Nursing Faculty, Grads Tackle Concussions in New Article

JANUARY 7, 2013 - Youth athletes are particularly vulnerable to lasting brain damage as a consequence of repeated sports-related concussions, according to a new article by nursing faculty and alumnae from the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

The manuscript, “Tackling Long-Term Consequences of Concussion,” appeared in the January issue of Nursing2013, one of the world’s largest nursing journals.

“Signs and symptoms of concussion, a type of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), are temporary, but repeated concussions can lead to long-term debilitating conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease,” the authors write. “Youth athletes, who may experience repeated concussions while playing sports, are especially vulnerable to lasting brain damage.”

Georgetown Authors

Colleen Norton, PhD, RN, CCRN, associate professor of nursing and director of the BSN program in the Department of Nursing at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, Shara J. (Gress) Feltz (NHS’10), RN, a staff nurse at the Pediatric Care Center in Bethesda, Md., Angela Brocker (G’10), MS, RNC-NIC, instructor of nursing, and Margaret Harvey Granitto (NHS’82), MSN, RN, CRNP, instructor of nursing, co-authored the article.

Granitto noted that the idea for the piece grew from a scholarly project that Feltz completed with one of her classmates during her BSN course of study at Georgetown.

“This article discusses the nurse’s role in assessing and caring for a patient with a concussion and in educating patients, parents, teachers, and coaches about this type of head injury,” the authors write. “By staying up-to-date with current assessment and care practices, the nurse is in a pivotal position to protect children and young athletes from long-term consequences of concussion.”

A Changing View of Concussion

The authors note that the perception that children and adolescents are less susceptible to concussions than adults has begun to change.

“In the past, many researchers assumed that children and adolescents were less susceptible to concussions than adults based on the premise that more force was needed for injury because young brains have more plasticity than adult brains,” they say. “More recently, however, research has shown that youth players are actually more susceptible to concussion and lasting damage due to their developing musculature and central nervous system.”

Signs and Symptoms

The authors write that the signs and symptoms of concussion can be categorized into physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep-related issues – including, but not limited to, such things as headache, vision problems, not thinking clearly, irritability, and dizziness.

“Children and adolescents often fail to consider the long-term consequences of their actions and are therefore less likely to report injuries, seek medical attention, and follow treatment guidelines,” the authors write. “This places an even greater responsibility on parents, coaches, teachers, and nurses to monitor the youth athlete following a possible concussion, and engage in educational initiatives to inform young people about the effects and potential consequences of concussions.”

The Nurse’s Role

Appropriately dealing with concussions in youth is a team effort among athletes and parents, teachers and school nurses, and coaches, the authors report.

Nurses can play a multipart role.

“By staying up-to-date with current practices, providing education, and managing the recovery of concussions, nurses can facilitate the recognition and treatment of concussions and prevent or minimize long-term consequences for vulnerable young patients,” the authors say.

By Bill Cessato