Standardized Concussion-Assessment Gets Hockey Players Healthily Back on the Ice

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — As the chase for the 2011 Stanley Cup heads to the finish, several players are off the ice suffering from concussion, an injury all too common in this contact sport.

Deciding if a player is ready to return to the ice has been left primarily to each team’s physician, with no standardized across-the-sport method to assess when the time is right.

Work by specialists at the University at Buffalo Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Department’s concussion clinic may change that scenario.

They have developed a reliable graded exercise test for concussion that would help sports team physicians make decisions about a player’s readiness to return to the ice in good health.

The regimen, supported in part by the Buffalo Sabres Foundation, is described in a recent issue of the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine. Barry Willer, PhD, UB professor of psychiatry and rehabilitation medicine, is senior author on the paper, which is available here.

A video describing UB researchers’ work with concussion patients is available at http://bit.ly/kc3gB7.

“Premature return to a sport after concussion greatly increases the risk of a follow up concussion, with more devastating results than the first concussion,” says Willer, who has done extensive research on hockey injuries. “We believe this approach could change the way professional and amateur sports team physicians make decisions about concussion recovery.

“For a number of years,” Willer continues, “the consensus has been that players are finally ready to return when they can exercise to the level of their sport without exacerbation of symptoms. In the past how a team physician and the team trainer made this decision was left to chance.

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