Last year, sports medicine regularly made front-page headlines. In particular, concerns about concussion — on high school playing fields all the way to the NFL — were major news. That’s a conversation that’s going to continue in 2016. The public interest in this issue means that it’s likely there will be sufficient public pressure to encourage real positive change in the management of these injuries. What else is likely to make news in sports medicine this year, and how could it impact treatment? Let’s take a look.
Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
Recent findings suggest that the damage resulting from repeated head injuries may be more severe than had been previously believed. Athletes who have suffered multiple concussions or other kinds of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) may lose significant brain function and become susceptible to depression and other mental illnesses. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has been implicated in the deaths of former professional football players, leading some to take preventative measures. The Ivy League just decided to eliminate tackling in practices, and the professional wrestler Daniel Bryan recently retired due to concern about the effects of repeated concussions. TBI is not only a concern in contact sports, however, and increased awareness may bring changes in many areas. Developing metrics that help trainers, coaches, and doctors better determine whether a player can continue will likely be a major area of interest in 2016. Cydne Marckmann ARNP, from our Sports Medicine Clinic, has worked with area high schools to develop appropriate protocols for recognizing TBI. Read more from Nurse Marckmann about concussion here.
Expanding the Use of Regenerative Medicine
Athletes are more likely than other people to experience injuries to the ankle, foot, and knee. These kinds of injuries can be particularly delicate, as well as having a serious impact on the ability of the athlete to play. Developing treatments that are effective and that provide for faster healing has long been a priority, and regenerative therapies have been especially promising. Regenerative treatments like stem cell therapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP) are minimally invasive, and may help the body to repair itself faster (for example, encouraging the growth of new cartilage in the knee or helping to rebuild tissue in a torn muscle). Advances in regenerative medicine allow us to take stem cells from the patient’s own body in order to spur the repair and regeneration of damaged tissue. This is an area of medicine that is in its infancy, and we’re excited to see what new research emerges in 2016.
A Renewed Focus on Injury Prevention
The best way to reduce sports injuries? Preventing them from happening in the first place, whether that’s through making sure athletes perform movements safely or devising better protocols so that those on the sidelines can provide more accurate interventions when there’s trouble on the field. Our Sports Medicine team works in both of these areas, helping athletes on a one-on-one basis and working with coaches and trainers to provide sideline coverage. In 2016, we’re likely to see a continued push to increase and improve the metrics that are used to understand when an athlete needs to leave the field of play and when s/he will be able to return. Again, though this has been highlighted in the media as an issue for professional football, it’s an important to athletes at every level and across many different sports.
Sports medicine can present dilemmas, as there’s pressure to help athletes get back in the game as quickly as possible but it is also imperative to consider their long-term health. These trending topics in sports medicine address both sides of this equation, with the goal of helping athletes to play — and stay — healthy. Want to learn more about the Sports Medicine Clinic at the Spine Institute Northwest? Call us at 253-313-1801.