UPMC taking some big steps in treatment of concussions
TribLIVE Sports Videos
As if dealing with concussion symptoms wasn't already devastating, Upper St. Clair senior Natalia Watzlaf remembers walking into an exam room with filing cabinets at UPMC Sports Medicine Center and being "skeptical of everything."
Watzlaf is one of 13,000 patients treated annually through the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. At its inception, program director Michael "Micky" Collins vowed to "make Pittsburgh ground zero" for brain injury treatment. The program has grown so dramatically that it forced UPMC to raise the roof.
The concussion center now boasts 3,500 square feet of second-floor office space after an expansion of the formerly unused rooftop at the South Side facility opened in January.
The program could soon outgrow its space: Collins, the self-described "point guard of the program," projects it will treat 25,000 to 30,000 patients annually by 2014.
"It's that busy," said Collins, a clinical psychologist with extensive neuropsychological training. "This is a really powerful program. We help a lot of kids. A lot of kids need help. That's what this is really about: giving kids the right environment to recover. It sounds hokey, but it's so true. The more kids we see, the more we can treat. I'm so much more efficient now."
The increased space, equipped with nine exam rooms, allows Collins and his 24-person staff to treat as many as 30 patients a day. Not only can they take computerized ImPACT tests but also go through vestibular tests to assess space, motion and vision as well as physical exertion with exercise equipment under the watch of therapists in the gym portion on the ground floor.
"I've had kids as young as 8 all the way to (adults as old as) 45, but the majority is in the teenage range," said Cara Troutman-Enseki, a UPMC physical therapist and orthopedic certified specialist. "I've dealt with every sport imaginable."
Like Watzlaf, Quaker Valley senior Madison MacDonald suffered a concussion while playing soccer. Where Watzlaf immediately knew she was injured but was told by a doctor to sleep in the next day and take two Advil to alleviate her headaches, MacDonald continued playing into basketball season before she realized something was seriously wrong.
Both suffered a second concussion this past fall and are serving as student advocates for the concussion program.
"We would come in and sit in the big waiting room, then get called in and go room to room," MacDonald said. "Now you walk straight in and go to the concussion center. It's so much more organized, efficient and faster because we're condensed in one place. It's helped me escape the sadness and depression kids can go through with this kind of injury."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.