players take
the following steps to help minimize risk:
Play by the rules.
Teach young athletes to respect the rules.

Make sure that end and
goal posts are padded
Practice good sportsmanship
to minimize unnecessary aggression
on the field.
Learn and use proper technique for the sport.
Some sports organizations have taken
additional action to minimize the risk of
concussion by limiting the number of contact practices allowed during the season.
Make sure you child's coach
and trainers knows about
any concussions your child
has had in the past.
Parents of Pennsylvania youth athletes
should also be familiar with the "Safety in
Youth Sports Act," which was signed in 2011
to protect student athletes from serious head
injuries during games and practices. In short,
the law established standards for managing
concussions and brain injuries, including
mandates for immediate removal from play
if concussion is suspected, suspension from
play until medically cleared and annual
training for coaches with penalties for those
who fail to comply.
Recovery from concussion depends on
the symptoms and severity. "Each case is
very different," says Dr. Klitsch. "For some,
rest and activity restriction for several weeks
is sufficient. Others require more involved,
long-term care."

If rest does not resolve the symptoms,
parents should seek additional treatment
from a qualified, experienced concussion
specialist. Depending upon the patient's
age and symptoms, a treatment plan may
include vision, physical, occupational, speech
language and/or balance therapies as well as
Two of the most promising new concussion
therapies available are vision therapy and the
Interactive Metronome®. Vision therapy helps
concussion patients with vision problems
such as poor balance, double vision, learning,
driving and memory difficulties. Specially
trained therapists treat patients using a variety
of exercises and computer-based games to
address specific deficits. Good Shepherd has
the largest vision therapy program east of the
Mississippi River and will be doubling the
size of the program in the next six months
due to increasing demand.
The Interactive Metronome® works to
improve the brain's timing and processing
skills through physical and cognitive exercise
performed in the presence of a computer-generated beat. For instance, patients may be
asked to name certain cards in a deck while
clapping to the metronome's beat.
If you suspect your child has a concussion,
Dr. Klitsch recommends erring on the side
of caution, given that you are dealing with a
potential brain injury. Seek medical attention
right away and do not let your child return to
play until you have a doctor's permission.

Wear appropriate safety
equipment for the sport,
and wear it properly during
games AND practice.
Close the chin strap if the sport requires
a helmet.
Examine the playing field
or court for uneven areas or holes.

MARCH 2017 | Lehigh County Health & Medicine 21


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of LCHM Spring 2017

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