ETSU hosts course on concussion treatment

Brandon Paykamian • Jun 29, 2019 at 9:04 PM

Concussions can often be hard to detect, but they’re nothing to “shake off.” It’s a common traumatic injury among many athletes that can cause temporary and sometimes permanent loss of normal brain functions.

“The range of concussions is really diverse. I would say most people who have a sports-related concussion do not have permanent damage,” Dr. Allison Bourassa, assistant professor in the East Tennessee State University Department of Physical Therapy, said. “But on the spectrum of a brain injury, it is possible to have permanent damage, and that’s a big part of why we are here to educate the community and let them know about the risks related.” 

To teach others about those risks, ETSU’s Interprofessional Education and Research Center hosted a free course Saturday educating attendees on concussion assessment, management, treatment and recovery. 

The event, sponsored by the ETSU Office of Professional Development, aimed to encourage a “team-based approach” to concussion treatment and identification, focusing mainly on athlete concussions.

“We’ve had an opportunity to bring collaborative professionals together and enhance our concussion management for athletes,” Bourassa said ahead of her presentation on treatment strategies.

She said it’s important for everyone — especially coaches and athletes — to be educated when it comes to recognizing brain trauma in general. 

“When we were growing up, it was like, ‘Just shake it off and go back in the game,’ or ‘Oh, I got my bell rung. Let me go shake it off, and I’ll go back in,’” she said. 

Bourassa said there has been some debate about the idea that rest is always the best way to manage a concussion. 

“There are a lot of guidelines that say the person should rest until it goes away or the person should rest for 48 hours,” she said, adding that this may not always be the best possible approach.

“There are a lot of groups doing research and studies on managing concussions, and that information is coming at a fast rate,” she later said. “Ultimately, we need to get that research into practice on the field and on the court to make sure we’re managing it in the best and safest way possible.” 

Unlike other injuries or illnesses, there is often not one simple test for a concussion. The diagnosis process is “multifaceted,” according to Bourassa.

“In most concussions that are mild brain injuries, nothing will show up on scans,” she said. “So the assessment has to be really good and thorough.”

Saturday’s presenters and contributors included Courtney Andrews, assistant professor in ETSU's Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology; Dr. Michelle Lee, a registered and licensed dietician at ETSU; Dr. Benjamin England, an ETSU team physician; Brett Lewis, head athletic trainer at ETSU; Mary Little, director of disability services at ETSU; and Bourassa.

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