A scientific approach to assessing return to play after concussion in NFL

September 12, 2012, University at Buffalo

(Medical Xpress)—After sustaining a concussion, when can an athlete safely return to play? That's the primary question for professional and amateur athletes alike.

Now, University at Buffalo sports medicine researchers have been awarded $100,000 from NFL Charities to develop the most objective, scientific method of determining when an athlete who has had a concussion can safely return to play.

NFL Charities, the charitable foundation of the owners, has awarded the 18-month grant to researchers at the Concussion Management Clinic in the Department of Orthopaedics in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The grant to UB is one of 15 totaling $1.5 million that NFL Charities is providing to researchers nationwide to support sports-related medical research on concussion/ and .

"Concussion itself poses little risk if it is properly managed; the only risk acutely is hemorrhage, which is generally detected through CT scans," says John Leddy, MD, director of UB's Concussion Management Clinic; clinical associate professor of orthopaedics, and ; and principal investigator on the grant.

"However, return to play before complete recovery involves much more serious risk," Leddy continues. "Therefore, it is important that a systematic, scientifically based return-to-play protocol be established and that it is proven to be valid and reliable. This is what we will be doing with this grant."

To date, that hasn't existed, he says, with team physicians often relying on more subjective assessments of an athlete's ability to exercise without experiencing symptoms.

Leddy will conduct the research with his colleague, Barry Willer, PhD, UB professor of psychiatry and rehabilitation science, who is co-principal investigator on the grant.

Over the next 18 months, the UB researchers will test between 35 and 50 athletes from the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres and athletes from Western New York colleges, including UB, who sustain concussions in the 2012-2013 season, as well as healthy control subjects.

"We are excited that NFL Charities has awarded this grant to University at Buffalo sports medicine researchers," says Mary Owen, Bills executive vice president for strategic planning. "The research that will be conducted by Dr. Leddy, Dr. Willer and others will benefit athletes at all levels and this is another example of how the Bills and the NFL continue to give back to our Western New York community."

Physiological variables that will be tested during exercise in concussed athletes and healthy controls include heart rate, blood pressure, pulmonary ventilation, cerebral blood flow and other measurements that Leddy and Willer have demonstrated are impacted when someone has had a concussion.

"We'll take these measurements both when concussed athletes are still having cognitive symptoms and when they feel like they have recovered," says Leddy. "We'll be looking at sophisticated MRI images and measuring the athletes' ability to exercise to a maximum rate without a return of their symptoms, all of which will help us gather more objective physiological evidence."

Leddy and Willer have completed smaller, pilot studies showing that a controlled, progressive exercise program using a standard treadmill test can successfully treat athletes who have undergone concussions.

In addition, they note, the physiological responses to the treadmill test are objective. "Thus, cannot 'fake' their way through, or minimize symptom reporting, while undergoing the test," adds Willer.

Explore further: Concussed triathlete back to winning races with help of new treatment protocol

Related Stories

Concussed triathlete back to winning races with help of new treatment protocol

December 9, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Former Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker was in the middle of the swimming portion of a triathlon in Hamburg, Germany, when the swimmer in front of him accidentally kicked him in the face. Shoemaker finished the ...

Standardized concussion-assessment gets hockey players healthily back on the ice

May 20, 2011
As the chase for the 2011 Stanley Cup heads to the finish, several players are off the ice suffering from concussion, an injury all too common in this contact sport.

Does baseline concussion testing really reduce risks to athletes?

June 1, 2011
Baseline concussion tests given to hundreds of thousands of athletes might, paradoxically, increase risks in some cases, according to a Loyola University Health System researcher.

Recommended for you

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.