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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

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Jamaal Charles; No Different Then Vast Majority of Competitive Athletes

23 Oct

Last week when the Chiefs played the Chargers running back Jamaal Charles scored a touchdown and was blasted in the end zone by Brandon Flowers.  A shot that Charles bounced up from and headed to the sideline while Flowers was slow to get to his feet.  The hit was helmet to face mask and the resulting forces were a classic case of what is typically needed to produce a concussion for one or both of the players.  Whether or not it actually did, we will never “officially know.”

The issue is not with the hit or the fact that Charles apparently cleared the screening done on the sideline after such a hit, the issue is with his comments a few days after on the Dan Le Batard show;

“It definitely hurt,” Charles said. “A couple plays later, I just [saw] this light buzz around my eyes and I was trying to catch ‘em. But I was like, ‘Let’s get the ball and run again.'”

I am 100% confident that Head Athletic Trainer Rick Burkholder did his job on Sunday – screening Charles after the hit – it was evidenced on Tuesday/Wednesday when Burkholder placed Charles in the protocol as a precaution solely due to the comments Charles made.

Why you may ask?  Simple, by the absolute letter of the definition of concussion – disruption of normal brain function following a traumatic event – Charles admitted he was “not normal”.

Whether or not Charles had a concussion is up for debate among many people, not only externally – us blogging/media type – but likely internally – Charles and med staff.  Here in lies the problem with concussions and the issue of concussions.

As we tried to explain in the University of Michigan post, concussion is most often a subjective injury, we as medical professionals rely upon the athlete or injured to tell us what is going on.  If there are no overt or outward signs (loss of consciousness, wobbliness, gaze, vomiting, etc.) then all we can do is screen the athletes.  And by screening I mean simply asking the athlete if they are OK.

GAMING THE SYSTEM

I heard Mark Schlereth on Mike and Mike this morning saying something to the effect of; “there has to be more than just asking the player if they are ‘OK’?”.  The truth of the matter is that there is not really anything other than that; although just asking one question is not due diligence.  In my experience I ask more questions and even try to trick athletes into giving up any ruse they are trying to pull on me.  I have a to questions and line of questioning that has produced many responses that then warranted them to be fully examined with a sideline evaluation, even for the best “liars” (I won’t share them here because it can be used for people to study and then find a way around it).

The more complex yet simple reason we as athletic trainers feel confident with screening, even with limited questions, is that we know the athlete.  Their usual demeanor, behavior and general presentation.  People often ask me how long it takes me to know if someone has a concussion.  When they are my players, the ones I am around on a daily basis, usually it takes me 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

#tbt: Eye Opener from 2012: Was it overlooked?

24 Jul

Originally titled “Bombshell Found in Sports Illustrated Vault” this post appeared on July 4, 2012…  To this day, it may be one of the most poignant articles I have written about the road we have been down.  I believe that this post still rings true, two years later, in regards to all the information we knew that we didn’t know…  

Considering where – 2014 – and what has transpired – League of Denial – this article may have been glossed over and was WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME from SI.  I often find myself wondering why we are not learning from the past to make proactive measures going forward…

Enjoy the read from the past (excellent RT @protectthebrain);

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Thanks to @ConcernedMom9 I was sent an article from Sports Illustrated written by Michael Farber.  Before I tell you the year and provide the link I want so share some quotes from it;

“People are missing the boat on brain injuries,” says Dr. James P. Kelly, director of the brain-injury program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Medical School. “It isn’t just cataclysmic injury or death from brain injuries that should concern people. The core of the person can change from repeated blows to the head.

“I get furious every time I watch a game and hear the announcers say, ‘Wow, he really got his bell rung on that play.’ It’s almost like, ‘Yuk, yuk, yuk,’ as if they’re joking. Concussions are no joke.”

That sounds very similar to what we are discussing now in 2012.

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•Of the 1.5 million high school football players in the U.S., 250,000 suffer a concussion in any given season, according to a survey conducted for The American Journal of Public Health.

•A player who has already suffered a concussion is four times more likely to get one than a player who has been concussion-free. Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers and defensive backs are most vulnerable, [...] that special teams players were at the highest risk per minute spent on the field.

