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Current Concepts in Concussion Care. Stacy Suskauer, M.D. Pediatric Physiatrist Beth Slomine, Ph.D., ABPP Neuropsychologist. Disclosures. No industry-related financial disclosures. Objectives. To identify mild Traumatic Brain Injury in children Symptoms E pidemiology

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Current Concepts in Concussion Care

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Current concepts in concussion care

Current Concepts in Concussion Care

Stacy Suskauer, M.D.

Pediatric Physiatrist

Beth Slomine, Ph.D., ABPP




  • No industry-related financial disclosures



  • To identify mild Traumatic Brain Injury in children

    • Symptoms

    • Epidemiology

  • To understand typical course of recovery and approaches to early management

    • Cognitive rest

    • Active treatment strategies

  • To understand approaches to complex issues

    • Prolonged symptoms

    • Short-term sequelae of repetitive injuries

Current concepts in concussion care

  • To identify mild Traumatic Brain Injury in children

    • Symptoms

    • Epidemiology

Concussion mild traumatic brain injury mtbi

Concussion = mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)

Concussion is a brain injury and is defined as a complex pathophysiological process affecting the brain, induced by biomechanical forces.

  • May be caused by blow to head, neck, face, or blow elsewhere on body with forces transmitted to head

  • Typically results in rapid onset of short-lived impairment of neurologic function that resolves spontaneously

    • Symptoms and signs may evolve over minutes to hours

  • May result in neuropathological changes, but acute symptoms reflect physiological, not structural changes

    • Standard neuroimaging is normal

  • Graded set of clinical symptoms

    • May or may not involve loss of consciousness

    • Symptoms may be prolonged

Consensus statement, 4th International Conference on Concussion in Sport, 2012

Common symptoms of concussion

Common symptoms of concussion

Thinking Symptoms

Feeling mentally foggy

Problems concentrating

Problems remembering

Feeling more slowed down

Preschoolers (Rane et al.)


Behavioral changes



Physical Symptoms




Visual problems

Balance problems

Sensitivity to light

Sensitivity to noise





Sleep Symptoms


Sleeping more than usual

Sleeping less than usual

Trouble falling asleep

Emotional Symptoms



Feeling more emotional


Classification of severity of pediatric tbi

Classification of Severity of Pediatric TBI

*In presence of intracranial neuroimaging findings = mild complicated or moderate TBI

Current concepts in concussion care

Average Annual Rates of TBI-related Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, 2002-2006

A public health problem

A public health problem

  • Millions of concussions are estimated to occur in the U.S. annually

    • Range 1.2 – 3.8 million

    • Athletic trainer, pediatrician, urgent care, school nurse

  • The number of children receiving care for concussion is increasing

    • Increased mTBI diagnosis in ED over 10 years

      • > 200% in children in 14-19 y/o

      • Doubled in 8-13 y/o

Bakhoset al., Pediatrics, 2010

Increasing diagnosis of concussion

Increasing diagnosis of concussion

Concussion is diagnosed in 1:160 children seen in pediatric hospital EDs

Concussion identification a public health approach to a public health problem

Concussion identification: A public health approach to a public health problem

  • Legislation mandating

    • Education of coaches, athletes, and parents

    • Removal from play if concussion is suspected

    • No same-day return to play

    • Written clearance for return to play from a medical professional with expertise in brain injury

  • “ZackeryLystedt Law” Washington State, 2009

  • 40+ states now have similar legislation

  • Maryland’s law was signed on May 19th, 2011

Current concepts in concussion care


Typical symptoms resolution

Typical symptoms resolution


8-15 y/o




Yeates et al., Pediatrics, 2009

Days from injury to discharge from concussion clinic

Days from injury to dischargefrom Concussion Clinic


6-12 years

15 children reporting symptoms at discharge

Proportion discharged from clinic

Risen et al., in preparation

Current concepts in concussion care

Evaluation and Management

Evaluating concussion and recovery

Evaluating Concussion and Recovery

  • Currently no objective measure of brain physiology in clinical use for evaluating the presence of and recovery from concussion

  • Evaluation and management of concussion is based on symptoms

Kki neurorehabilitation concussion clinic multi disciplinary evaluation

KKI: NeuroRehabilitation Concussion ClinicMulti-disciplinary Evaluation

  • Neuropsychology: Screening cognitive function in areas expected to be affected by concussion

    • Age-based assessment, ~ 45 minutes

    • Computer Testing (IMPACT)

