Neurologic Emergencies in Sports

Vernon B. Williams, MD Sports Neurology p. 1629-1644 December 2014, Vol.20, No.6 doi: 10.1212/01.CON.0000458970.48271.c9
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ABSTRACT: Purpose of Review: Sports neurology is an emerging area of subspecialty. Neurologists and non-neurologists evaluating and managing individuals participating in sports will encounter emergencies that directly or indirectly involve the nervous system. Since the primary specialty of sports medicine physicians and other practitioners involved in the delivery of medical care to athletes in emergency situations varies significantly, experience in recognition and management of neurologic emergencies in sports will vary as well. This article provides a review of information and elements essential to neurologic emergencies in sports for the practicing neurologist, although content may be of benefit to readers of varying background and expertise.

Recent Findings: Both common neurologic emergencies and less common but noteworthy neurologic emergencies are reviewed in this article. Issues that are fairly unique to sports participation are highlighted in this review. General concepts and principles related to treatment of neurologic emergencies that are often encountered unrelated to sports (eg, recognition and treatment of status epilepticus, increased intracranial pressure) are discussed but are not the focus of this article. Neurologic emergencies can involve any region of the nervous system (eg, brain, spine/spinal cord, peripheral nerves, muscles). In addition to neurologic emergencies that represent direct sports-related neurologic complications, indirect (systemic and generalized) sports-related emergencies with significant neurologic consequences can occur and are also discussed in this article.

Summary: Neurologists and others involved in the care of athletes should consider neurologic emergencies in sports when planning and providing medical care.

Address correspondence to Dr Vernon Williams, Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, 6801 Park Terrace, Los Angeles, CA 90045-1543,

Relationship Disclosure: Dr Williams is the founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, serves as chief medical officer of the Sports Concussion Institute and on the Board of Directors of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Foundation and Team HEAL (Helping Enrich Athletes Lives), and has received personal compensation for providing expert legal testimony.

Unlabeled Use of Product/Investigational Use Disclosure: Dr Williams reports no disclosure.

© 2014 American Academy of Neurology