•Concussions are underreported at all levels of football. This is partly because of the subtlety of a mild concussion (unless a player is as woozy as a wino, the injury might go undetected by a busy trainer or coach) but primarily because players have bought into football’s rub-dirt-on-it ethos. “If we get knocked in the head, it’s embarrassing to come to the sideline and say, ‘Hey, my head’s feeling funny,’ ” says San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young, who has suffered at least a half dozen concussions. “So I’m sure we’re denying it.”

•Football’s guidelines for players returning after concussions are sometimes more lenient than boxing’s. The New Jersey Boxing Commission requires a fighter who is knocked out to wait 60 days and submit to an electroencephalogram (EEG) before being allowed back into the ring.

•According to Ken Kutner, a New Jersey neuropsychologist, postconcussion syndrome is far more widespread than the NFL or even those suffering from the syndrome would lead us to believe. [...] Kutner says that the players fear that admitting to postconcussion syndrome might cost them a job after retirement from football.

Hmmm, we all thought this was information new to us – new being 2008.

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That, however, doesn’t console Lawrence and Irene Guitterez of Monte Vista, Colo. “He just thought it was something trivial,” Irene says of her son, Adrian, who was a running back on the Monte Vista High team three years ago. “He had a headache and was sore, but it seemed like cold symptoms. He wasn’t one to complain. He wouldn’t say anything to anybody. He wanted to play in the Alamosa game.”

He did play. At halftime Guitterez, who had suffered a concussion in a game two weeks before and had not yet shaken the symptoms, begged teammates not to tell the coaches how woozy he felt. When he was tackled early in the third quarter, he got up disoriented and then collapsed. Five days later he died.

Years later another Colorado high school football player, Jake Snakenberg, would unfortunately repeat history; leading to the concussion legislation passed in that state.

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Do you have a guess on the year… Continue reading

Back to Basics: Current Concussion Management

9 Jul

What follows below are recommendations that have been on this blog for many years.  I came up with them when it started in 2010 and not much has happened to change what was written.  In fact, more and more these ideas have been accepted, showing that it was ahead of its time in 2010.

AS ALWAYS: PLEASE CONSULT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL FOR A CONCUSSION, USING THIS BLOG ALONE FOR TREATMENT OF A BRAIN INJURY IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

We can discuss rehabilitation from a concussion at a later time, but the theory of this being a spontaneous and passive recovery for a vast majority of incidences continues.  It has been my experience that the “less is more approach” is best with concussions, initially.  Being, that after injury the less you do to stimulate the brain and rattle the brain the better and faster the outcomes will be.  When the injury lingers on beyond 10-14 days (usually due to too much activity in the initial phases) that is where rehab and a more dynamic approach to recovery is needed.

Please enjoy and remember that back in 2010 this was not mainstream nor widely accepted.  I hope that four years later this is commonplace.

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Sport-Related Concussion, Don and Flo Brady (NASP Communique)

INITIAL STEPS

After an initial concussion the individual should subscribe to REST, not just physical rest, but COMPLETE and UTTER rest.

  • NO TV
  • NO Texting
  • NO Computers
  • NO Radio
  • NO Bright Lights
  • NO Loud Noises
  • NO Reading

COMPLETE brain rest, in other words, SLEEP!  This should be adhered to for at least 24 hours or when the medical professional that you seek (and you should) tells you otherwise.

SCHOOL AGED INDIVIDUALS

Rest should be continued until all signs and symptoms have resolved.  Rest in this demographic should Continue reading

Where is Tech Going With Concussions

7 Feb

Technology is ever-expanding in all areas of our life; in my short time we have gone from land line phones and massive desktop computers that could play “Lemonade Stand” to handheld personal computers that is also a phone.  The point being that technology is amazing.  In the previous post we discussed how MRI now can actually see damage to the white matter in the brain after concussion.  Until that information was presented the changes in the brain were only theorized about.

Yes, it is true that we are trying to find an objective measure, but people need to understand that this objective measure is not necessarily needed to find the concussion.  An athletic trainer with their years of education and experience are pretty dang good at finding concussions; with or without the help of “tools.”  The need for objective measures is for the TRUE PROBLEM of the “concussion crisis”; the mismanagement of the injury – mainly returning too early.

