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CDC Brain Injury Guidelines For Physicians: When To Scan A Concussion

By Richard C. Hunt, MD, FACEP

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A 17 year-old athlete arrives on the sideline, at your office, or in the emergency department after hitting her head during a collision on the sports field and is complaining that she has a headache and “just doesn’t feel right.”

Can she return to play? If not, when can she safely return to school, sports, and to her normal daily activities? Does she need immediate care, a Head CT or MRI, or just some time to rest?

Do those questions sound familiar?

Each year thousands of young athletes present at emergency departments and in the primary care setting with a suspected sports- and recreation-related concussion. And every day, health care professionals, like us, are challenged with identifying and appropriately managing patients who may be at risk for short- or long-term problems.

As you know, concussion symptoms may appear mild, but this injury can lead to significant, life-long impairment affecting an individual’s ability to function physically, cognitively, and psychologically. Thus, appropriate diagnosis, referral, and education are critical for helping young athletes with concussion achieve optimal recovery and to reduce or avoid significant sequelae.

And that’s where you come in. Health care professionals play a key role in helping to prevent concussion and in appropriately identifying, diagnosing, and managing it when it does occur. Health care professionals can also improve patient outcomes by implementing early management and appropriate referral.

As part of my work at CDC, and as a health care professional, I am committed to informing others about CDC’s resources to help with diagnosing and managing concussion. CDC collaborated with several organizations and leading experts to develop a clinical guideline and tools for the diagnosis and management of patients with concussion, including:

For more information about the diagnosis and management of concussion, please visit

Also, learn more about CDC’s TBI activities and join the conversation at:

Simple Blood Test To Detect Mild Brain Injury?


FREDERICK, Md. — The Army says it has discovered a simple blood test that can diagnose mild traumatic brain damage [TBI] or concussion, a hard-to-detect injury that can affect young athletes, infants with “shaken baby syndrome” and combat troops.

“This is huge,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army vice chief of staff.

Yes, it is, if it pans out. There’s so little actual information in this that it’s hard to get excited about it, but let’s say they’ve isolated a “brain injury” protein.

First, it would have uses outside traumatic brain injury (TBI), though that in and of itself might be useful. I don’t want to poo-pooh this test for TBI, but there are already rules for returning to contact sports (and combat has to be the ultimate in contact activities), so what’s the purpose here? (I forsee more Purple Hearts, which is fine.)

Stroke? TIA? Seizure? Pseudotumor cerebri, as a strain indicator? What if this is the test that allows us to diagnose meningitis without doing lumbar punctures? I’m all in on that front. Let’s hope this pans out, for all our sakes.

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Device Shows Concussion Effects Linger Off The Field

It’s an August tradition: Football training camps open, and we’re treated to warnings about working out in the heat.

In the past few years, however, when it comes to football, there’s been a new emphasis on traumatic brain injury (TBI). This has caught our eyes here at MedGadget.

We’ve covered innovative impact-sensing helmet technology before (as well as smart helmets for temperature monitoring). But for the athlete with a concussion, what happens off the field? Unless a neurologist is involved, it’s up to the players and trainers to follow guidelines or make guesses about when to return to play.

Hopefully that will change, and a device like BrainScope will lead the way. When we first covered BrainScope, they were positioning their new device, based on controversial technology, as a sideline decision-making aide. Now their research seems to be focused on the weeks and months post-concussion. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Dr. Val Tells ABC News How To Stave Off Memory Loss

Did you know that physical activity can reduce your risk for memory loss and dementia? I had the chance to speak to ABC’s Let’s Talk Live team about important lifestyle choices that can keep the mind healthy and active. The good news is that you really can teach an old dog new tricks, and those new tricks can stimulate growth of new brain cells. Watch the video and check out the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information about dementia prevention:

Motorcycle Helmets: Why Don’t People Wear Them?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported an analysis of motorcycle helmet use in fatal crashes. What was discovered is not surprising – namely, that in states in which there is not a state helmet law, the odds of a rider in a single-vehicle (e.g., the motorcycle) crash wearing a helmet was 72% less than in states with a helmet law. So, absent a law, people are not particularly inclined to wear a helmet.

One needs to couple this information with the facts about the benefits of wearing motorcycle helmets. First, motorcyle fatalities and fatality rates are increasing at a time when motorcycle riding is becoming more popular. Second, the average age of motorcycle fatalities has moved up to 39 years, from 30 years nearly 20 years ago, probably because the age of motorcycle riders has increased. Third, motorcycles expose the drivers more directly to lethal forces than do enclosed vehicles. Helmets are essential to prevent brain injuries and deaths. Read more »

This post, Motorcycle Helmets: Why Don’t People Wear Them?, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

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