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Minutes From First Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety

16 Jun

PSPHlogo“Welcome to a historic event.” Is how Associate Executive Director, Kurt Gibson opened the first meeting of its kind in Illinois and for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). With the vast majority of the Council present it did not take long for all of us to get to “work”.

The Council (which we shortened to PSAC – Player Safety Advisory Council) dove right into the meat of the issues surrounding sports and player safety. Rather than giving a play-by-play I will let you read the minutes from the meeting (LINK HERE);

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MINUTES OF THE PLAY SMART. PLAY HARD PLAYER SAFETY ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING June 9, 2015

The Play Smart. Play Hard Player Safety Advisory Council met at the IHSA office in Bloomington, Illinois on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, beginning at 10:00 a.m. Committee members present were Dustin Fink, Sara Flanigan, Tory Lindley, Dennis Piron, and Cole Steward. Also in attendance were Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson; Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha; and guest, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee member Greg Gaa. Not present were members Tregg Duerson, Senator Napoleon Harris, and Allison Hieb.

ITEMS OF GENERAL DISCUSSION:

1. IHSA administrators Kurt Gibson and Matt Troha welcomed the council to the first meeting of the Play Smart. Play Hard Player Safety Advisory Council.

2. The council reviewed its purpose of monitoring current IHSA programs and initiatives, identifying new areas to advance player safety, and helping communicate the Play Smart. Play Hard vision.

3. The council reviewed the following materials from the IHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC): ● minutes of the committee’s April 2015 meeting ● recommendations made by IHSA’s Football and SMAC regarding football contact ● Managing Heat/Humidity Policy recommendation The council’s feedback on the football contact and Heat Policy recommendations are listed below under items.

4. The council discussed Senate Bill 07, which is currently awaiting signature from Governor Rauner. Among other things, SB 07 creates a Concussion Oversight Team in schools to monitor Return to Play and Return to Learn for student-athletes who have sustained a concussion, requires education on concussions and symptoms for coaches and athletic officials, and requires schools to develop school-specific Emergency Action Plans (EAP’s) to address serious injuries that may occur on campus.

5. The council heard reports from Allison Hieb and Cole Steward, the two student members of the council, on concussion from the perspective of student-athletes. Both students shared the perspective of how their schools have addressed concussion with their student-athletes on both the individual and team level. As a part of that discussion, the council suggested that the IHSA consider developing some kind of post-video assessment be created for students to complete. Additionally, the council thought it may be worthwhile for the IHSA to register and track student-athletes from a sports medicine perspective. IHSA staff indicated they would begin the process by working on some kind of checklist that all member schools can utilize.

6. In reviewing the football recommendations made by the IHSA Football and Sports Medicine Advisory Committees, the council expressed their desire to see the IHSA be bolder with its recommendations concerning the amounts of full contact Continue reading

May Mailbag

4 Jun

As the sports season winds down at the high school I am finally getting to the various emails I have received. I do truly enjoy the many stories and questions I get here, often times they are very learned for me; which translates to more information for you the reader.

I picked out one such email and gained permission to reprint it here. The sole purpose of this email is to get feedback about the return to learn aspect of concussions. Tom would like you to give it a read and make comments below.

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Return To Learn in the High School

I am an athletic trainer in a high school in the north suburbs of Chicago. We have a concussion program in place and see about 80 concussion a year in our athletics. I am fortunate to have some control over the return to learn side of concussions in my school. I have found that this is essential in order to properly manage a concussion. I find when physicians only see an athlete once and set accommodations for a determined amount of time, it does a disservice. The same is true if the time between physician evaluations is too long, especially when kids are kept out of school for long periods of time. I find many concussion students don’t need to be out of school, and those that do usually have their symptoms decrease significantly within 1-3 days.  Many times concussions progress rapidly and Continue reading

When and How ‘Not a Concussion’ Becomes a Concussion: Klay Thompson Injury

28 May

The Western Conference Finals not only provided an opportunity for the Golden State Warriors a chance at winning an NBA title it has provided a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about concussions. The knee-jerk reaction to incidents like we have seen in Games 4 and 5 are often a mix of truth, hyperbole and eye-rolling; however what is clear they are cases that we can use to forge further understanding and education.

Last night in the would be close-out game of the WCF, Klay Thompson shot faked and the defender rose as he [Thompson] ducked and the defender’s knee blasted the side of Thompson’s head right in his right ear.

Unlike his teammate from the game before, Steph Curry, Thompson did not show overt signs, to my trained eyes, of a concussion. His face was “scruntched” in pain and he immediately grabbed for his ear, plus after the incident he immediately rose to his feet and walked straight to the locker room without assistance. As noted in Tuesday’s post signs are paramount when making critical in-game decisions about return to play; if they are there, there should be no doubt about removal.

