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Playing it Safe

MCMC’s Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine team helps area athletes head off serious problems related to concussions.
Published on 9/30/2013
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MCMC’s Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine team helps area athletes head off serious problems related to concussions.

Playing sports is a great way for young athletes to have fun, stay in shape, learn the value and benefits of team play and much more.  But there are, of course, risks involved in almost any sport, and concussions are among the most common of them.

It is estimated that about 10 percent of all student athletes in contact sports suffer a concussion during their season.  According to The Center for Injury Research and Policy, a national organization that tracks youth sport injuries, an estimated 300,000 sport-related traumatic brain injuries occur in the U.S., predominantly concussions.

The incident of sports-related concussions is increasing so rapidly that the Centers for Disease Control now conclude they have reached an epidemic level. 

And while concussions are most common in football, they can happen in virtually any sport, says Mark Cullen, M.D., of MCMC | OHSU Orthaopedics and Sports Medicine.

“Concussions are most common in sports like football, soccer, basketball and wrestling, but I have treated them in cheerleaders, gymnasts, even swimmers,” says Dr. Cullen.

And, of course, there are numerous sports and activities outside of school where concussions can occur, like cycling, playground activities and, in this region especially, water sports.  “If you are kite boarding and hit the water at 25 miles per hour, you might as well be hitting concrete,” Dr. Cullen says.

Dr. Cullen’s goal is for MCMC’s Sports Medicine physicians and athletic trainers to build on the already close relationships that exist with area schools to help ensure sure that concussive injuries are quickly detected, properly treated and carefully managed to prevent the potential serious problems they can cause.

In Dr. Cullen, Dr. John Schwartz and the MCMC Sports Medicine athletic trainers athletes throughout the Gorge have access to extensive experience in concussion management and a valuable tool for monitoring injuries and helping determine when it is safe to return to play.

About ImPACT
ImPACT is a sophisticated research-based computer test used to guide an athlete’s recovery following concussion. The test takes about 20 minutes and measures multiple aspects of cognitive functioning including verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time.

Using ImPact, the MCMC Sports Medicine team intends to develop a concussion management program similar to the one Dr. Cullen established in his previous practice in Gwinnett County, Georgia, home to that state’s largest school district.

It is recommended that all kids involved in high-risk contact sports receive a baseline ImPACT test before their season begins. If they suffer a head injury on the field or experience concussion symptoms, the test can be re-administered and the results can be measured against the baseline.

Dr. Cullen has been using ImPACT for nine years, and even spent time working with physicians and scientists who developed the program in 2002.  Over the course of 15 years in his previous practice, Dr. Cullen developed one of the Atlanta area’s premier sports medicine, concussion management and orthopedic surgery practice.  

Drs. Mark Cullen, John Schwartz and the MCMC | OHSU Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine team at Water’s Edge provide comprehensive preventive, medical and surgical care for the spectrum of orthopedic and sports-related conditions. 

To make an appointment, call 541.506.6500.

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