WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - "Concussion is now being described as a mild TBI (traumatic brain injury)," said Dr. Aylin Mahmut of Get Well Physical Therapy.

"It can be anywhere in the brain, or multiple parts of the brain," she said.

Concussion can occur as a result of a collision in sports, recreational activity, or an accident.  It is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to either the head or the body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull. A concussion changes how the brain normally functions. Numerous medical journals have addressed the issue over the past several years, including "American Journal of Sports," "Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine," and several JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) publications. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation related concussions occur each year in the U.S.

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Some sports like football, baseball/softball, and wrestling, have protective headgear. Other sports like soccer and basketball do not.

"When it comes to protective headgear, I think there are a lot more studies that need to be done," said Mahmut, about headgear, helmet, and mouth guards.

Mahmut explained that some studies looked at the difference in concussion between boys and girls. 

"How they are affected is totally different," she said.

She noted the generally smaller frame and muscle mass of girls is an issue. She said "being female is a risk factor (for concussion.)"

Mahmut said that the previous treatment protocol for concussion was rest for weeks, in a dark room, with no visual stimulation, reading, or electronics. Today she said the treatment is to rest for 48 to 72 hours. If after one week there are still problems, make an appointment with a physical therapist or neurologist, who can order a functional MRI depending on the symptoms. She said a functional MRI is the "best tool" for a diagnosis. 

She noted that while young adults health much faster, they still need the proper treatment to heal.

"Our system needs to be given the right tools to heal itself," she explained. "If you're not giving your body the right tools to fix itself, it can get worse, and your body will start to compensate, which includes behavior and avoidance."

Some additional side effects of improper treatment include spacial relations and physical awareness issues, and susceptibility to future injuries. A neurologist or physical therapist should check a patient for eye (for tracking, focal point, and stabilization), neck, and inner ear for balance. Mahmut said a patient could see "good results in as early as three to four sessions" but noted "everybody is different" due to their health and history of concussion.

And what can a parent of a student/athlete or weekend athlete to help prevent concussion?

"Regardless of how good the helmet is, you're still at risk during a collision," she said. "It can happen. There is no guarantee that 'if I do this I will never, ever have a concussion.'"

She suggests increasing endurance training, stretching, strengthening the musclo-skeletal system. Also, coaches can help players master the smaller tasks of a sport, such correct form and posture, tracking, gait, and balance.

"Working together is the key," she said of coaches and trainers. Mahmut provides additional support to high school and youth sports program concussion protocols.

Get Well Physical Therapy is located at 253 Valley Boulevard in Wood-Ridge, NJ.


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