The next report we received on TV or Twitter was about Thompson having an ear laceration and that they didn’t need to do a concussion evaluation. Which is entirely possible but unlikely, because I do believe they did a concussion “screen” at the time. The Warriors med staff probably didn’t do the full-blown evaluation because five minutes would not have been sufficient for that, but that was enough time to go over any symptoms and quick balance assessment (think roadside sobriety test). It is also important to know that because concussion are mainly subjective that a massive portion of any concussion evaluation is the interview: talking, questions and mental challenges about venue/score/date/etc.  Continue reading

“Contussiongate”*: The Steph Curry Incident

26 May

*I will admit that I could not come up with a catchy title for this post so I ripped this from Mike Freeman’s twitter feed (@mikefreemanNFL) last night:

But not only is this funny but it is about as accurate as it could have been when summing up the Steph Curry incident last night in Game 4 of the Western Conference series. So, thank you Mr. Freeman for your insightfulness and wonderful wordplay.

Those that were watching the game last night and happened to be on Twitter should know the entire process this sequelae; because of that I will be as brief as possible while injecting the overriding issues and thoughts on this.

It all began in about halfway thought the second quarter as the Warriors were getting throttled by the Rockets;

There is not speculation when looking at that vine, Curry hit his head on the court after taking an uncontrolled fall. What is not seen in the vine is Curry laying prone on the floor for a few minutes as the medical staff took a look at him (even noted checking his c-spine). When the world was brought back to the game from commercial we saw Steph getting assistance off the floor to the locker room, where further evaluation was to be done, obviously.

The first point to note in this event is that Curry not only immediately grabbed his head where it contacted the floor but he also was “down” for some time, that is obviously not normal. He hit his head and very hard so of course he would be slow to get up, but it was the amount of time that would and did have me concerned.

Before we go further we should define concussion for all of you out there, if you want the drawn out and dictionary definitions you can find it HERE, but for the simplest and most poignant way: a concussion is a disruption of normal brain function after a traumatic event. Notice there is nothing about getting hit Continue reading

Play Smart. Play Hard.

12 May

PSPHlogo

Today the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) launched a national initiative for overall student-athlete safety and participation in sport. It is called Play Smart. Play Hard. 

The campaign will focus on education and equipping athletes, parents, coaches and schools on ways to better safeguard the heath and welfare of student-athletes, including minimizing the risk of head injuries.

The main function of this campaign is to have readily available information and tools for player safety; taking on the current issues/risks as well as being forward-thinking and discussing and formulating plans for other issues that are of concern in sports. At the center of Play Smart. Play Hard. are the resources including a Player Safety Toolkit which is directed at concussions at this time. When going to the Play Smart. Play Hard. page (www.playsmartplayhard.org) in the resource tab you can find all the current Illinois and IHSA concussion information as well as the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concussion info.

Play Smart. Play Hard. may have been trumpeted by the IHSA and Illinois but there are many other state high school association supporters of this innovative approach, 27 to be exact, check the site to see if your state is part of it.

As mentioned on the blog yesterday Continue reading

Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety

11 May

It was last month and I was routinely checking the inbox when I noticed a correspondence from the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) with the subject line “IHSA Request”. Of course this piqued my interest because it is not often I get information from the state high school organization and the ‘request’ portion may have been dealing with athletic training. As I opened the message I simply thought this was a blasted email with necessary information from the IHSA…  I was wrong, on so many levels.

This is how the email opened;

Good morning, Dustin.  I hope things are going well.

I wanted to write you today to invite you to be a member of the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) newly established Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety, which aims to influence, shape and strengthen the IHSA’s commitment to protecting the welfare of all those involved in interscholastic competition in Illinois.

Needless to say I was kind of taken aback, but after that fleeting moment I was honored and excited and quickly read the entire correspondence and even more quickly responded to the IHSA with a definite yes (I didn’t want them to second guess my invitation, hahaha).

The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety aims to be a well-rounded plenary body – with much and varying expertise – that can guide discussion on ways the Illinois high school athletic community can improve, advance, set initiatives and create higher standards for player safety. This body cannot create policy but it can influence decisions and create internal debate. Initially the main focus will be on head injuries, however, it is thought that the Council will eventually take time to look at all player safety issues going forward (heat illness, sudden cardiac death, and many more). The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety is a part of a greater campaign that the IHSA is unveiling tomorrow (more on that then).

The Council is going to be made up of eight members from across the state; student-athletes, coach, official, athletic trainers, alumni and state legislators.  Below are the quick bios of the Council at this time: Continue reading

It. Has. To. Stop. (revisited)

10 May

This is one of my more outspoken and shared opinion pieces about concussions, it originally was penned in August of 2013.

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There is a lot of belief and trust each and every one of us has in those that are medical professionals.  The further you go up the chain in those professionals our trust is greater and our belief is stronger that they know more.  The sad fact that in some instances those near or at the top of the chain don’t know enough and are putting people, in this case a kid, in danger; not only in the near future but the long-term.

