UCAOA Positions Itself for National Discussion on Head Injury Prevention
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As Hollywood and the media bring significant attention to the effect of concussions on athletes participating in contact sports, congressional lawmakers are launching a new concussion probe. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) announced at the end of last year that his committee will undertake a comprehensive review of concussions beginning with a roundtable discussion, which was scheduled for Monday, January 25, but due to the snowstorm it has been postponed indefinitely. The roundtable will bring together experts from the medical, military, athletic, and research communities, and serve as a launching pad for the committee’s review to study the causes, effects, and treatments of concussions and other head trauma.

 

Working to position urgent care providers as key stakeholders in the diagnosis and treatment of these injuries, UCAOA Health and Public Policy Committee Member and Righttime CEO Robert Graw, Jr., MD, and Katharine Tate, director of provider and community outreach at Righttime, met with Republican and Democratic congressional offices in early January 2016 to share their sports injury and concussion care program HeadFirst and how components could serve as a national model. Congressional staff were particularly interested to learn about the early state of the scientific evidence with respect to concussions and were impressed by the quality, cost-effectiveness, and community engagement demonstrated by the HeadFirst program.

 

While it is unclear whether Congress will go as far as to try to legislate a safer environment for athletes, a number of states have already taken action by requiring schools and athletic programs to adopt and enforce concussion and head injury practices. Some states are mandating head injury recognition education for coaches, and others are requiring evaluation of athletes with suspected head injury by a healthcare professional before they can return to play.  Congress could also choose to direct more funding to head injury research and education or use hearings to reprimand major league athletics for what has become a perceived disregard of player safety.

While sports-related concussions have fueled national attention, UCAOA hopes that the discussion about head injuries will extend beyond those that occur on the playing field and will result in the dedication of greater resources to better educate providers about head injury recognition and treatment, as well as more funding for research to develop effective interventions to help individuals lead better lives after head injury.

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