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Local Researchers Address ‘Concussion Culture’

Education and proper health care are keys.

The George Mason University Football program has existed since 1993 and is a member of the Sea Board Conference and the National Club Football Association, Mid-Atlantic Conference.

The George Mason University Football program has existed since 1993 and is a member of the Sea Board Conference and the National Club Football Association, Mid-Atlantic Conference.

With the impending warmer weather comes an increased number of children participating in outdoor activities. Some local health care professionals and researchers are issuing words of caution.

“More children will be outside playing with friends, riding bicycles and engaging in contact sports. These activities and others where impact is a possibility place children at risk for a concussion,” said Dr. Faith Claman, who holds a doctor of nursing practice and is an assistant professor in the Malek School of Health Professions at Marymount University in Arlington.

Local educators say it is important to know the facts. “A concussion is a brain injury, which often occurs as a result of a fall or blow to the head or body, said Dr. Dalila Birem, associate medical director of Molina Healthcare of Virginia and Fairfax Community Health Care Network. “Normally, the brain is cushioned by fluid, but when jolted violently, the brain crashes into the skull, resulting in damage to the soft tissue.”

Birem says that while some people may lose consciousness, more common symptoms of a concussion include headache, blurred vision, fatigue or irritability.

“Others may experience no symptoms at all [and] with rest, most people fully recover from a concussion,” said Birem. “However, severe concussions or repeated incidents may lead to more serious consequences, such as problems with speech, mobility or learning.”

Researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax are taking action. “Concussions are running rampant across the country right now and it seems that no one, from middle school student athletes to professional players, are exempt,” said university spokeswoman Catherine J. Probst. “As a result, some states are enacting new laws to change this concussion culture. Virginia’s General Assembly [passed legislation] that requires student athletes and their parents to receive annual concussion education. … The law also states that schools form concussion management teams to provide and document concussion education for students, staff, coaches and parents.”

Implementing the legislation presents challenges, however. “Many Virginia public schools lack the necessary resources to properly deliver concussion education,” she continued.

To address the dearth of resources, researchers in "http://cehd.gmu.edu/"Mason’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) joined the "http://achieves.gmu.edu/"Advancing Healthcare Initiatives for Underserved Students (ACHIEVES) project to offer effective medical care and concussion education.

“The project has already reached more than 80,000 student athletes, staff, coaches and parents to deliver more effective medical care and concussion education,” Probst said.

ACHIEVES offers services that run the gamut from implementing an electronic medical record-keeping program to offering both online and face-to-face sessions. Probst says university researchers hope the ACHIEVES project will serve as a model for other school systems at the local, regional and national levels as more states enact concussion laws.