New phone app helps trainers evaluate sports concussions

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There's a phone app for every need these days—from counting calories to finding happy hours and now, evaluating a possible concussion.

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN)—a group of neurologists who treat brain injuries including concussions—has released an app called "Concussion QuickCheck" aimed at determining if a sports injury has resulted in a concussion.

According to AAN, the app is meant to help coaches, trainers and parents spot a concussion so an athlete can get medical help right away. The app includes common concussion signs and symptoms, directions on how to determine when an athlete can return to the game, and a GPS locator to find a neurologist nearby.

Along with the release of this new app, the AAN released new concussion guidelines this week that urge coaches, parents and athletes to err on the side of caution.

“Among the most important recommendations the Academy is making is that any athlete suspected of experiencing a concussion immediately be removed from play,” said one of the guideline's authors, Christopher C. Giza, MD, in a statement. "We’ve moved away from the concussion grading systems we first established in 1997 and are now recommending concussion and return to play be assessed in each athlete individually. There is no set timeline for safe return to play."

Over the past few years head injuries in sports—especially among young athletes—has been the subject of much debate. Proper training of school coaches and setting parameters for when a player should be removed from a game have come under the microscope as more evidence has surfaced about the the long-term effects of concussion-related brain injuries.

KPCC reports that a 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said concussion rates in athletics have more than doubled in the last decade, reaching “an epidemic level.” According to AAN, an athlete is most likely to get a concussion playing football or rugby, followed by hockey and soccer. For girls, soccer and basketball are the riskiest sports.

Many people don't black out when they suffer a concussion, but common symptoms include headache, light sensitivity, and changes in speech, coordination or memory.  

"If in doubt, sit it out,” said Jeffrey S. Kutcher, MD, a member of the AAN.

The new guidelines state that an athlete should be removed immediately from play following a concussion. If headaches or other symptoms arise after appropriate rest and healing, players should stop the athletic exercise and see a doctor.

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