by Phil Gutis
“When in doubt, sit it out.” That’s the advice from Dr. Arthur R. Bartolozzi of the Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute regarding possible concussions, particularly among high school and college athletes. Bartolozzi is the former team physician for the Philadelphia Eagles, Flyers and Phantoms and now leads the sports medicine practice at the Aria 3B Orthopaedic Institute, which has four regional locations, including Aria Health-Bucks County, in Langhorne.
With increasing focus on concussions, Aria 3B recently launched a new concussion clinic at its Langhorne office with dedicated hours on Mondays and Wednesdays to evaluate injured athletes. Signs of concussion injuries can include dizziness, headache, confusion, fatigue, memory problems, sensitivity to light and balance problems.
Dr. Jason J. Waterman, who leads the concussion clinic, says that examining an athlete is best done within a week after an injury. “As people learn more about the potential harm from concussions, some specialists are getting booked up far in advance,” Dr. Waterman says. “Our goal is to be able to get athletes evaluated quickly.”
Concussions are an area ripe for focus, Dr. Bartolozzi says, because many physicians are not fully trained in the assessment of the injury, which, depending on the severity, can require a young person to avoid any type of “cognitive activity” for weeks or, in rare situations, months, until the brain is fully healed. That can mean missing school and being forbidden from activities such as video games.
While many people are focused on football, doctors and coaches should also be very careful when dealing with injuries in sports such as girls’ soccer, where concussions can be very damaging, says Dr. Catharine Mayer, who specializes in injuries experienced by female athletes with Aria 3B.
“There is evidence that girls are more susceptible to concussions,” Dr. Mayer says. “We don’t know for certain why, but there are many theories, including that women have smaller head circumference compared to men, or that girls have smaller neck mass. Girls may be better at recognizing concussions and be more willing to report them.”
The concussion clinic also works to educate local physicians and coaches. “We’re going out to the schools and educating as many people as we can,” Dr. Waterman says. “Kids are not getting the treatment they need.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control notes that the choices made by coaches immediately following a concussion can decide life or death or whether an injured athlete will see a full recovery and return to play. Almost all states now have laws that require any young person showing signs of a concussion to be seen and cleared by a licensed health care provider before being allowed to return to play.
The Aria 3B Orthopaedic Specialists have more than 100 years of combined experience with expertise in joint replacement for hip and knee, sports medicine and surgery and comprehensive spine care, including complex reconstruction and minimally invasive procedures. Aria 3B-Bucks County is located at 380 N. Oxford Valley Rd. in Langhorne. For more information, call 1-888-ORTHO3B or visit Aria3BOrtho.org.
Phil Gutis is a writer, editor, and contributor to Natural Awakenings
magazine. Connect at PhilGutis@gmail.com. January 2014.