Concussion Team

Why See a Sports Medicine Specialist?

Sports related concussions have a unique issue regarding recovery. When returning to sport the athlete must be asymptomatic with exertion and returned to play with a progression of exercise and sports related functional exercises.This particular aspect of returning to play is our area of expertise. Here at PICSM we have accumulated over 22 years of experience in returning athletes back to sport.

Our Concussion Team!

Dr. Phillip M. Steele, MD has been specializing in concussion management for athletes since 1999 and has given numerous lectures on concussions in sport throughout the Rocky Mountain region . His passion for treatment of head injuries in sports dates back to his time as a US Ski Team Physician for the Nordic Combined Team and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. He also has specialized training with ImPact Neurocognitive testing and no one in Montana has more experience. Dr. Steele helps with event coverage for our local High Schools and Small Fry Football.concussion-soccer

Dr. Buzz Walton, MD recently completed his fellowship in Primary Care Sports Medicine and served as a Team Physician for Rocky Mountain College and the Billings area High Schools. He gained valuable experience with ImPact Neurocognitive testing and was well versed in returning athletes back to play during his fellowship. He is actively involved in the weekly after school high school training rooms at both Helena and Capital High Schools as well as a weekly visit to the Townsend Bulldogs. In addition he provides event coverage and sports medicine support to the Helena Small Fry program.

Abbey Barnhart, PA-C has a special interest in concussion injuries in soccer. She was a member of Helena High Schools Soccer team and is passionate about making sure both our local high schools have safe return to sport after a concussion. She is experienced in return to play protocols and ImPact testing and has been actively involved in the weekly after school high school training room visits and event coverage at both schools.

What is a concussion?

dsc_0133A concussion is a brain injury that is caused by a blow to the head or body that has resulted in accelerated forces to your head and neck, causing a bruise to the brain. This force may occur from contact with another player, hitting a hard surface such as the ground or floor, being hit by a piece of equipment such as a bat or ball, or a motor vehicle accident. A concussion can change the way your brain functions. Concussion symptoms can range from mild to severe and may present very differently with each individual athlete or patient. 90% of all concussion injuries do not include loss of consciousness.

What are the symptoms of a concussion?

The most common symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Amnesia
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Foggy or groggy
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Feeling unusually irritable
  • Balance problems
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Concentration or memory problems

The Dylan Steiger Protection of Youth Athletes Act was recently signed into law and took effect during the 2013-14 athletic season. It requires that all athletes suspected of a concussion have clearance by a medical provider before returning to play. Once initially evaluated and cleared for progression to play, each athlete is required to complete a 6 step program before returning to full participation. Dr. Steele was actively involved in helping to write the progression to play guidelines for Montana and every member of our “Concussion Team” is well versed on concussion management and returning your athlete back to sport.

What is Impact Neurocognitive Testing?

Computer based neurocognitive testing is used by the NFL, NBA, NHL, and all division 1 NCAA sports programs. No one in Montana has more experience than our staff in the using of baseline testing or post concussion testing with this valuable tool. We help with base line testing for both Capital & Helena High Schools and review much of the data after yearly testing. We work closely with both high schools helping to establish our return to play program and post injury testing program. For those athletes without baseline testing we utilize post injury testing to help understand the depth of injury and when brain function has returned to normal.

What is Progression To Play?

Each sport has a unique progression to play. At PICSM we specialize in returning your athlete back to their sport in a timely but safe manner. We are the experts on sports related concussion and can help you and your athlete on their path to recovery. Although each concussion is a unique event with the severity of concussion depending on which parts of the athlete’s brain was injured, we are well versed on the latest recommendations and protocols. We understand the risks of returning an athlete back to sport too quickly and the importance of a gradual progression back to sport to prevent re-injury.

Concussion Recovery

What can I do to help feel better after a mild traumatic brain injury?

Although most people recover after a concussion, how quickly they improve depends on many factors. These factors include how severe their concussion was, their age, how healthy they were before the concussion, and how they take care of themselves after the injury.
Some people who have had a concussion find that at first it is hard to do their daily activities, their job, to get along with everyone at home, and even to relax.
Rest is very important after a concussion because it helps the brain to heal. Ignoring your symptoms and trying to “tough it out” often makes symptoms worse. Be patient, because healing takes time. Only when your symptoms have reduced significantly, in consultation with your health care professional, should you slowly and gradually return to your daily activities, such as work or school. If your symptoms come back or you get new symptoms as you become more active, this is a sign that you are pushing yourself too hard. Stop these activities and take more time to rest and recover. As the days go by, you can expect to gradually feel better.

Getting Better: Tips for adults

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest during the day
  • Avoid activities that are physically demanding (housecleaning, weight lifting/working out) or that require a lot of concentration (balancing your check book). They can make your symptoms worse and slow your recovery.
  • Avoid activities that could lead to another concussion, such as contact or recreational sports
  • When your health care professional says you are well enough, return to your normal activities gradually, not all at once.
  • Your ability to react may be slower after a concussion. Ask your health care professional when you can safely drive a car, ride a bike or operate heavy equipment.
  • Talk to your health care professional about when you can return to work.
  • Talk to your employer about returning to work gradually and limiting activities and/or schedule until you recover.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages, as they may slow your recovery.
  • Write down the things that may be harder than usual for you to remember.
  • Avoid sustained computer use
  • Eat well, drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep.

Getting Better: Tips for children

Parents and caregivers of children who have had a concussion can help them recover by taking an active role in their recovery:

  • Help the child to get plenty of rest, keep a regular sleep schedule, including no late nights and no sleepovers.
  • Limit screen use (i.e. watching T.V., playing video games, and texting )
  • Make sure the child avoids high-risk/high-speed activities, such as riding a bike, skate boarding, climbing playground equipment, contact recreational sports, or going on rides that could result in another bump, blow or jolt to the head.
  • Talk with your health care professional about when the child should return to school and other activities, and how the parent or caregiver can help the child deal with the challenges they may face. For example, your child may need to spend fewer hours at school, rest often, or require more time to take tests.
  • Sharing information about concussions with parents, siblings, teachers, counselors, babysitters, coaches and others who interact with the child helps them to understand what has happened and how to help meet the child’s needs.

Help prevent long-term problems

If you already had a medical condition at the time of your concussion (i.e. chronic headaches), it may take longer for you to recover from the concussion. Anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and bipolar disorder also make it harder to adjust to the symptoms of a concussion. While you are healing, you should be very careful to avoid doing anything that could cause a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body. On rare occasions, receiving another concussion before the brain has healed can result in brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death, particularly among children and teens.

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