Raleigh doctor's concussion protocols helping teens get back in the game more quickly

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dr. John Neidecker has seen it all when it comes to concussion treatments. A leading specialist in the field, he's handled everyone from UFC fighters down to middle-schoolers.

"We were shutting people down completely and telling them to do nothing until their symptoms went away back in 2011 to 2013," he said.

Neidecker recently published a study linking new treatment protocols with drastically improved rates of recovery among teenage athletes with first-time sports-related concussions.

"I spend a lot of time in saying you know, this is obviously, we have to take this seriously, and we need to follow the steps in proper and process here," he said. "But, you know, you're going to get better."

That wasn't the message that Melanie Miller was expecting when she and her son Braeden arrived at Neidecker's office fresh off Braeden's third basketball-related concussion.

"We went in fully anticipating that he would not be able to play basketball anymore. That was our fear," Miller said.

Braeden had been advised to shut himself down completely to recover from his previous concussions suffered while in school in Rockingham County. Having transferred to North Raleigh Christian Academy for basketball, his fortunes changed. NRCA's Athletic Trainer, Kelsey Mancini, recommended he visit Neidecker's office, where they examine patients for existing conditions and espouse "active rest" as best for recovery.

Neidecker explains: "I tell patients to find that line every day of what makes their symptoms worse, and try and push that line further and further out."

For the Millers, it was eye-opening advice. Braeden was unsure, and even felt pushed to his limits at times, Melanie said.

"He (Neidecker) said that, you know, the brain is a muscle and that you need to use it in order for it to heal, and that was not something we had ever heard before," Miller said. "Looking back, it was exactly the right thing for him to have to push through."

Braeden, a hard charger on the court, has since suffered a fourth concussion but it wasn't nearly as crippling thanks to Neidecker's protocols.

"Each time, the time getting back to play has been less and less," Miller said.

Braeden's improvement is exactly what Neidecker hopes to see.

"You take a young, healthy active person and you shut them down too long, they start to go batty and they can often kind of self-create concussion symptoms just from inactivity," Neidecker said.

Far from having to give up his favorite sport, Braeden is, in fact, all set to play college hoops for the Blue Devils of Fredonia State in western New York.
Copyright © 2022 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.