Audrey Paul’s son is a hockey goalie. He’s had 2 concussions.
The first occurred 4 years ago, soon after the family moved to Westport. She felt “completely in the dark.” Doctors did not offer a clear treatment strategy. Paul had a tough time finding up-to-date information.
The second — last June — was different. The 14-year-old was treated at a concussion center. His recovery — spurred by new evidence that forgoes “cocooning” in favor of targeted therapy — went much more smoothly.
That could be a typical Westport story, except for one thing:
Paul is a doctor, trained in pediatric emergency medicine. She teaches at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. And she’s the founder of Heads Up Westport Concussion Center on Imperial Avenue.
Paul did not treat her own son after either concussion. She prefers having an objective professional take charge. But the difference in protocols over those 4 years was striking.
After her initial experience, Paul asked 7 Mt. Sinai doctors for their treatment plans. She got 7 different answers.
Paul went to work. She got a grant to study more than 600 emergency centers nationwide, looking at discharge instructions for patients. They were “all over the place.”
In Westport, she says, pediatricians advised everything from “go back to school tomorrow” to “rest inside for 3 weeks.”
She wanted to create a central space for information. The goal of Heads Up is to provide comprehensive baseline testing, and personalized recommendations for concussion management.
“Targeted therapy is important,” Paul says. “Every concussion is different.” Some primarily affect the eyes; others, balance, or the spine.
While practitioners still recommend 2 to 3 days of strict rest, they’re now moving toward “a more proactive approach” to concussion management, she adds.
It’s empowering to learn “you can do something about concussions,” beyond sitting in a dark room without a TV, computer or phone screen, Paul notes.
Despite — or perhaps because of — her focus on concussions, she does not advocate banning youth contact sports.
“You can’t live your life hiding under a bed,” Paul says. “Kids should be active.”
But, she warns, “if you do get injured, it’s important to be treated appropriately.”
FUN FACT: March was Brain Injury Awareness Month!