Compared to a physician (MD/DO) I would say my medical skills are pale in comparison, and rightfully so; their schooling and experience far outpace what I have learned in the medical field.  Because of this the athletic trainer (I) am not held as in high regard when it comes to decisions about the care of an athlete; which I am fine with… 97.43% of the time (I just made up that number, ha).  However there are times when a MD/DO – those making the final and binding (in parents and patients minds) decisions – make a mistake.  This is not just some Monday morning quarterbacking either, its FACT.

Just recently I had an athlete take a blow to the body and head in a practice, and they immediately came to me distressed.  How distressed?  Well that is one advantage I have over a MD/DO, especially the ER doc, I know the kids and have the resources of his/her peers as well as coaches who have known the kid for many years.  In this case the Continue reading

Athletic Training: Why I Love My Job

27 Mar

Dustin Fink:

A great read! And excellent write up!

Originally posted on I Train Therefore I Eat.:

I’m an Athletic Trainer.

Oh, so you’re a gym teacher? NO. 

Oh, so you’re a personal trainer? NO

Oh, so you’re a strength coach? NO

Wait, so what do you do?

Believe it or not, this type of exchange actually happens a lot.  It’s funny, because athletic trainers (ATs) are everywhere. Most high schools, colleges, semi-pro teams, Olympic teams, professional teams, and basically any organized athletic association has them. Athletic Trainers work for corporations, for the military, as physician extenders, and in the performing arts (Yes, Cirque du Soleil employs athletic trainers for the performers).

Athletic Trainers are on TV all the time. Although they’re usually being called “trainers” by the talent at ESPN or your local news organization, so I don’t blame you if you don’t know who we are.

athletictrainer

I work at a small Division III college in Boston, and along with my colleagues, am responsible for the…

View original 1,301 more words

Photo Essay #NATM2015

24 Mar

Feel free to send in a note, picture, video about your favorite Athletic Trainer or the profession itself.  I don’t know where the credit goes but DANG ITS AWESOME!!! (click to enlarge)

AT make

#NATM2015 YouTube Video – OATS

11 Mar

From my home state of Illinois, I give you Oswego High School…  Make sure you see the interviews at the end of the video!!!!!!!!!!!

Well Done!

NATM 2011 Letter (3/22/11)

6 Mar

This post is from March 22, 2011 and is great to bring back for all to read.  I am unaware of any changes in Paul’s professional life, but this remains relevant!

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During the month of March we will continually highlight the work of an athletic trainer.  This series will incorporate open letters about the men and women of the profession from other professionals, the aim is to have at least one a week.  If there are others out there; parents, coaches, teachers, doctors, lawyers, athletes or anyone that would like to form a letter please do so and send it to theconcussionblog@comcast.net.

I have saved this letter for publishing toward the end of the month, because we should be thinking about what an athletic trainer does every month, and every day if you are lucky enough to have one around.  Paul LaDuke Jr. is a full-time athletic trainer for a public high school in Pennsylvania and has “uber” years devoted to athletic training.  Not only does he provide daily coverage, he has recently created a blog entitled “Promote The Profession” devoted to Athletic Training.  Paul has been a wonderful resource and “reality check” for me during my process.  It is an honor that he took time to write this letter;

What is it like to be an Athletic Trainer? Continue reading

We Prepare – You Perform

2 Mar

It is that time of the year again to point the spotlight on the countless, often faceless, professionals that do much more that many know in protecting your physically active peers.  This year the message is “We Prepare You Perform” and has many different meanings to many different people.  I want to take this time and space today to tell you what this means to me.

It still happens, I get the occasional “what do you exactly do” comment/question from people.  Certainly most of that comes from those that are not in a sporting type setting, be it at the HS level or connected to professional sports in an interest type of way.  However, it is a great question that I love to answer even though it can get tiresome realizing that our profession is not universally understood.

What “I” do is not that different from what other athletic trainer does.  Bringing it to a more practical analogy, it is not much different that what one does a parent; as I have learned being a father of three.  What we do is make the lives of those in an active lifestyle or profession safer and when warranted BETTER.  The core foundation of this comes from preparation, period.

WE PREPARE.  You imagine it, there is a good chance we have prepared for it in the active arena.  This goes for sports, where the vast majority of athletic trainers are employed, to the industrial setting where the hard-working, blue-collar workers need to be at their best as well.

The easy cop-out would be to say this comes from our education, at least four but increasingly more like six years of study.  Sure that is some of it, but the reality is that no matter what you learn in a classroom setting has little to do with what we do on the “ground” in our profession.  The more complex and reality of the preparation we do comes from experience and adapting.  Constantly thinking of what could happen — and we don’t want to happen — and how to react in those situations.  The first time Continue reading

Being From IL, People Want To Know What I Think of Law Suit Against IHSA

8 Dec

Sq 300 JI have been asked by many people what my thoughts are on the first law suit filed against a state high school association in regards to concussion.  With this coming in my “home” state of Illinois, people figured I would have a strong statement or unique perspective.  I have struggled with coming up with exactly what I wanted to say and could not figure out why.  This is in my wheelhouse, commentary on recent and public events; one would think it would have been natural.

