NEW YORK - Athletes of all ages who are suspected of suffering a concussion should be evaluated by a specialist before they return to sports, a major doctors group said Monday in the latest sign of concern over potential lasting damage from head injuries.
The statement by the American Academy of Neurology follows rules already adopted in college sports and pro football aimed at preventing and better treating blows to the head in competition. Research involving NFL players has suggested repeated concussions may have long-term consequences, such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Doctors want to get the message "to the athletes, their parents and their coaches that a concussion is not just a ding, or getting your bell rung, but it is an injury to the brain," said Dr. Mark Halstead of Washington University.
Concussions "need to be treated as if they are a big deal. The brain is pretty important."
The neurology academy is the most authoritative medical group when it comes to concussions. And its new advice sweeps across all ages and types of athletes. The academy also calls for a certified athletic trainer at every sports event and even practices where there is risk of concussion, something that would be a dramatic change in youth sports.
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