GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The consequences of concussions in young athletes can be severe and long-lasting.
Now, the American Academy of Neurology urges doctors to cross the line of doctor-patient confidentiality to keep young athletes safe.
Dr. Ed Kornoelje is a sports medicine physician with Metro Health and an advocate for West Michigan's young athletes.
He says some area physicians are already taking steps to talk with their patients' coaches about relevant health issues.
"At Calvin College, where I'm the team physician, we get the athletes to come and sign a release that lets the coaches, doctors and athletic trainers talk to each other. We want to make sure that everyone is on the same page [and that] they understand the severity of any injury -- concussions, as well. To spread that out to high schools makes a lot of sense. We have to make sure everyone is on board in terms of HIPPA, which is why a form has to be signed, but coaches should know what's going on and so should parents and the athletes themselves, so when an athlete is returning from a concussion, it is done correctly and everyone understands the severity of the problem."
It can help, too, for parents to think about which doctor treats their children.
"If you see a doctor that's a very good doctor, but they don't deal a lot with concussions, they might not be up to date on the most recent protocols to for getting kids back to playing safely," Dr. Kornoelje says. "So looking for someone who deals with concussions in young people is a good idea, because there is some nuance to this."
Asking doctors about their backgrounds goes a longway, according to Dr. Kornoelje.
"Ask them if they deal a lot with these types of things. They'll tell you if they do or don't. They also should have a referral program set up, and if they don't, you can ask them to look for a sports medicine physician or doctors who work with colleges and professional teams, because they are going to be well versed in concussions."
There is a state law about when athletes who suffer concussions can return to play.
"Michigan was the 42nd or 43rd state to have a law that backs up the ideal that there is a right way to return people from having a concussion," says Dr. Kornoelje. "There's a protocol that all the athletic trainers and team physicians are aware of. The NFL and NHL uses it and so do college teams. The state law just backs it up and says that you have to do this, it's not optional -- because we want to keep our young people safe."