Then, I figured out why I couldn’t come up with something…  BECAUSE I ALREADY DID, 29 MONTHS AGO!!!

Almost like I could see into the future.  Below is what I wrote here and sent off to the Illinois High School Association in May of 2012.  Looking back on it I still feel strongly in the proposals and the rationale.  Take a quick look for yourself:

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I have been working on this letter for a little while but was really spurred to action by the parent in Maryland, Tom Hearn who discussed his concerns with the local school board.  I have tried and tried to use the “chain-of-command” with these thoughts and ideas, however at every step I got the feeling I would have to go alone on this, so I have.  This letter may or may not reflect the opinions of my employer, high school, athletic training sanctioning bodies, or others I am involved with.  This letter is from a concerned individual who feels I can spread the message effectively by these means.  I have emailed the letter, proposals and the Sports Legacy Institute Hit Count White Paper to all Executive Directors and Board of Directors of the Illinois High School Association.

OPEN LETTER

May 15, 2012

Illinois High School Association
c/o: Marty Hickman, Executive Director
2175 McGraw Drive
Bloomington, IL 61704-6011
(309) 663-7479 – fax

Dear IHSA – Executive Directors, Board of Directors and Sports Med Advisory Board:

I am writing this letter to address the growing concern of concussions in sports, mainly in football.  It should be noted that football is not the only sport with a concussion issue; however this sport combines the highest participation, highest risk, and highest visibility.  This letter should not be construed as an attack on the sport of football, but rather a way to keep the sport continuing to grow.

As a licensed and practicing Athletic Trainer, researcher, commenter, father, and survivor of too many concussions, I feel that in order to keep the sports we love, proactive steps must be taken.  Often being proactive is a painful process and easily dismissed because of the trouble it will cause.  I urge all involved to think about what the future of all sports will be if nothing is done.

The Illinois State Legislature with the IHSA took the initiative by creating a mechanism of concussion education and awareness in response to the mounting scientific evidence of potential long-term impairments resulting from mishandling of this injury.  However, this only represents a first step in the process; passing out a flyer or having parents and athletes initial that they have read the information is one small element of the issue.  Another crucial element of the issue is coaching. We must ensure that those we entrust with the care and leadership of our children understand Continue reading

NFHS Develops Concussion Guidelines for Football

13 Nov

In what has been a long time coming the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has released the long-awaited guidelines from their concussion summit in July.  The NFHS is basically the governing body that most, if not all, states look to when implementing rule changes in sports, policies for participation and for sports medicine advice/guidelines.  Many states do not act, even with good information, with out the NFHS “seal of approval”.

This has been evidenced in the past when it comes to concussion “mitigation”, in terms of undue risk – contact limitations.  There have been many states that have not waited for the NFHS (California, Arizona, Wisconsin come to mind) while there are others that sat on their hands regarding this topic.  Regardless of where your state is/was it now has some guidelines to follow when it comes to the controversial topic of impact exposure.

Before I post the full press release from the NFHS, I would like to highlight the recommendations from the 2014 NFHS Recommendations and Guidelines for Minimizing Head Impact;

  • “Live” and “Thud” are considered full-contact
    • I really like that there is a clear definition
  • Full-contact should be allowed in no more than 2-3 practices a week; 30 min a day and between 60-90 minutes a week.  Only glossed over was the fact that theNFHS strongly suggests that there should not be consecutive days of full-contact.
    • A great place to start, although there are a vast majority of programs, around here, that do not do more than 2-3 times a week.
    • The time limits are great.
    • Unaddressed is the specific back-to-back days of games to practice.  For example a Monday game and Tuesday full-contact practice.  Sure common sense should prevail, but there will be plenty of loophole finding on this issue.
  • Recognition of preseason practices needing more contact time to develop skills.
    • Obviously a sign that these guidelines are taking everything into consideration.
  • During 2-a-days only one session should be contact.
    • THANK YOU!
  • Review of total quarters played for each player
    • This has been one of my biggest points of contention with any concussion policy.  The risk for injury during a game is much higher and kids that play multiple levels have an exponentially higher risk.
    • Although nothing more was stated than above, this should get people talking and moving.  The issue, of course, will be monitoring this.  Regardless, the fact that this important point is included is a massive thumbs up!
  • Considerations for contact limits outside of traditional fall football season
    • Acknowledging the ever-growing practice of off-season practices.
  • Implementing a coach education program
    • Ideal for understanding all of this and the issues we face.
  • Education of current state laws and school policies (if schools don’t have one they should)
    • Putting pressure on the institutions to take some onus.
  • Emergency Action Plans (EAP) and Athletic Trainers should be utilized
    • AT’s should be at both games and practices.
    • EAP’s should be in place and the best person for taking care of an EAP is an AT.
    • The first “governing” body that has firmly suggested the use of athletic trainers for football at all levels in practice and games.  This is truly noteworthy, and appreciated.

