Improving Sports Health, One Hit at a Time
Physicians at Wake Forest Baptist are providing much-needed clinical care and field research on the dangers of concussions in young football players. The Concussion Clinic— led by Alexander K. Powers, MD, assistant professor of neurosurgery, Daryl A. Rosenbaum, MD, assistant professor of family and community medicine, and Joel Stitzel, PhD, director of the Center for Injury Biomechanics—provides expert-level diagnostic and prognostic care for college, high school and recreational football players at risk for concussion.
Funded by the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma, the Concussion Clinic enables Wake Forest Baptist clinicians to offer young football players the most advanced care available, including an array of non-invasive testing conducted at no cost to the player or his family.
At the same time, research conducted at the Concussion Clinic gives clinicians important research data that can help practitioners nationwide more effectively diagnose, treat and respond to mild traumatic brain injuries in young football and other sports players.
“Right now, there’s no way to objectify concussion,” said Powers. “Our goal is to do just that: to identify the parts of the brain that are injured, identify the severity of the injury, and be able to predict or prognosticate what is going to happen for that patient. We want to be able to identify the player that was hit and can’t play anymore from the player that was hit but can still play with reckless abandon.”
Wake Forest Baptist’s concussion team is also working closely with the Virginia Tech college football team, one of just a handful of college sports teams currently utilizing the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS), a system in which transponders inside players’ helmets gather and transfer data about the impact of every hit during practices and games to health care professionals on the sideline and in the clinic. HITS will additionally be introduced to the Wake Forest University college football program this spring.
|Alexander K. Powers, MD, Joel Stitzel, PhD, and Daryl Rosenbaum, MD, with the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS)|
Right now the research is solely in data collection mode, but Powers hopes his team will soon be able to make medical decisions based on what they see. “Our goal with the HITS program is to make real-time decisions, make the game safer and improve technology,” he said.
The group is also looking to expand the research program into high schools, further broadening the reach, effect and relevance of the study’s eventual findings and helping ensure the safety and health of high school, college and professional football players nationwide.