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Doctors Convene for Global Conference on Sports-Related Concussions

Doctors from across the world are gathering in Zurich this week to discuss head injuries and youth-sports safety, among other topics, at the Fourth International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport.

The two-day conference, which begins Thursday, will feature a discussion about the safest ages to play tackle football, according to the Associated Press. More than 100 medical experts will attend, the AP reports, including Dr. Robert Cantu, author of the recent book, Concussions and Our Kids. (I spoke with Cantu last month about his recommendation that children younger than 14 shouldn't be playing tackle football.)

Cantu will lead sessions on "moving from consensus to action" and about the clinical evidence for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease that's believed to have links to concussions, according to the program listed on the conference's website.

There will also be discussions about how concussion evaluations for youth-athletes should differ from their adult counterparts' and about the "practical difficulties of acute cognitive assessment in younger age groups," based on the current program.

The last International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport took place in Zurich in 2008. After the first Zurich conference, an update to the Concensus Statement on Concussion in Sport was issued, building on previous versions from consensus conferences on concussion in Vienna and Prague.

Included in the 2008 consensus statement was a free resource called the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool 2 (SCAT), a "standardized method of evaluating injured athletes for concussions." The tool, meant for medical professionals, runs student-athletes suspected of concussions through a battery of physical and cognitive tests to help determine whether they've actually been concussed. (There's a free SCAT2 app available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users.)

The final session of the first day of this year's Zurich conference will center on the SCAT2. The session will conclude with a panel discussion about what updates should be made to the SCAT2, or whether an SCAT3 is needed.

After the conference concludes on Friday, a group of expert attendees will draft an update to the consensus statement on concussion in sport.

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