September 8, 2017 - If not properly diagnosed and treated, sports-related
concussions can result in a brain injury with serious ramifications. Southeast
Georgia Health System is committed to keeping young athletes safe by providing
a comprehensive concussion management program to local high schools and
the College of Coastal Georgia. Through its Sports Medicine program, the
Health System offers coaches, parents and players the tools they need
to recognize and properly treat concussions.
Recognizing a concussion and providing proper treatment is especially critical
for young athletes whose brains are still developing and considered immature
until the third decade of life, according to Beau Sasser, M.D., board-certified
orthopedic surgeon, Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery,
medical director of the Health System’s Sports Medicine program
and certified in concussion management.
“The goal is to ensure proper management of the concussion, so the
students can return to play safely and avoid any long-term complications
from the injury,” says Sasser.
There is no blood test or radiologic scan that can diagnose a concussion.
Imaging tests such as CT scans and MRIs typically do not detect the bleeding
or bruising evident in brain damage and are usually only utilized if the
athlete loses consciousness or if a spine injury is suspected.
Evaluation for a concussion needs to be performed by a health care provider
that is up to date on concussion management. Most providers will initiate
an evaluation with a cursory neurologic examination to assess for balance,
coordination, vision, hearing and reflexes. After the initial exam, the
athlete will perform a neuropsychological test.
Southeast Georgia Health System provides the ImPACT neurocognitive test
in Brunswick, a scientifically validated computerized concussion management
tool that allows the provider to evaluate cognitive parameters, mental
functions and the healing progress.
The Return to Play Act of 2013, a state law, was designed to strengthen
concussion education and help protect young athletes. The law has provisions
to protect athletes ages 7 to 18 who participate in sports at public and
private schools and in public recreational leagues. The Health System,
a strong proponent of that law, works with local schools and sports leagues
to provide support and resources, including the implementation of return
to play protocols, necessary procedures to help protect kids who experience
The Health System’s Sports Medicine program includes four, full-time,
on-site athletic trainers at Brunswick High School, Glynn Academy, Frederica
Academy and McIntosh County Academy. A fifth athletic trainer serves as
community liaison. All of the athletic trainers are certified to recognize
and treat sports-related injuries and licensed by the State of Georgia.
Medical supervision of the athletic trainer program is provided by physicians
from Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery. The Camden County
school system’s athletic trainer also utilizes the Health System’s
concussion management program under the Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic
Surgery medical supervision.
“Initially, our primary concern about sending athletes back onto
the field too early was the risk of second impact syndrome, the catastrophic
event where the athlete endures a second hit before the first concussion
has fully healed. It has a high mortality rate,” Sasser says. “However,
we are also finding that even grade one concussions can have a cumulative
effect if an athlete is not allowed sufficient healing time.”
Sasser explains that if a player displays concussion-like symptoms, a sideline
assessment is performed. The most common symptoms of concussion include
drowsiness, headache, memory loss, irritability, confusion, balance problems,
dizziness and light hypersensitivity.
“If a concussion is suspected, the student is not allowed to return
to play for the rest of the game,” explains Sasser. “The first
line of treatment for concussion includes brain rest where the athlete
refrains from activities that require mental exertion such as video games,
texting, driving and watching TV. The athlete is then gradually reintroduced
to physical activities to screen for recurrent symptoms before being cleared
For more information about the Health System’s concussion management
or sports medicine programs, visit our
concussion management page.