UPMC establishing itself as world leader in concussion treatment

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Over the past few decades, concussions have become a focal point in sports.

Many top athletes from around the world now come to Pittsburgh for treatment.

Fox Chapel native Chip Ganassi has been in the motorsports world for decades as a driver and currently a team owner. He has seen the evolution of concussion care in that time.

“I think it’s really the experiment and what we know and what we don’t know,” he said.

Over the past two decades, UPMC has become a world leader in concussion care and treatment, and Ganassi has seen the benefits of treatment programs at UPMC’s South Side offices.

“The good news is that Pittsburgh is the place to go now for this type of injury. I think that’s a real feather in our cap, being a Pittsburgher and being from here,” Ganassi said.

The architect of UPMC’s concussion program is Dr. Mickey Collins. He says it was the first time in the world that started in 2000.

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“We don’t do that. That’s all we do,” Collins said.

Collins says a concussion is a very common injury and is the result of the brain moving in the skull. Think of your brain as an egg yolk inside an egg shell. When your brain moves too much, it can be damaged.

“We’ve learned now that there are six different types of concussions, so it’s not one size fits all,” Collins said.

Different types of concussions depend on different factors. Someone can have just one type or all six types. According to Collins, there are currently approximately 2 million to 3.5 million concussions each year in sports, affecting athletes of all types, including race car drivers.

“Driving race cars is a lot of acceleration, and that’s what causes concussions,” Collins says.

“We’re really good at repairing bones and repairing organs,” Ganassi said. “The only part of the body that I think a lot of people have questions about is the brain.”

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Ganassi says the racing world is now paying more attention to the injury. They are taking better care of the past and developing for driver safety while also working on preventative measures for the future.

“I think that goes a long way toward what I think we’re on our way to doing now,” Ganassi said.

With advances in concussion treatment, most of the time they’re able to get drivers right back on the track, Collins says, and he says thanks to research here in Pittsburgh over the past two decades, “it’s never been safer. for a concussion.”

“We’re gaining more and more knowledge and applying it in a better way every year. We’re getting better,” Collins said.

Collins says his team continues to research and learn more about the 20,000 people a year who come to Pittsburgh from around the world for concussion treatment.

“We learn by seeing so many patients. No one has written a book on this. All the research and all the work that’s been done on this has been done over decades,” Collins said.

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Collins says they wanted to get Pittsburgh and UPMC to zero for concussions, and while he believes they accomplished their mission, he’s still surprised by their progress.

“I’d be lying if I thought it would get to this point,” he said.

“Pittsburgh has a way of doing the right thing and putting the right group of people together and creating the right opportunity. I guess we let actions speak louder than words,” Ganassi said. Or the path, where actions always speak louder than words.

Now athletes around the world can continue to do what they love with less fear of concussions, thanks to another group of pioneering medical professionals in Pittsburgh.


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