Auspiciously omitted from this document was USA Football’s “Heads Up” tackling program.  They referenced the USA Football definitions of level of contact and coaching courses; but never mention the embattled “Heads Up” program.  I must say, my confidence in the NFHS has skyrocketed after reading this, and a lot has to do with the people on the task force.  I am looking squarely at: Mark Lahr, Tory Lindley, Steve McInerney and John Parsons.  Those gentleman are of the highest quality and character when it comes to athlete safety.

Here is the full press release…  Continue reading

This Is Unacceptable, In My Humble Opinion

24 Oct

Yesterday I wrote about concussions and the difference between professionals and adolescents using Jamaal Charles as an example.  What happened last night on the professional field with millions watching was completely unacceptable, professional athlete not withstanding.

Late in the third quarter of the game, last night, San Diego’s defensive back Jahleel Addae (#37) ran into a pile to finish the tackle on the Denver running back.  He was running at full speed and led with his left shoulder, but as he made contact with the RB his head dropped and he also made (incidental) helmet to helmet contact with the runner.  This type of collision is very frequent and looked innocuous…  Until you saw the after math…

Addae was bounced back, still on his feet, and began “short circuiting” for the national audience to see.  He begins to look around, kind of, and stumble, kind of, and lose full control of his extremities, all of them.  As a medical professional and athletic trainer I would have documented this OBJECTIVE finding as “unsteadiness and disorientation”.  It looked like a boxer/MMA fighter catching a fist/kick in the face late in a boxing match; the type of reaction that any referee in those sports would stop a match for and award a TKO to the other guy.

It happens from time to time in this and other sports, that is not the issue here.  The issue is that Addae returned to the game (oh, it gets worse).  Here is the tweet from last night (h/t to Brady Phelps’ Vine);

https://twitter.com/concussionblog/status/525487638481235968

From what I can piece together this play was the last of the 3rd quarter and reports had him taking the field on the first play of the 4th quarter.  HE DIDN’T MISS A SINGLE SNAP!  Even with the long commercial break between quarters there is a maximum of 4 minutes, but if my DVR time was correct it was between 2 and 3 minutes.  This is not nearly enough time for a full concussion evaluation, by anyone.

“Maybe he was screened, like you said yesterday, Fink.”

There was absolutely no reason for a cursory “screen” in this situation, Addae showed a clear and overt sign of neurological impairment, in concussion recognition jargon: a sign.  When any player shows a sign there is no screen it means Continue reading

Constantly Learning and Watching: There is a Time to Act

16 Oct

It has been a truly busy season – in regards to injuries – where I perform my “day job”.  I was going over some records that I keep and this season has been the busiest in my 15 years.  In fact, when discussing with peers they too have had a high volume of injuries in the training room.  I would say it is karma; last season we were as slow as I could remember.

Part of what I do in my job is to evaluate the injuries and determine if there are any that could have been prevented.  Certainly preseason preparation – weights and conditioning – is a huge factor and we did that here, but there is always a place to learn and watch to make adjustments.  In reviewing the injuries (over 50 – not all concussions) I’ve encountered that required medical care beyond the athletic training room the results were “good”.  Only three were incidents that I considered “preventable”, one of which I posted about weeks ago. That is less than 10% of injuries that could have been prevented, which is good, not great, but good.  In years past I have seen numbers as high as 25-30% of injuries that I deemed “preventable”.  I take pride in doing my job and if I can prevent every single incident and only have injuries that occur on a “random” basis I will take it (has yet to happen in my 15 years).

Before we go further, I would like to give a glimpse into how I review injuries.  We will use a tib/fib fracture we had this year; this player was injured in a game and to me that is “un-preventable”.  However, a few years back we had a tib/fib fracture that occurred in practice – a practice with only “uppers” on and players were not supposed to take anyone to the ground – that incident was considered “preventable” to me.  If players and coaches were vigilant to the rules of practice that player would never have been rolled up on during a tackle.  Concussions are similar…

I feel that concussions can be “prevented” in practice with contact limits and proper technique during drills.  The other two incidents, thus far, I deemed preventable occurred in practices and were concussions.  One player was hit by a teammate during a non-contact soccer drill as a “joke” and the other did not use good judgement and ran into a pile and was rocked.

The take home here is that most injuries are part of sports and we must accept this.  Also, athletic trainers have much more to worry about and analyze than most think.

All of the observation and learning also pertains to return to play; whether that be orthopedic rehabilitation or concussion return to play protocol.  We, as athletic trainers, must express our voices when there is something going on that is a player safety issue.  This can be as simple as modifying team warm-ups all the way to the case I had yesterday.

