Management of Concussions Talk Scheduled at Bankhead Next Week

Cutting-edge management of concussions, which are more common than often appreciated and can endanger both young and old, will be the topic of a presentation at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater next Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Dr. Paulomi Kadakia Bhalla, a neurologist, and Dr. Jeffrey Ketchersid, an internist, of Stanford University and ValleyCare hospital in Pleasanton, will be speaking. Their talk is kicking off a series from ValleyCare.

Although national publicity in recent years has brought attention to the dangers of concussions in sports, from youth soccer to professional football, Ketchersid notes they’re also a major injury risk for the elderly.

“Concussions are regularly underappreciated or completely missed amongst the senior population,” he wrote in a recent article. Every year, “nearly one million seniors suffer a concussion.”

In 2013, one in every 45 seniors age 75 and older experienced brain injury leading to an emergency room visit, hospitalization or death, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The CDC defines concussions as a form of traumatic injury that causes “disruption in the normal function of the brain.”

Symptoms can be mild or life-threatening. They sometimes show up hours or days after the injury.

Concussions are usually caused by a hit to the head. They can occur when a senior falls or young athletes collide while playing a sport. Violent shaking or a blow to the body can also result in a concussion.

They don’t occur only in the usual contact sports like football, ice hockey and rugby. In 2015, a study in the Journal of Pediatrics found concussion was the leading cause of injury in competitive cheerleading, in which tall pyramids create risk of dangerous falls.

The topic of traumatic brain injury came to national prominence more than a decade ago following the death of professional football great Mike Webster of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

His dramatic story, and that of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who proved Webster’s brain had been injured by repeated blows to the head, was told at the Bankhead by journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas in 2016.

In the wake of Omalu’s findings, the connection between football head injuries and lasting disabilities became so apparent in other sports, athletic associations around the world developed protocols for dealing with suspected concussion.

The protocols stress health-protecting caution, since concussions are often difficult to diagnose and symptoms may not appear for hours or even days.

The risk to a player who experiences a second concussion before recovering from a first is thought to be much higher than if the injury has healed.

As a result, the general rule from has become, “When in doubt, sit them out.” In other words, if there is any uncertainty, get the player off the field and to a physician for evaluation.

How concussion is evaluated and managed from the perspective of medical experts could be of interest to people of all ages.