The American Academy of Neurology recommended that any athlete suspected of suffering a concussion be immediately removed from play and not allowed to return until seen by a doctor trained in treating such injuries.
The association of more than 25,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals said in a news release that it had issued new concussion procedures for the first time since 1997 amid increased scrutiny into the dangers of blows to the head in sports.
“We’ve moved away from the concussion grading systems we first established in 1997 and are now recommending concussion and return to play be assessed in each athlete individually,” said Christopher Giza, an AAN member from the Geffen School of Medicine and Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA, who was a co-lead author of the new guideline. “There is no set timeline for safe return to play.”
The new parameters, included in the March issue of the medical journal Neurology, took into account all available evidence published through June 2012, according to the Minneapolis-based academy, which was started in 1948.
Among the sports evaluated, concussion risk is greatest in football and rugby, followed by hockey and soccer, according to the study, with the greatest risks for young women and girls occurring in soccer and basketball.
About 4,000 former National Football League players have sued the league seeking damages for head injuries they say were sustained on the field. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease caused by repeated head hits, has been found in the autopsies of at least three former NFL players who killed themselves, including 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau.
The new guideline was endorsed by the NFL Players Association and the American Football Coaches Association.
The NFL joined General Electric Co. and Under Armour Inc. this month in a four-year, $60 million effort to develop imaging technology for detecting, treating and preventing brain injuries.