As a mother of two, Dr. Tonia Sabo knows how concerning it is when your child’s head gets hit. “(But) kids are overwhelmingly resilient to many of those little bumps and bruises,” the pediatric neurologist often tells worried parents.
At the same time, concussions are a very real threat, particularly in certain sports. As a concussion specialist, Dr. Sabo works to educate families at Children’s Health℠ about the condition. She’s also involved in a statewide initiative for concussion reporting along with a multidisciplinary team at UT Southwestern Medical Center, where she is an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology and neurotherapeutics. As the medical director of Concussion Services at Children’s Health, she is board-certified in Child Neurology and Headache Medicine and is excited about the expansion of the concussion program to serve patient needs.
“Concussions have always been around,” Dr. Sabo says. “But now we’re realizing how much these smaller injuries can add up to potentially cause significant issues, especially for a child for whom brain development and maturity is occurring. Twenty percent of athletes in high-contact sports will have some sort of concussion injury. If you get one, you are three times more likely to have another that season.”
Much education has taken place in recent years, Dr. Sabo says, with schools and athletic governing bodies realizing the importance of watching for the warning signs of a concussion: headaches, neck pain, nausea, sensitivity to light, confusion, slurring of speech and even stuttering.
Dr. Sabo works to provide families with guidance. She loves working with kids — teenagers in particular — because she feels like she can make a true difference for them. “It’s very motivating to see them being the ones who are telling the coach, ‘I want to protect my health.’”
Last year, more than 5,000 patients were seen at the Children’s Health Emergency Department and affiliated clinics for the diagnosis of concussion or related concussion sequela. In addition to working with young athletes, Dr. Sabo also treats children who have been in accidents or experienced other trauma.
Dr. Sabo has some previous Texas roots, having received her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin with honors and her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She did her residencies in neurology and pediatrics at the University of Colorado and worked for seven years as an assistant professor of pediatrics and neurology at Colorado Children’s Hospital/University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, where she created a comprehensive headache program and treated several Olympic athletes. Though originally from Dayton, Ohio — her Midwestern roots give her a “good grounding,” she jokes — she is happy to be back in Texas and to be working with an outstanding group of physicians and providers.
Her two daughters keep her busy, as does her garden. “I really like to have my hands in the dirt, and to see things coming to life,” Dr. Sabo says. With a sister in Houston and her twin brother in nearby Southlake, she loves being close to family and watching the next generation grow up together. At a recent soccer game, her nephew Cash played at the sports complex in Southlake. She saw hundreds of young athletes and their excited families who were there to support them, reinforcing her passion to take care of those who are vulnerable to concussions while respecting the importance of sports and activity.
Education and Training
- Medical School
- Baylor College of Medicine (1992)
- University of Colorado School of Medicine (1997), Child Neurology
University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine (1994), Pediatrics
- Prescribing Practices of an Academic Child Neurology Group for Pediatric Migraine over a 6 month Period in 2007: Stratified by Patient Age and Gender. Sabo TM. Headache, Supplement June 2007.
- Prescribing Practices of an Academic Child Neurology Group for Pediatric Migraine over a 6 month Period in 2007: Stratified by Patient Age and Gender. Sabo T.M. Headache, Supplement June 2007.
- Improvement of Intractable Headache in Adolescent Females after Craniocervical Injections of BTX-A. Tomasovic J, Sabo T. Headache, May 2003.
- American Headache Society (2016)
- International Headache Society (2007)
- Child Neurology section member, American Headache Society
Awards and Honors
- Honors designation: BA (1987) - University of Texas at Austin
- Best clinical satisfaction award (2009-2010) - University of Colorado Health Sciences Center/Colorado Children’s Hospital