MedWatch: CRANIUM Program - Northern Michigan's News Leader

MedWatch: CRANIUM Program

Posted: Updated:

Concussions have gotten plenty of publicity lately, but that may be because of how dangerous and common they are.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can lead to Parkinson's, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

There are up to 4 million estimated sports concussions every year.

That's why Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital started a new program to be more proactive with student athletes.

Michelle Dunaway shows us how in this month's MedWatch report.

"We're trying to be on the cutting edge of concussion management. We're trying to take the extra steps right now to make sure that these students are safe," says Ben Meeks, P.T., Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital

Today students like Manton basketball player Jacob Cergnul are safer.

He's working with physical therapist Ben Meeks after an injury on the court.

"Playing basketball in practice, me and my friend ran into each other and we both fell over, and I got a concussion," says Jacob.

This wasn't his first.

"I was like, Mom, this isn't right. I've had, like, that was my sixth concussion, so I knew it was a concussion."

 But like many students and athletes, he may have jumped the gun in his return to play.

"He went back to sports a little bit too soon and he started having some symptoms, dizziness, headaches, things like that. So he went back to his physician and he referred him to us to initiate the return to play protocol," explains Ben.

The CRANIUM program is new at Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital.

CRANIUM stands for Concussion Recognition and Neurological Intervention, United Management.

A mouthful to say, but a pretty simple concept.

"The main goal of this program is student safety. For one, we want to make sure their brain is fully healed before they return to sports. If they were to have another concussion while their brain is still healing, there is the possibility for long-term neurological damage," explains Ben.

The therapists give the athletes a series of tests, and then gradually reintroduce exercise to see how their bodies and minds handle it.

"We want to make sure we progress him slowly through a graded exertion program, without being symptomatic. So he has to be asymptomatic for at least 24 hours before he progresses to the next step," says Ben.

The therapists are reaching out to schools and physicians to let them know they're here to help.

"It's important for our community to make sure everyone is educated on the dangers of concussions," says Ben. "If a child gets concussed while their brain is still healing, it's called second impact syndrome. It can actually be fatal. Even if it isn't fatal, it can really lead to long term disabilities."

Jacob has now been cleared to practice again after what certainly seemed like a long time on the sidelines.

"I was mad. I hate sitting out in sports,” says Jacob.

Ben explains, "I know sports is important. It seems like it's their whole life right now, but there's a whole lot of life to live and we want to make sure they don't have any long-term cognitive disabilities or physical."