Nearly 30 leading, independent concussion clinicians and researchers from around the United States will convene at UPMC Oct. 15 and 16 with a unique purpose: to propose standard guidelines on the best practices, protocols and active therapies for treating concussions today, resulting in a white paper to be published in a medical journal and shared nationwide.
For the first time in the relatively infant science of concussion, U.S. experts are coming together to discuss what the UPMC organizers call Targeted Evaluation and Active Management (TEAM) Approaches to Treating Concussion. Representatives from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense, among others, also have been invited to participate.
“There’s a gaping need for a consistency of care for concussions across the country, if not the world. To try to fill that void, we’re thrilled to host a meeting of some of the greatest minds in concussion science and clinical care,” said Micky Collins, Ph.D., executive and clinical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program and the chairman of the conference to be held at the U.S. Steel Tower in Pittsburgh, headquarters to UPMC. “It is a privilege to bring together such a group, discuss the issues truly facing concussion health care today, and attempt to share with caregivers everywhere what we find to be the best evidence, science and practices in getting people better.”
The white paper is intended to make scientific, clinical and therapy recommendations for otherhealth care providers to replicate and researchers to study further.
Over the past decade, there have been summits and conferences abroad where participants agreed upon definitions, evaluations and on-field protocols, but this marks the inaugural U.S. meeting focused strictly on active therapies, treatments and best clinical practices for concussions.
“Never before has evidence-based science and clinical experience been brought to bear in advancing concussion treatment like we’re attempting here,” said Anthony Kontos, Ph.D., research director for the UPMC Concussion Program, associate professor in theUniversity of Pittsburgh Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and co-director of the meeting. “We believe that this meeting will bring together cutting-edge research knowledge and clinical approaches to this injury that will blaze a trail for concussion treatment moving forward.”
The invitees cut across academic, scientific and health care environments. Among those expected to attend are Julian Bailes, M.D., NorthShore University Health System (Chicago) and chairman of the medical advisory board for Pop Warner Football, and retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, former U.S. Army vice chief of staff and an outspoken leader in research and treatment for traumatic brain injury (TBI), mild TBI such as concussion, and post-traumatic stress.
“There have been numerous advances in our understanding of concussion treatment, and this conference should facilitate the implementation of best practices to make participation in all sports safe,” Dr. Bailes said.
“I am honored to be among this group of leading concussion clinicians and researchers for a meeting that will be a critical step forward in the standard of care for concussions,” Gen. Chiarelli said. “A published consensus statement on concussion treatment will give every patient the opportunity to receive the best care, no matter where they are injured. It’s time to put aside our differences, collaborate and work together for the sake of patients everywhere.”
Added conference co-director David Okonkwo, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery and clinical director of the Brain Trauma Research Center at the Pitt School of Medicine: “It is high time to assemble neurosurgeons, neurologists, neuropsychologists, emergency medicine physicians, physiatrists, athletic trainers, physical therapists and all the multidisciplinary health care professionals who are the primary caregivers to people, and not just athletes, troubled by concussions. Let’s effect change and improve outcomes now and for the future.”
UPMC received support to host this meeting because it is aligned with Pittsburgh’s long-standing place at the center of the field: the first sports-medicine concussion program to open its doors (2000), a leading institution in concussion research and innovation, and a model clinic with successful assessment, treatment and outcomes amid its nearly 18,000 concussion-patient visits yearly.
“We are fortunate that we have this opportunity to carry out this idea of spreading better care practices and ultimately helping so many,” Dr. Collins said. “We are looking forward to a wide-ranging, stimulating discussion that is overdue, and we feel our science, innovation and clinical experience make us well suited to serve as hosts.”
The two-day meeting is fully funded by a grant from the NFL Foundation.
“Because of the vital nature of the concussion conversation, it’s critical to support leading institutions in the country, like UPMC, that are promoting science in an effort to advance treatment, evidence and clinical experience,” said Charlotte Jones Anderson, chair of the NFL Foundation and executive vice president of the Dallas Cowboys. “The NFL Foundation is dedicated to improving the health and safety of sports, youth football and the communities in which we live, and we look forward to learning from the experts who will meet in October to further that mission.”
The conference will conclude with a panel discussion and media availability that is expected to be streamed live.