“How many of you have ever had a concussion?” Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins asked the audience at USM’s Abromson Center on November 30. The majority of people raised their hands. “How many of you were prescribed rest as the treatment?” Again, the majority of people raised their hands. “Rest alone does not work,” he said. Collins, a nationally recognized expert in the field of concussions, returned to his alma mater to speak to an audience concerned about concussion prevention and treatment.
He went on to explain what a concussion is and how it should be treated based upon the research he and a team at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program have conducted. He explained the brain is like the yolk of an egg in fluid, which moves when the egg shell moves, just like the brain in a skull would move. You don’t need to lose consciousness or be hit in the head to have a concussion.
The research concluded that concussions are treatable and the one size-fits-all approach is not the way to treat them, but rather a comprehensive approach is needed. There are six different types of concussions and a patient could have one, all six, or a mixture of the types. For more detailed information on the Center’s approach to concussion diagnosis and treatment, refer to the website rethinkconcussions.upmc.com. Collins reiterated a “process over protocol” approach, which is more proactive, and he insists more helpful to full and fast recovery, than the rest-until-symptoms-have-passed convention.
Perhaps one of the most valuable and increasingly utilized tools for schools, medical professionals and families is ImPACT, of which Collins is one of the founding developers. ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is a 25-minute online computer test that “measures visual and verbal memory, reaction time and processing speed,” according to impactconcussion.com.
The site states, “ImPACT has two components: baseline testing and post-injury testing which are used in conjunction to determine if a patient can safely return to activity.” The test is administered and evaluated by healthcare professionals. The website provides sample interactive opportunity.
Collins also discussed the effect of pre-existing conditions which result in some people being more susceptible to injury. For instance, people who are prone to experience car sickness may be impacted by head injury differently than those who aren’t. Varying levels of anxiety preceding and during concussion will also affect treatment and recovery.
An individual experiencing anxiety and headaches is not likely to recover well by attempting to rest in a dark room for extended periods of time. Again, he urged that deeper diagnosis and customized treatment is best for concussion injury.
Collins was recruited to the University of Pittsburgh in 2000, and serves as director and a founding member of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. The program is the largest research and clinical program focused on assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, research, and education of sports-related mild traumatic brain injury in athletes of all levels. The program has nearly 20,000 patient visits per year. Collins, along with directing the clinic, sees patients five days a week. He likes being in the trenches and treating athletes and many others who go through this injury. “It’s quite a full-time job,” he said.
Collins is a graduate of Hermon High School and the University of Southern Maine (USM ’91) and holds a PhD from Michigan State. He credits USM for preparing him in many ways for his future career. While at USM he played baseball for Coach Ed Flaherty and played in the 1989 College World Series. Understanding the sports world has helped him in his work, especially with professional athletes.