Local, broad concussion study could determine what sports your children should play

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Local doctors and athletes will be on the front lines of today’s broadest study focused on concussions in collegiate athletes; and it could have impacts on generations to come.

For years, doctors with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have been working with athletes from both Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State Universities. However, they have only been taking data from about 700-800 athletes.

Now, those doctors will be working with the NCAA-Department of Defense Concussion Assessment, Research and Education (CARE) Consortium study , designed to examine the natural history of concussion among student-athletes of both sexes at colleges and universities in all NCAA divisions. Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State are among the nine NCAA member schools added to the study this month, bringing the total number of participating institutions to 30.

“They’re often very confused, they can be very tired,” said Dr. Chris Miles, associate program director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Sports Medicine Fellowship, and head team physician at Wake Forest University, of athletes in the moments after suffering a concussion. “It happens in all of our sports, we’ve had track athletes, we have cheerleaders, basketball players.”

As part of the new study, the doctors will have a chance to look at tens of thousands of athletes in all sports, not just the ones with helmets.

“Take for example, cheerleading; is there something about cheerleading, or a specific activity within that, that is riskier than others,” Miles said.

The athletes will be screened before and after seasons, to get their baseline data. But, if they suffer a concussion, that data will be taken as well. It will also allow them to collect data on the athletes should they suffer a concussion in their everyday lives.

In addition, they will form a registry of the athletes, to help determine if concussions lead to more issues down the road as many currently believe they do.

“The ability in five years, or more, to reach out to these athletes that were diagnosed with concussions and see how they’re doing at that stage,” Miles said.

It’s information which will be used to determine how safe each sport is -- and the activities within them are -- regardless of the level on which they are being played.

“This information I think is going to span -- as you alluded to -- youth sports all the way to the NFL,” Miles added.

Their hope is to be able to look at possible rule changes, make statements on what is and is not safe, and determine if children should be allowed to play certain sports or participate in certain activities.

“To say to the mom, here are some sports to avoid, or if your child participates in that sport, here might be some activities to avoid,” Miles said.