Athletics and injuries go hand in hand. Now the AAN is acknowledging neurology's role in the prevention and treatment of these injuries by creating a brand new section on sports neurology.
The Sports Neurology Section will hold its first meeting at the 2010 AAN annual meeting in Toronto. Jeffrey S. Kutcher, MD, a sports neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, has been appointed interim chair (from 2009 to 2011).
A hockey player since childhood, Dr. Kutcher developed an interest in sports neurology at the University of Michigan where he served his neurology residency after graduating from Tulane Medical School in 1998. Since 2002 he has been on staff at the University of Michigan, where he is the director of Michigan NeuroSport, an academic and clinical program focused on improving the neurological care of athletes. His particular research interests include the management of neurologic diseases in athletes, including concussion, migraine headache, and sleep disorders.
Dr. Kutcher spoke to Neurology Today about his plans for the Sports Neurology Section.
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH STARTING THE NEW SECTION?
I began talking with other neurologists, in the US and abroad, who specialized in caring for athletes. We all shared a similar experience, that caring for athletes is a unique proposition requiring a clinical approach not traditionally taught in neurology training programs. At the same time, we found that the world of sports medicine has been waiting for more neurologists to get involved. I made the suggestion that forming a Sports Neurology Section at the AAN would be the natural first step in getting this accomplished.
WHAT WILL THE SECTION BE DOING?
We'll start by getting the field organized, establishing a network of sports neurologists, and identifying the areas of clinical care and education that we need to address in the short-term. We are in the process of forming work-groups to address a number of different issues, including updating the AAN sports concussion practice parameters. We will be working on a sports neurology curriculum with an eye toward establishing a fellowship program. The section will also focus on building relationships with non-neurological sports medicine societies and institutions in order to effect change on multiple levels. To that end, the section will serve as a forum for experts to communicate with one another — all Sports Neurology Section members can subscribe to the Sport Neurology section listserv to facilitate communication and discuss issues.
WHAT SPORTS-SPECIFIC ISSUES WILL THE SECTION ADDRESS?
While concussion is certainly the most prevalent neurological injury in sports, the section will focus on many other diagnoses seen on the sidelines, training rooms, and sports medicine clinics, including peripheral nerve injury, spinal cord injury, headache, and sleep disorders. There's also the very important concept that treating common neurological conditions, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, can be different in athletes.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU ENVISION FOR THE FIELD AND THE NEW SECTION?
Right now, our most pressing need is spreading the word. The field of neurology needs to get more involved in the conversation by increasing our role in clinical care and research. Our largest challenge will be changing the perception that neurologists do not have an interest in sports or sports medicine. This change can only come with organization, time, and effort.
WILL THIS SECTION BE GEARED TO NEUROLOGISTS IN CERTAIN SUBSPECIALTIES?
If we think about the overall scope of sports neurology, there isn't a single subspecialty that couldn't be included in some way. Our contention is, however, that sports neurology is a subspecialty unto itself. That being said, cognitive neurologists, neuromuscular neurologists, and headache specialists might have a more natural affinity for sports neurology, given the high incidence of these conditions in athletes.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW NATIONAL FOOTBALl LEAGUE STUDY THAT FOUND DEMENTIA IN NFL PLAYERS AT 19 TIMES THE NORMAL RATE FOR MEN AGES 30-49?
The study (downloadable here: http://bit.ly/oJyTL) and the articles in the media don't say much that hasn't been said before. There are limitations to using self-reports and phone surveys to assess prevalence rates. The bottom line is, we don't know what the long-term risks of being concussed are. There are no data to help us really understand this complex issue. Studies like this one may point to areas that we need to research further, but they do not, in any realistic way, clarify the debate about football causing dementia.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
* To join the AAN Sports Neurology Section, contact Lynee Koester, AAN Sports Neurology Section Staff Liaison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Visit the Sports Neurology SectionWeb page: www.aan.com/go/about/sections/sports.
* Neurology Today has featured many studies on the association between head injury in football and dementia. For past stories, go to www.neurotodayonline.com, and enter the search term, “football.”