One of the concussed kids was on his final step for RTP (full contact practice), he is Continue reading

Weighing in on Michigan Situation

1 Oct

If you follow college football or listen to sports radio there is a good chance that you have been exposed to the story of Michigan quarterback, Shane Morris, and the apparent failure to keep him from the field after sustaining a head injury.  The official story from the University is that it was a communication error.

Believe it or not, that could be exactly correct.  Now, were there some possible missteps along the way by ALL involved, yes.  Is there one single person or policy in place that is to blame, no.  I offer some perspective before everyone eviscerates their choice of target in this case, lets take a look at how this could have went sideways.

The Player

Morris was roughed up a bit as the game progressed; he is a sophomore QB that was just elevated to the starting position on a premiere football program.  Certainly he displayed some orthopedic distress as he was limping heavily after a play – how many times have we seen players play through ankle/knee/leg/foot injuries and some times even celebrated for doing so.  Morris was playing through pain trying to help his team, but what happened next need not happen; however the player himself has a lot to do with how it will and did go down.

After Morris was hit in the head he attempted to get up and was obviously unsteady on his feet, he even waved off the medical team.  I have been told by a good source that he even told the sidelines it was his ankle that was the issue, not his head.  Which is entirely plausible, but due to the mechanism of the previous play would be unlikely the main reason for his wobbliness.

Athletic trainers as medical professionals are not omnipotent but we sure are close (ha) when it comes to injuries on the field/court of play.  We do rely upon input from other human beings to make quick and decisive decisions.  Doing so, in some instances, can end up creating a delay in proper treatment as it did in this case.  Morris’ insistence that he was ‘OK’ immediately after the hit was taken for face value in that very short period of time.  Considering the confluence of all the other factors for player safety – his ankle, his immediate response to the sideline, his demeanor – he was not ripped from the field.  To be honest here, I have never seen a coach, teammate, athletic trainer or other – in the college or professional ranks – step on a field to remove a player that got up and “shook it off”; usually it takes the player going down and staying down for that to happen, if he/she does not leave the field under their own volition.  Because of this, it is on the player to make sure they are seeking the proper care for their own well-being.

After the next play, Morris was removed for evaluation of his injuries.  Part of that evaluation included his head and the team Continue reading

What Is The Cost For Care?

8 Sep

The fine people over at InjureFree have a wonderful blog post about the cost for care as it relates to athletic trainers.  This is an ABSOLUTE MUST READ for those interested in athletic training at the high school level.  Rather than re-post the entire article I will present you with their infographic and give some quick thoughts.

This is for a high school with an athletic trainer, who as the blog post notes, can identify and asses acute injuries as part of their health care provider education.  Not only can the ID the injuries but also place the injured athlete in the proper place within the continuum of care depending on the injury itself.  Meaning, if the AT feels the injury will warrant possible surgery or is in need of immediate care they will be directed by the AT to “skip” the primary care physician and go directly to a specialist.  This not only saves some money for a doctor visit, but it also will save time, which can be of the essence in some cases.

Secondly, if you did not have an AT on staff, and an injury that would have warranted further investigation by a doctor and it went “unchecked” the injury could have morphed into greater damage and further costs.

The athletic trainer is not limited to the above examples, not shown in this infographic is rehabilitation costs.  Many times – depending on state regulations – the AT can perform rehabilitation services right at school at no or little cost.  Moreover, the very minor injuries that require taping or simple stretching/monitored practice are at no cost to the injured player and their insurance.  Again saving money.

Yes, this is a commercial for athletic trainers.  We really need people to understand that our profession will not only save time and money when someone is injured, but we also save lives and stress of those dealing with the injuries.

#AT4ALL

One Man’s (Athletic Trainer) Critical Eye and Observation From Week 1

18 Aug

It’s the beginning of high school football season across this glorious land.  I honestly love nothing more than getting back on the gridiron with the high school kids.  There are so many intangibles that the beginning of any sport brings; and in our massive consumption of football world this sport seems to bring a lot of people together, quickly.  You will see a lot of this “love for the sport” breeding through my posts and rants – the same love I have for all sports.  Seeing kids overcome hurdles and demons and using sport/activity to express their selves is awesome.  Seeing boys and girls using sports as a conduit to become better men and women by learning virtues such as: integrity, commitment, discipline and expecting to succeed.

Over the years I have obviously developed a keen eye for concussion as it relates to sport.  There is no greater sport for this injury to occur at my high school than football.  I have been blessed with coaches and administrators that listen to my input regarding overall safety, particularly when it comes to concussion.  But this past week I noticed something that perhaps I had seen plenty of times before, but it just finally hit me.

It has to do with the practice collisions and how things that start innocently enough can change and create issues.  I must give my head coach massive credit for being on the same wave length and even finishing my sentences when we were discussing my observations.  It shows, to me, that he has the best interest of the players in mind – and he wants a fully healthy team.  Secondly I happened to read a recent research paper about data collection on forces in football (while writing up my Sensor Overload post).