    • Pencil and paper cognitive testing

    • Timed motor movements

  • Physician: Neurology or Rehabilitation

    • Complete neurological exam

    • Includes balance testing

  • Other disciplines associated with our clinic

    • Behavioral Psychology

    • Physical Therapy

Early education and recovery

Early Education and Recovery

  • mTBI: 119 children ages 6-15 years

  • Controls: Orthopedic injuries

  • Intervention: Educational Pamphlet at evaluation 1 week post-injury

    • Common symptoms

    • Expected course recovery

    • Coping strategies

  • 3 months post-injury:

    • Pamphlet  Fewer symptoms and less stress

Ponsford et al., Pediatrics, 2002

Sources for education

Sources for Education


    • “Heads-Up” Tool Kits

      • Physicians

      • School

    • Pamphlet: “Facts about concussion and brain injury”

    • ACE Office Version:

      • Injury Characteristics

      • Symptoms Checklist

      • Risk Factors

      • Red Flags

Modifications conceptual background

Modifications: Conceptual background

  • Recommendations for rest are based on “metabolic mismatch” of mTBI.

  • In the initial days after injury, cerebral energy demands are increased but glucose delivery decreased

  • Restricting activity modulates metabolic demands

Do s and don t for the first few days

Do’s and Don’t for the first few days

  • Do:

    • Rest as needed

    • Sleep as needed

    • Return to daily activities as tolerated

    • Return to school as tolerated

    • Obtain guidance from medical/school personnel

  • Don’t:

    • Persist in activities if symptoms worsen

    • Participate in PE, physical activity in recess, or contact sports/high risk activities until cleared by healthcare professional

First line approach behavioral strategies

First Line ApproachBehavioral Strategies


  • 3 meals, small snacks in between

  • Consistent and appropriate SLEEP

  • Avoid Medication Overuse

  • Stress Management

First line approach medical strategies

First Line ApproachMedical Strategies

  • Fish Oil

  • Melatonin

Cognitive modifications how much is enough

Cognitive Modifications:How much is enough?

  • Which activities?

    • Attending school

    • Homework

    • Texting

    • Computer use

    • TV

    • Video games

  • For how long?

    • 1 week?

    • Until symptom free?

    • Symptom-based?

Aap clinical report returning to learning following a concussion

AAP Clinical ReportReturning to Learning Following a Concussion

  • …adding additional restrictions that may not be needed has the potential to create further emotional stress during the recovery.

  • There is insufficient research…although recent research suggests benefit to the concept of cognitive rest…

  • This calls for an individualized approach…

Halstead et al., Pediatrics, 2013

School modifications

School Modifications

Physical modifications when in doubt sit it out

Physical Modifications:WHEN IN DOUBT, SIT IT OUT

  • “Second Hit Syndrome/Second Impact Syndrome”

    • Specific to children and teenagers

    • Occurs when a second, even mild injury, occurs in the setting of a healing brain

    • Explosive swelling

    • Results in death or severe disability

  • Even in absence of catastrophic injury, symptoms typically worsen/are prolonged after a second hit at any stage of recovery

  • An athlete should never return to play if symptomatic

Gradual return to play

Gradual Return to Play

Approaches to complex issues

Approaches to Complex Issues

When a mild tbi is not mild persistent symptoms

When a mild TBI is not mild: Persistent Symptoms


8-15 y/o





Yeates et al., Pediatrics, 2009

Other contributors to persistent symptoms

Other contributors to persistent symptoms?

Yeates et al., Pediatrics, 2009

Factors that influence recovery

Factors that influence recovery

Factors that influence recovery

Yeates and Taylor, 2005

Prolonged symptoms injury related factors

Prolonged Symptoms: Injury related factors

  • Post-traumatic amnesia (PTA), LOC, and increased symptoms predicted prolonged recovery (> 7 days) (McCrea 2013)

  • MVA, LOC, Neuroimaging abnormalities and hospitalization were associated with higher levels of prolonged post-concussive symptoms (Taylor et al 2010)

Prolonged symptoms pre and post injury child and family factors

Prolonged Symptoms: Pre and Post-injury child and family factors

  • Injury severity factors important early predictors

  • Child/Family factors important later predictors

    • McNally et al. Neuropsychology, 2013

  • Premorbid parent anxiety, child’s pre-injury concussive symptoms, child’s health-related quality of life

    • Olsson et al. Brain Injury, 2013

  • Repeat concussions increase risk of more severe concussion and slower or incomplete recovery

