Edelson Blog

AAN releases New Sports Concussion Guidelines

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has released a new set of guidelines for sports concussion.  Updating standards that had been set in 1997, AAN published new procedures after an extensive and systematic review of data from 1955 to 2012. These guiding principles were compiled by a multidisciplinary advisory panel and published in an online version of Neurology on March 18 of this year.

A major change in the guidelines is the removal of a pre-set timeframe before return to play. Past standards correlated the perceived severity of the concussion with the amount of time that should pass before the player return to play.  This previous recommendation did not take into account that individuals recover at different rates.  With a preponderance of data now showing that recovery time cannot be predicted in a one size fits all format, the new guidelines suggest setting individualized expectations following full assessment and a tailored recovery management program.

The new standards also suggest that:

  • diagnostic tools such as neuropsychological evaluations are helpful in making informed decisions, especially when used in an integrated treatment process that involves multidisciplinary personnel.
  • the first 10 days following the concussion are likely the most critical to the long-term outcome and therefore impulsive decisions to return to play should not be made.
  • conservative standards should be used for athletes that are high school age or younger.

I applaud the committee and the AAN for these new guidelines and hope that these recommendations can assist in improving treatment for athletes and aid parents and players in understanding the need to proceed with caution when making decisions to return to play.

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