The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with Rep Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ), recently announced that CDC will form an expert panel to establish national guidelines for pediatric traumatic brain injury and concussion.
This initiative was a major component of the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools (ConTACT) Act, legislation that was not passed into law but was supported by APTA in past congressional sessions. This announcement marks a positive step forward by the federal government through a united commitment by Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services to address the important issue of concussion management.
The expert panel will define the need, scope, and expectations of federal guidelines for pediatric mild traumatic brain injury, including those for student athletes. The national guidelines will take into account advice from experts across the country, laying the foundation for all 50 states to implement a standard and protect young athletes. CDC will begin to investigate the state of the science behind the management of pediatric brain injury and will convene the expert panel within the next year.
Last month, in anticipation of this announcement, APTA held a stakeholders meeting on concussions in which participants representing health care providers, education personnel, athletic leagues, and patient advocacy organizations voiced their support of national guidelines. APTA will continue its involvement with congressional offices, CDC, and other stakeholder groups regarding this announcement and remain engaged in the process to ensure that the role physical therapy plays in concussion management is effectively represented.
On the state level, chapters continue to advocate for physical therapists to be included in concussion legislation. This year, Iowa and Nevada passed legislation permitting student athletes to be evaluated by physical therapists to determine when it is safe to “return to play” following a hit, fall, or other incident in order to reduce the risk of a concussion or other brain injuries. Legislation was enacted in several other states requiring student athletes to receive clearance to return to play from a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions. In total, 35 states introduced legislation in 2011 to reduce the risk of concussions or other brain injuries sustained in community and school sports or other extracurricular interscholastic activities; 22 states and the District of Columbia enacted concussion legislation in 2011.
In addition, APTA issued a press release in August regarding the role of the physical therapist as member of the multi-disciplinary team that evaluates athletes and participants of organized activity for concussions to determine if they should be removed from their activity and when it's safe to return. The release is based on a policy statement adopted by APTA's House of Delegates in June and highlights the Physical Therapist's Guide to Concussion, a new resource available to consumers on APTA's Move Forward Web site.