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Neal Alpiner (Exercise Medicine Specialist): Helps Guide Athletes and Families Through Concussion Maze

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In recognition of April as National Youth Sports Safety Month, MomsTeam has asked 30 experts to write a blog answering two questions: first, how or why did they get into their field, and second, how have they made a difference in the life of a youth athlete in the past year.

Today, we hear from Neal Alpiner, MD, a exercise medicine specialist in Royal Oak, Michigan.

By Neal Alpiner, MD

How did I get into my field?

I have always known I wanted to be a physician. Being a physician double board certified in both Pediatrics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) allows me to evaluate and treat patients with a wide variety of needs, from musculoskeletal to orthopedic to neurologic conditions. My subspecialty within this field is the brain, where I have researched, authored, lectured and treated brain-based injuries. The brain is essentially the control system for the body. Injuries of the brain can impact everything from movement to sensory intelligence to emotion and psychosocial behavior.

Much attention has been given recently to concussive injuries, which are mild traumatic brain injuries. What was once thought to be a "minor" injury has now been redefined into an injury that needs to be better understood, from prevention to education to research and treatment. I have seen first hand the impact concussive injuries have on patients as well as their families. I have been involved with Dr. Neal Alpinerdeveloping a community concussion awareness programs as well as authoring books to help parents cope with what has been previously an under-diagnosed and under-treated condition. My office is often filled with patients who have had a concussive injury, both sport and non-sport. I find it immensely helpful that my undergraduate degree is in Psychology, as this helps me work with families to cope with both the physical and emotional toll brain injuries can have on everyone. Working with families is extremely rewarding, and as a proud father of five kids I understand firsthand the challenges and rewards, physically and emotionally of raising healthy, successful children.

How have I made a difference in an athlete's life?

Let me first start out by stating that to be a physician is a privilege I never take for granted. I was recently riding in the car with my daughter and I had to call in a prescription for a patient. She looked over at me, after I had finished, and she said that's it, that all you have to do to get a medication to a patient? I looked back at her and said, yep, with one phone call or one stroke of a pen I can either make some one better or make someone worse--- it is that easy.

To be a physician is to always remember that it is someone's child who is looking to you for guidance and help in recovery. All too frequently newspapers and health systems discuss the business of medicine. Profits and losses, growth and market share. So, as I reflect on what seems to be a very simple question to answer, I guess I would have to say that the difference I made in a child's athletic life is to constantly remind myself that the child with a concussion who is sitting across from me on the exam table and whose parents are staring at me searching for just the right words to alleviate their fears, is there to see me as a Physician who was blessed with an opportunity to take history, perform an exam and synthesize a treatment plan for recovery.

The difference, I see, is not quantified in a singular success story, as there have been so many amazing triumphs. Rather the weaving together of so many unbelievable kids and parents who have allowed me to guide them through the overwhelming world of concussion.

The difference to me is the knowledge I can give them that this too shall pass.

Neal Apliner, MD is Section Chief of Pediatric Physical and Medicine and Rehabilitation at Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Michigan. Double board certified in Pediatrics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dr. Alpiner received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and his M.D. from Wayne State.  HIs post graduate training was completed at the Detroit Medical Center where he received dual degrees in Pediatrics from Children's Hospital of Michigan, and in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation from Rehabilitation of Michigan. He is the author of The Parent Principle: Prescription for Childhood Success and the forthcoming book, Lunchroom Jungle.  For more information on Dr. Alpiner, visit his Facebook page or his website.