Bayhealth recognizes Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, with a push for better concussion awareness. With school sports beginning again in March, Bayhealth neurosurgeons James Mills, MD, and Dunbar Alcindor, MD, advise athletes to make concussion prevention a priority. In the past decade, Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, has become a household term. Nationally, legislators and advocates struggle to deal with the overwhelming needs of injured soldiers returning from combat, while the NFL attempts to work out financial settlements for injured players dealing with multiple head injuries and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nearly 1.7 million Americans suffer TBIs each year, about one every 21 seconds. As a result, an estimated 5.3 million Americans live with a disability related to TBI. Many of these injuries happen on high school playing fields.
“Concussion is a brain injury,” said Dr. Mills, Bayhealth’s chief neurosurgeon. Dr. Mills specializes in neuro-oncology, skull base and cerebrovascular surgery, and spine surgery. “Coaches, trainers, parents, athletes, and physicians must learn to recognize the signs and symptoms.”
According to statistics published on Headcasecompany.com, one third of all sports concussions occur during practice and 47 percent of all concussions are suffered by high school football players. Concussion experts estimate that between 4 and 5 million concussions actually happen each year in the U.S., but only 3.8 million are reported.
“The most common symptoms of a concussion are headaches, light and sound sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting,” said Dr. Alcindor. “Moderate and severe concussions can result in loss or change of consciousness.”
In August 2014, Dr. Alcindor joined Dr. Mills in providing neurosurgical and neurological care to residents of central and southern Delaware. In 2015, Bayhealth opened a second neurosurgery practice in Lewes, DE, where Dr. Alcindor sees patients several days per week.
“Awareness is the first step,” said Dr. Alcindor. “If an athlete knows what the ramifications of a concussion are, they’ll wear their protective gear and play more safely.”
One concussion can cause brain damage, but several concussions can cause a compound brain injury. Compound injuries are many brain injuries that can lead to more long term cognitive and/or emotional disorders, personality changes, and physical disabilities. Many injuries can also lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or early onset dementia.
“Every athlete should be aware of CTE,” said Dr. Alcindor. “Recently, several of these cases have been reported in the media. Knowing what could happen can reduce the impact a concussion can have on an athlete’s life.”
Many concussions can be prevented; those that do happen must be recognized and treated quickly. Bayhealth Neurosurgery is committed to treating concussion patients as soon as possible to reduce the overall risk of permanent brain damage. “Immediate recognition and care prevents further brain injury,” said Dr. Mills.
For local high school athletes, Bayhealth offers the Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT™) program. The testing program provides baseline concussion testing, post-injury testing, neurocognitive comparisons, and more. ImPACT testing is the most widely utilized computer program and is used across high school, collegiate, and professional levels of sports. ImPACT is suitable for athletes ages 10 and older.
Bayhealth is the top sponsor for the Brain Injury Association of Delaware’s 2015 conference, Joined Voices, Shared Journeys. The conference, held on March 12, 2015 at Dover Downs Conference Center, is an information and advocacy event. To learn more about Bayhealth Neurosurgery, individuals are encouraged to call (302) 526-1470 or visit www.bayhealth.org/neuro.