Memorial Hermann now boasts the Michael Jordan of concussion expertise: Neuropsychologist Summer Ott, Psy.D., has been brought on board to head up the Sports Concussion Program at the Ironman Sports Medicine Institute at Memorial Hermann.
Along with her deep knowledge of head trauma caused during athletic competition, Dr. Ott, who most recently worked as co-director of the Methodist Hospital Concussion Center, was instrumental in getting Texas Senate Bill 2038 approved. "Natasha's Law" disallows a school-aged athlete from returning to his or her sport until given the green light by a licensed physician.
SB 2038 is named after Natasha Helmick, a former youth soccer player who has been affected with impossible headaches and memory lapses following five concussive episodes. The struggles of Helmick and amateur athletes nationwide were documented in "Knocked Out," our investigative report into how concussions on kids can be much more devastating than on adults.
"Moving forward under my leadership and expertise, the [Sports Concussion Program] will expand to also incorporate education and research," Ott tells Hair Balls. "We will work to further educate coaches, athletic trainers, physicians, school nurses and teachers on the requirements of Natasha's Law.
"Additionally, we plan to partner with local and national researchers on studies that explore the pathophysiology of concussion, as well as examine methods for better detecting concussions."
Before Natasha's Law was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry in June 2011, Ott met Helmick when they each testified before the House Committee on Public Health.
"Her story closely resembles several athletes that I have evaluated in my practice over the years," says Ott. "Although we cannot prevent all concussions, I believe Natasha's Law will serve to protect athletes by requiring those suspected of concussion to be immediately removed from play, reducing the likelihood of subsequent injuries or the presence of chronic concussion symptoms."
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When asked if she's noticed a difference in concussion management for school-aged athletes since the bill passed, Ott says, "With this law in place, I believe there is heightened awareness not just with coaches and athletes and their parents, but also amongst physicians who provide medical oversight for these athletes that there is now a protocol.
"With the passage of this law and proper management of the athlete, I hope we see fewer cases like Natasha, who had to retire prematurely from her sport."