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Medical experts to meet, propose standard guidelines for treating concussions

Nearly 30 leading, independent concussion clinicians and researchers from around the United States will convene at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center on Oct. 15-16 to propose standard guidelines on the best practices, protocols and active therapies for treating concussions today.

Their findings will be published in a medical journal and shared nationwide.

"There's a gaping need for a consistency of care for concussions across the country, if not the world," said conference chairman Micky Collins, Ph.D., executive and clinical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. "To try to fill that void, we're thrilled to host a meeting of some of the greatest minds in concussion science and clinical care."

Prior global gatherings of concussion experts have resulted in consensus documents regarding terminology, evaluation and protocols related to removal from sport and return to play. This meeting marks the first time a multidisciplinary group will assemble in the U.S. to focus strictly on clinical treatment guidelines.

"There's a gaping need for a consistency of care for concussions across the country, if not the world." Micky Collins, UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program executive director

Neurologists, neurosurgeons, physiatrists, emergency medicine and primary care physicians, neuropsychologists, athletic trainers and physical therapists will gather alongside representatives from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense to share best practices based on clinical expertise and research.

Among those expected to attend is Julian Bailes, M.D., NorthShore University Health System (Chicago) and chairman of the medical advisory board for Pop Warner Football.

"There have been numerous advances in our understanding of concussion treatment, and this conference should facilitate the implementation of best practices to make participation in all sports safe," Dr. Bailes said.

The two-day meeting is fully funded by a grant from the NFL Foundation.

"Because of the vital nature of the concussion conversation, it's critical to support leading institutions in the country, like UPMC, that are promoting science in an effort to advance treatment, evidence and clinical experience," said Charlotte Jones Anderson, chair of the NFL Foundation and executive vice president of the Dallas Cowboys.

Advancing treatment is consistently cited as an area that warrants further discussion.

"Concussion experts largely agree on the need to improve treatment protocols," said Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy.

Dr. Javier Cardenas, director of the Barrow Concussion and Brain Injury Center in Phoenix, believes there needs to be a defined standard of care for the treatment of all patients who have suffered concussions. "Beyond education and prevention, we need to describe how you actually manage this injury for athletes of all levels -- high school, college and professional," said Cardenas, who serves as a sideline neurologist for both the NFL and Arizona State University in addition to seeing youth athletes in his clinical practice.

Physical therapist Anne Mucha, coordinator of the vestibular rehabilitation program at the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, agrees with the need to establish standardized treatment guidelines to help patients get better, faster -- the information most sought from her by other clinicians.

"We are fortunate that we have this opportunity to carry out this idea of spreading better care practices and ultimately helping so many," Dr. Collins said. "We are looking forward to a wide-ranging, stimulating discussion that is overdue, and we feel our science, innovation and clinical experience make us well suited to serve as hosts."

The culminating white paper to be published in a medical journal is intended to make scientific, clinical and therapy recommendations for other health care providers to replicate and researchers to study further.

"We are pleased to support UPMC's efforts to convene the leaders in this area to identify potential improvements in treatment as well as areas for research," Miller said.

The varied backgrounds of the experts in attendance are likely to promote lively debate and discussion, but everyone will arrive at the meeting with a common goal.

"A published consensus statement on concussion treatment will give every patient the opportunity to receive the best care, no matter where they are injured," said retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former U.S. Army vice chief of staff and a leader in research and treatment for traumatic brain injury. "It's time to put aside our differences, collaborate and work together for the sake of patients everywhere."