Pfeiffer returned to playing basketball sooner than he expected
after suffering a concussion.
medical technology can present a vast array of treatment options and
sometimes-miraculous outcomes. But there’s one area of health care
that still challenges doctors because their patients won’t give them
a straight answer.
Walter, program director of pediatric and adolescent sports medicine
at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, says approximately one-third of
the kids who suffer sports-related head injuries will lie about their
condition, fearing that a concussion diagnosis could sideline them for
months on end.
think, ‘if I lie and sneak around, maybe I’ll get through this
quicker,’" Walter says. "Athletes don’t want to say they’re
hurt. And all of them know a concussion means you’re out."
But a new study
by CHW and the Medical College of Wisconsin shows that accelerated
re-acclamation to normal life, stimulating the brain sooner in the
recovery process, can lead to quicker and better recoveries for young
people diagnosed with concussions.
Thomas, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and
emergency medicine at MCW, conducted the study, which took a more
aggressive approach than the traditional "do nothing, strict
rest" regimen of the past. "It really showed that it doesn’t
help to shutter them away," Thomas says. "If anything, it
aggravated their symptoms."
The study, which
was published in The New York Times, concentrated on 99 kids between
the ages of 11 and 18 within 24 hours of being diagnosed with a
concussion. Within one to two days, the students resumed school
attendance, starting with half-days and gradually taking steps to
return to their normal routines. This approach proved more beneficial
than the widely accepted standard of five days of total rest.
paper validates everything we do in our concussion clinic,"
Walter says. "Sitting alone in a dark room doing nothing is not
effective. You think about how bad life is and how bad you feel."
18-year-old Kamren Pfeiffer, a senior on the Brookfield Central High
School basketball team, took a charge in the lane and landed on his
head. Walter diagnosed him with a concussion. Pfeiffer stayed home for
two days, then went half-days to school, and finally to full days in
class followed by light exercise on a stationary bike. He returned to
practice, started with stationary shooting drills, and was back on the
court for the last four games of his high school career.
really important," said Pfeiffer, who also suffered a
basketball-related concussion during his sophomore year — a time
when recovery "seemed a lot longer."
considering a career in sports medicine or athletic training after
this experience, thinks promptly resuming a normal routine helped him
heal more quickly. "It helped my brain just trying to think of
what I was just doing before I got injured," he says.
treatment advice for each patient can still vary and that some kids
can benefit from more rest. He’s received "a lot of positive
feedback from the athletic community while getting some pushback from
moms who are a little more cautious."
currently working on funding for a new study with more patients hoping
to further advance treatment of concussions. "If you’re a high
school student and have an appropriately managed concussion, you’re
not going to have brain injuries for the rest of your life,"
Thomas says. "The key thing is honing down on that management and
figuring out the best way to do it."