Treating Concussions Better: An Interview with Brain Injury Expert Joseph F. Waeckerle, MD (Part 2)

JANUARY 26, 2016
Bill Schu
In Part 1 of our interview with Joseph Waeckerle, MD, we discussed education efforts for physicians and other healthcare practitioners treating patients with concussions and other forms of head injury. In part 2, Waekcerle discussed some of the misconceptions surrounding the National Football League’s handling of player safety relating to concussions and plans for the future of treatment and diagnosis.
Much attention has been focused on head injuries in football, but concussions can and do happen in any sport, and even through daily life.  Tell us a bit about the incidence of concussion through your experience.
You can never prevent concussions; they are always going to be a part of recreational activity. They’re inevitable. But many more are caused by accidents, falls, and other mechanisms. In America, the focus is on football, which ignores the vast majority of other cases. Every time you have a collision in any sport, you’re doing the same thing you’re doing in football: You’re rattling the brain. That’s true in rugby, lacrosse, MMA, boxing, and every time you dive into a pool from a high dive. It’s an inherent part of life and recreational participation. So the idea is to find strategies for diagnosis and treatment regardless of the cause of head injury.
In the old days of continuing medical education, a course would be published and would become out of date very quickly. You follow the clinical research into head injury very closely. How do you keep this course up to date with the pace of ongoing research?
Technology is so different today. I try to read hours every day on concussions. I look at all the literature, do searches on PubMed, and talk to research colleagues every day. If anything comes up that is substantially different than what’s in the course and is of benefit, we can go in and add [that resource] to the course. For example, very recently we added some new research about functional MRIs in children, and how the best approach for “return to play” conditions is a conservative one. Over the next 3 years, which we consider the realistic life of the course, we can continue to modify it to keep it current.

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