In a simple “technique” tackling drill two players were approximately five yards apart.  To either side of the players were agility bags spaced at about 4 yards.  The purpose of the drill was for the ball carrier to angle run to either bag, while the defensive player was to use proper technique and wrap up the ball carrier – not taking him to the ground.  The players were outfitted in helmets and shoulder pads only.  The players were directed to begin at “3/4″ speed and the ball carrier was to be willing to let the defender use current “proper technique” to achieve the form and fit for a tackle (face mask up, wrap-lift-drive through the man).  It started all well and good, and the players naturally began to increase their speed/effort as they became comfortable with the drill.  The drill lasted five minutes from setup to finish.

Upon completion of the drill – rather near Continue reading

Sensor Overload

12 Aug

With all that is new to the concussion realm, nothing is really new.  This includes: how the injury occurs (traumatic variable force vectors – often unanticipated – jarring the brain case), its recovery (unique and undefinable), its identification (mainly subjective but overtly obvious when objective), overall education and general understanding from day-zero to day-undetermined.

The current “hot topic” for concussions is sensors.  These sensors are nothing new, they have been around for years.  As with most technology the devices are getting smaller and more accurate; natural evolution, if you will, for sensors.  I have had the fortune of testing some products, getting deep information on others, and curiously viewing some brought to my attention.  The constant thought I have is: no product has provided a clear-cut reason for inclusion – at this moment in time.

Are sensors a good idea?

Sure, if and when they become accurate enough for trained individuals to use them without impeding current standards of care.  Further, I also believe that down the road we will be looking for a product that can accurately and systematically determine the gross effects of every blow the brain case takes.  The key being EVERY BLOW.  Not just hits to the head, or at full speed, or only in practice, or in helmeted sports.

The overwhelming information we have on concussions and their occurrence is that we just don’t know a threshold; for mine, yours, your son’s, your daughter’s or anyone.  We have a general Continue reading

Intended Consequences Lead to Unintended Issues: NCAA Settlement

1 Aug

Sure the lede looks backwards, but the overwhelming point, in my opinion, of the NCAA recent settlement on concussions has to deal with my profession of athletic training.  The issue is athletic trainers; the need for more of them and what happens if you cannot find them or afford them?

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that attention is being paid to the need for athletic trainers — although the wording does not explicitly name our profession, rather “medical professional” — is tremendous and often overlooked.  Sure, you can have a doctor on the sidelines, but what is their cost?  Perhaps there are some semantics that would allow other medical professionals to be in attendance, but what would be their experience, education and knowledge about concussions?  And how cost/time effective would it be to have another “medical professional” that didn’t have the ability to assess, treat, manage, and rehab other injuries that occur on a sporting field?

In other words, this is an awesome advertisement and endorsement for athletic training.

But there is an issue, as stated in the Chronicle of Higher Education;

Colleges have their own concerns about the settlement, including a requirement that they have a medical professional on the sidelines for every practice and game in the highest-contact sports: basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and wrestling.

While many big athletics programs already provide such coverage, lower-level NCAA institutions will be hard-pressed to afford it, several athletics officials said.

The requirement could lead colleges to use graduate assistants or others with little medical training, or to cut sports altogether over fears of liability.

“I’m worried about the financial fallout from this, and how it will impact Division II and Division III, and how it’s enforced,” said Tim Kelly, head athletic trainer at the U.S. Military Academy and a former member of the NCAA’s Football Rules Committee. “I’ve always wondered, Do too many schools provide too many sports at a level that’s not effective?”

If you have spent time in the “lower levels” of NCAA sports or even the NAIA you would note the very understaffed sports medicine team compared to the “big boys”.  This is no fault of the fine institutions, rather an economic issue.  From personal experience I can tell you that Continue reading

California First on Football Hitting Legislation

22 Jul

I received this email late last night:

Friends….

Assemblyman Cooley’s office just phoned to say that Gov. Brown has signed Ca. AB 2127, making California the first state to legislate reduced contact on high school practice fields.  As you know, other states have taken similar action via their governing bodies of high school athletics but, after failed attempts in Texas, Illinois and Connecticut, Ca. is the first state to pass legislation and have it signed into law.  Public announcement will be made shortly.  Thanks to Warren Moon, Oliver Luck, Patrick Larimore, Leigh Steinberg, Dr. Chris Giza and others who made it happen.

Reading further on SF Gate:

The law limits full-contact practices to two 90-minute sessions per week during the season and preseason, and prohibits full-contact practices during the offseason. Currently, coaches can hold full-contact practices daily. The law also forces schools to bench players for at least a week if they suffer a concussion. Current rules allow players to return within a day.

The last part of the above paragraph has me very excited about this legislation – AT LEAST one week down time!

Good on CA for taking this to the next step, honestly I don’t think we need more legislation, however if you don’t want to listen this may be the route it has to go…

NOW CALIFORNIA GET YOUR BUTT IN GEAR AND LICENSE THE ATHLETIC TRAINERS IN YOUR STATE!  THEY MUST BE RECOGNIZED FOR WHAT THEY ARE: ALLIED HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS.

