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Wednesday Jul 08, 2015

AAFP Teams Up With NFL Foundation to Raise Concussion Awareness

More than 1.6 million concussions occur in sports(journals.lww.com) and other recreational activities each year in the United States. Making matters worse, athletes, parents and coaches often are unaware of recommendations regarding returning to play(www.cdc.gov) and the need to seek medical attention.

A study published last year in JAMA Pediatrics(archpedi.jamanetwork.com) found that 59 percent of female middle-school soccer players played with concussion symptoms, and more than half of the players reporting concussion symptoms were not evaluated by a physician. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy(bit.ly), at least 40 percent of concussed high-school athletes return to play too soon. In fact, 16 percent of concussed football players returned to play the same day they were injured.

Concussions can occur even in sports that you don't necessarily associate with head injuries. For example, women's lacrosse is supposed to be a noncontact sport, but the ball travels at speeds in excess of 60 mph. At the recent AMA annual meeting, delegates voted to adopt a measure recommending helmets(www.medscape.com) for girls and women playing that sport.

Like many family physicians, I treat sports-related injuries in my practice and also work as a team physician for the local high school. I often have to educate coaches and parents about the need to hold athletes out of practices and games while they recover. And we've also had to take helmets away from injured football players during games when they were far too eager to get right back into the action.

So how do we raise public awareness about the serious nature of concussions, their long-term effects and the fact that they often can be successfully managed? The AAFP has entered a partnership that will pair the evidence-based medical knowledge of the Academy with the influence of the National Football League Foundation. The initiative will produce three free webinars for family physicians, as well as patient education materials. The AAFP will have full control of all educational materials and will retain final editorial authority over the materials.

The Academy will be able to use the NFL's brand and logo on the patient education materials, which should help get the public's attention. NFL games reached more than 200 million unique viewers last season, when the league averaged 17.6 million viewers per game.

Here is a look at what to expect:

Patient education materials will be mailed to all active AAFP members in August and also will be posted on FamilyDoctor.org(familydoctor.org). These materials are intended to help patients understand the definition of concussion and its signs and symptoms, know when to seek medical evaluation, understand concerns about long-term brain health in athletes, and understand the limitations of protective equipment.

As part of the initiative, Family Medicine SmartBrief will publish a special report regarding concussions in August. You can sign up(www.smartbrief.com) to receive SmartBrief, a daily wrap-up of news that affects family medicine.

Family physicians often are the first line of care for patients of all ages. We’re the first to spot these injuries, the first to treat them and the first to discuss the dangers of concussions with patients. This educational initiative will help family physicians and our patients by focusing on safety, the importance of reporting, evaluation of concussions and return-to-play protocol.

Concussions are a serious public health risk, and this educational initiative is the right thing to do.

Robert Wergin, M.D., is president of the AAFP.

Posted at 04:30PM Jul 08, 2015 by Robert Wergin, M.D.

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