More than 200 Central Valley health care professionals, educators, coaches, parents and student-athletes will gather at the second Central Valley Concussion Symposium to discuss diagnosis, education and recovery for patients with traumatic brain injuries like concussions.

The symposium, free and open to the public, is from 8 a.m.-4p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, at the UCSF Fresno Medical Education and Research building (155 N. Fresno St.) on the Community Regional Medical Center campus in downtown Fresno.

A group of experts will review concussions from the first hit, to neuro-imaging, to rehabilitation and recovery and discuss the long-term risks of repetitive brain injuries. The symposium will focus on the risks involved with a child returning to learning or playing too soon, including the possibility of having another concussion while the brain is still healing from the first one.

“We continue to see children playing high-impact sports when they have not had baseline testing,” said Brenna Hughes, an alumna of Fresno State who is the team lead in acute speech-language pathology at Community Regional and organizer of the symposium. “Children are sometimes cleared by physicians to return to play too soon, or by parents who may not understand the risks or signs associated with concussion, or where to take their kids after they’ve sustained a concussion.”

Each year more than 3.8 million athletes, of all ages, experience sports and/or recreation-related concussions. The goal of the symposium is to educate health care professionals and others in the community about managing concussions appropriately.

“We are hoping that attendees of this symposium gain an increased understanding of anatomy and pathophysiology of concussion and learn that it is a form of mild traumatic brain injury,” Hughes said. “We want to help medical professionals in the Central Valley implement best practices with regards to post concussive syndrome and headache, vestibular and ocular considerations.”

Fresno State faculty members Dr. Frances Pomaville and Dr. Paul Ullucci will be among the expert speakers featured at the symposium.

Pomaville, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, will focus on how students can facilitate a successful transition back to school after a concussion. Her presentation, based on guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control, Sports Concussion Institute, will provide parents and school personnel information on knowing when a child is ready to return to school and the accommodations that may help them avoid problems during transition.

“Concussions can impair cognitive function and behavior/pragmatics, which is considered part of language,” Pomaville said. “Typical symptoms can be physical, cognitive or behavioral. These can negatively impact a child’s ability to function at school. If they go back too soon, it can set them up for failure and actually slow down their overall recovery.”

Pomaville regularly provides in-services at area schools, as well as graduate seminars on traumatic brain injury. Through the Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies’ Speech and Hearing Clinic, children who have experienced a concussion or brain injury can receive assessments and therapy treatment to help them function better on daily basis.

However, not all post-concussion trauma starts in the brain. Ullucci, assistant professor of the Department of Physical Therapy, will discuss post-concussion symptoms that can be caused by injuries in the upper cervical spine.

“People who suffer from post-concussion syndrome need to be aware that rest and medication may not help them recover if their symptoms are not physiologic in nature,” Ullucci said. “In some cases of individuals who develop post-concussion syndrome, the symptoms are either directly caused by or exacerbated by the upper cervical spine. This is often missed or delayed in the screening process and must be included early on in the assessment of these patients if we are to ensure optimal and speedy recovery.”

This is a topic that is well researched in Ullucci’s physical therapy courses, ensuring future doctoral of physical therapy graduates at Fresno State are prepared to treat post-concussion injuries.

The event will also include presentations from Rick Lembo, director of sports medicine at Sierra Pacific Orthopedics; Dr. Jennifer Crocker, medical director of Valley Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Center; David Harrington, occupational therapist with Centre for Neuro Skills in Bakersfield; Dr. Najdat Atallah, physiatrist at Leon S. Peters Rehabilitation Center at Community Regional; and Dr. Terry Hutchison, pediatric neurologist at Community Regional. The event will also include testimonials and a panel discussion with community members who have experienced concussion-related symptoms.

The symposium is coordinated by the Central Valley Concussion Consortium, which is made up of more than 50 Valley health professionals, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, athletic trainers, speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists.

Register by calling 559.459.5130. For more information, contact Brenna Hughes at 559.459.2144 or