Arkansas Looks Into Hit Limits

18 Jun

Over two years ago I sent an open letter and proposals to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) regarding hit limits in football.  Some took this as a “candy ass” approach and one that was not needed.  I disagreed with that assessment, in fact, I felt that what I wrote at the time was proactive and could be a way for this state to be a leader in the area of protection in concussions;

I am writing this letter to address the growing concern of concussions in sports, mainly in football.  It should be noted that football is not the only sport with a concussion issue; however this sport combines the highest participation, highest risk, and highest visibility.  This letter should not be construed as an attack on the sport of football, but rather a way to keep the sport continuing to grow.[…]

Recent evidence suggests that even the subconcussive hits – those that effectively “rattle” the brain but do not produce signs or symptoms – become problematic as the season wears on, let alone a career.  As the researchers in this field gain focus and more specific diagnostic tools, I feel we will see damning evidence that will put collision sports in jeopardy as they are currently constructed – the key being “as they are currently”.  There can be a change, both positive and proactive, that will signal to everyone that the IHSA is taking this matter seriously and can set a nationwide standard.

Needless to say it was brushed aside and was ignored, except for a kind email saying things were happening behind the scenes.  Now, two years and one month later there could be a 12th – TWELVE – states that have contact limits in place for high school football; as Arkansas looks into the matter;

According to reports, the Arkansas Activities Association has passed a recommendation to ask school superintendents to cut full contact practice time to just three times during game weeks. With one of those being the game itself, it leaves just two days of tackling if the proposal passes.

Jason Cates is the lead trainer for Cabot High School, and the former President of the Arkansas Athletic Trainers’ Association, he says, “Something has to be done.”

“The more studies that are showing that hit counts do count and add up.”

The Arkansas proposal limits the full contact days to three, opposed to the two I proposed, but it seems to me that others have seen the light.  That light is both the end of the tunnel and the oncoming freight train.  Kids need Continue reading

Hit Count Symposium

16 Jun

If you have a son or daughter in Little League Baseball you probably have heard of a pitch count.  Basically it is a set number of pitches a pitcher can throw in a certain time period.  The reasoning seems simple and sound, in my opinion; to protect the overuse of the arm/elbow.  Sure, there are many coaches out there in the baseball world that know what they are doing and will only throw players when they are fully rested.  On the other hand there a plenty of coaches out there that either don’t know or knowingly put players at risk when it comes to overuse of the pitching arm.

This has a relation to the concussion world; well, Sports Legacy Institute hopes so.  In an effort to be PROACTIVE about issues surrounding concussions and especially the youth players of collision sports SLI has created an initiative to limit, log and research “hits” absorbed.  I have blogged about it here when the initiative began.

Like many things that are new and different, people often dismiss or fail to grasp what is being attempted or cannot see what may be accomplished by doing them.  In regards to the Hit Count, it to is simple; limit the number of hits one sustains while playing sports – collision sports to begin with.

I may not be the worlds biggest advocate for sensor technology as we currently know it, however this approach is different and unique.  It is something that should be paid attention to, if not for the currently proposed reasons, at the very least the research capability.  How can we know if we don’t know.  In other words; how can we measure if we are making a difference with any of our so-called “advances in concussion issues” if there is not something to measure it against.  For a small niche in the medical community that is all about “baselines” and return to “normal” our peers seem to get all squirmy when people want to find this baseline.

The Hit Count most likely will not be the panacea which our culture so desperately wants but this is at least a step in the right direction.  Below you can see the full press release on the Symposium.  I cannot attend on July 15th, but I have been afforded two (2) transferable registrations.  Please contact me if you will be in the area and are looking to attend.  Without further ado:

==========

For Immediate Release —Thursday, June 12, 2014

Media Contact: Chelsea McLeod (781) 262-3324 or cmcleod@sportslegacy.org

Sports Legacy Institute Announces 2014 Hit Count® Symposium to be Held on Tuesday, July 15, at the Boston University School of Medicine to Advance Discussion on Use of Head Impact Sensors in Sports to Prevent Concussions

Co-Chaired by Dr. Robert Cantu and Dr. Gerry Gioia, event will gather researchers, athletic trainers, coaches, parents, athletes, medical professionals, and administrators to explore how Hit Count® Certified sensors can be used to improve brain safety  Continue reading

LINK: Rebroadcast of Pres. Obama Sports and Concussions

30 May

You can follow the link below for the rebroadcast of the “summit” on concussions in sport held at the White House yesterday.

http://www.c-span.org/video/?319639-1/president-obama-sports-concussions

There were some interesting thoughts passed along and it was great to hear the POTUS discuss athletic trainers and the need for them.  The next step in that “finger” of concussion care is to find funding and placement of athletic trainers.

I did enjoy Taylor Twellman’s honesty and direct nature during his time.

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