The balance of rest and activity

The Balance of Rest and Activity

Too little activity

Too much activity



Other resources available in kki continuum of care

Other resources available in KKI Continuum of Care

  • Behavioral Psychology

  • Physical Therapy

  • Education

  • Speech Therapy

  • Neuropsychology

  • Specialty Medical Care

Behavior psychology

Behavior Psychology

  • Cognitive – Behavior Approach

  • Pain Management techniques

  • Sleep Hygiene

  • Stress Management

    • Activity Restrictions

    • School Problems

    • Social Issues

  • Longstanding psychosocial issues

  • Special appointment slots designated for quick access for concussion patients

Physical therapy

Physical Therapy

  • Subsymptom Aerobic Training Program

    • Aerobic training advocated for pediatric patients 4 to 6 weeks post injury (Vidal et al., Pediatric Annals, 2012; Gagnon et al., Brain Injury, 2009)

    • Benefit of exercise may relate to improved cerebral blood flow (Leddy et al., JHTR, 2012)

  • Manual Therapy to address pain and restricted range of Motion

  • Vestibular Therapy

Educational specialists

Educational Specialists

  • Provide advocacy for children/families

  • Work with the school to develop appropriate supports

  • Grant funding for education of school personnel regarding medical disorders



  • Comprehensive Evaluation

    • Suspected pre-injury concerns (e.g., LD/ADHD)

    • Ongoing cognitive concerns post-injury that are not resolving as expected

    • Better characterize cognitive, emotional, behavioral concerns and their etiology

    • If more formalized school services are needed

Specialized transition program

Specialized Transition Program

  • School-based day rehabilitation program

  • Provides daily PT/OT/Speech, neuropsychology, education.

  • Physician involvement

  • Appropriate for children with significant functional impairments



  • Medication management for headaches initiated in concussion clinic

  • Patients with prior history of headache or headaches that are not resolving with months of post-injury care are referred for longer term follow up

Rehabilitation follow up clinic

Rehabilitation Follow Up Clinic

  • Interdisciplinary rehabilitation management clinic including physiatry, neuropsychology, education, and behavioral psychology.

  • Transition to this clinic initiated for children we expect will have ongoing concerns that warrant interdisciplinary perspective

Concussion research at kennedy krieger

Concussion Research at Kennedy Krieger

  • Clinical research efforts are designed to add to our understanding of recovery and optimize evaluation and treatment of concussion with concussion

  • Use of data generated through review of clinical notes (data de-identified)

    • Pre-school symptom data

    • Trajectory of recovery in younger children

  • Prospective research studies

    • Children do not have to receive clinical care at KKI to participate

Recovery or compensation

Recovery or Compensation?

Areas of increased connectivity

with attention network in children with TBI

Risen et al., in preparation

A portable means of evaluating brain connectivity

A portable means of evaluating brain connectivity?

  • Vibrations are applied to the fingertips.

  • The ability of the child to sense the vibrations provides information about how brain cells communicate with each other.

  • Portable technology lends itself to use in schools and at athletic events.

Research goals







Research Goals




  • Understand early (<1 week post-injury) and late changes related to concussion

    • Diagnosis of injury and recovery

  • Understand whether changes in imaging or cellular connectivity persist after a child clinically appears to be back to baseline

    • Risk factors for future injuries?

Effects of repetitive concussion in children

Effects of Repetitive Concussion in Children

  • Higher level of reported symptoms at baseline (Schatz et al 2011)

  • More severe “on field” presentation of concussion if history of 3 or more prior concussions (Collins et al 2002)

Potential long term consequences

Potential long-term consequences

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy cte

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

  • Late neurodegenerative process distinct from persistent post-concussive symptoms

  • Recognized in boxers in 1928 (“dementia pugilistica”)

  • Symptoms:

    • Early: impulsivity, irritability, mood disorder, short-term memory loss

    • Late: dementia, gait and speech abnormalities, parkinsonism

  • Recent case report of CTE and motor neuron disease (ALS-like)

McKee et al., Brain, 2013

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy cte1

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)

  • Post-mortem diagnosis (Neuropathology)

    • Hyperphosphorylated tau protein deposits distinct from Alzheimer’s disease

    • Diagnosis also in asymptomatic athletes (early pathologic stages) and football players without clinical concussions

  • Other contributing factors not yet clear

    • Genetics

    • Age at initial exposure to repetitive trauma

    • Other environmental factors

  • Cohort studies are needed to better understand epidemiology, etiology, and risk factors

Baugh et al., Brain Imaging and Behavior, 2012

Kki concussion program longer term research goals

KKI Concussion ProgramLonger Term Research Goals

  • Epidemiological study of large groups of children and teens with concussion

    • Long term follow-up

    • Understand rate of lasting and later effects of injury

    • Understand risk factors for lasting and later effects



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