Conrad Wilson wrote up a good article on technology that is emerging, focusing on balance Continue reading

Have To Keep Educating & Holding People Accountable

6 Feb

The education of concussions is great, the legislation is in the right place but there is absolutely no accountability for instances where athletes are “failed”.  Before I go on, I am not perfect, I have and will continue to miss some things here and there (I missed an ACL in football which bothers me).  In fact, looking at the pressure I put on myself and hoping the world puts on my chosen profession of athletic training it may be a bumpy road.  However, missing obvious problems of health and welfare of athletes when one is an athletic trainer is inexcusable.  I implore anyone out there that feels I have missed something to call my ass to the carpet as well.

This brings me to something that I found in my inbox recently and it made me sick and should be handled.  This particular incident occurred in a state that has similar mechanisms for concussions as here in Illinois.  To create the back story on the “mechanisms” in play you should understand the state legislation and high school association concussion education;

  • Players, parents and coaches all have been given information regarding concussions
  • Officials have been given authority to remove player for concussion signs or suspicion including mechanism of injury (MOI)
  • Once removed they cannot return unless cleared by approved medical professional (IL is ATC, MD, or DO only)

With that information here is the email from a fellow athletic trainer – emphasis added is mine – (obviously stripped of identifying information);

Still have a long road ahead of education.

I was at a basketball game Friday night as a spectator and watched a player bounce [their] head off the floor.  Opponent had set a screen and athlete ran right into [defender], bounced off and landed on floor bouncing head off the floor.  The player then rolled around on the floor grabbing head and could tell [athlete] was in pain.  Time was called by the officials to attend to the player.   MOI would strongly Continue reading

Hit Count® Has Come To Fruition

27 Jan

Prevention of concussion is a bit of an oxymoron; nothing we know about concussions can stop them from occurring while in action.  HOWEVER, there is one way to prevent concussions – limiting exposure to the collisions that create a concussion.  Moreover, research suggests – as well as observations – that being exposed to subconcussive hits can have detrimental effects on brain function.  The subconcussive hits may even predispose someone to getting a concussion later on; this is obvious if you look at the data we have collected on NFL concussion over the past four years, (305 concussions in weeks 1-9 vs. 377 concussions in weeks 10-17) greater than a 20% increase as the season wears on.

Sports Legacy Institute has announced a certification program to further the Hit Count® initiative during a press release during Super Bowl week in New York City, today (along with the SLI Hit Count White Paper – see link below press release);

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Sports Legacy Institute Launches Hit Count® Certification Program in Collaboration with Leading Concussion Experts and Head Sensor Device Companies to Make Contact Sports Safer

Using Hit Count® Certified Products to Monitor and Minimize Brain Trauma Could Eliminate 500 Million Head Impacts in Football a Year, with the Goal of Reducing Risk of Concussion and Long-Term Brain Damage

New York City – January 27, 2014 – The non-profit Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) announced a major advance in the effort to prevent concussions and brain damage in contact sports today with the launch of the Hit Count® certification program after two years of development, which was unveiled at a press conference at the 2014 Super Bowl Media Center in New York City.

Hit Count® builds on the progress that head sensor device companies have made in developing devices that can measure acceleration of the head. Current products used on the field are focused on  alerting coaches, medical professionals, and parents when a potential concussive impact occurs.

Inspired by Pitch Counts baseball, which set limits to the number of times a player throws from the  mound to prevent arm injury, Hit Count® Certified Devices will have a second function that measures and “Counts” impacts that exceed the Hit Count® Threshold, set by a committee of  leading scientists, with the goal of minimizing brain injury.

“Research using sensor devices has revealed that each year in the United States, there are over 1.5 billion impacts to the heads of youth and high school football players,” said Chris Nowinski, Founding Executive Director of SLI who launched the Hit Count® initiative in 2012 with SLI Medical Director Dr. Robert Cantu. “Most hits are unnecessary and occur in practice. By utilizing  Hit Count® certified products as a teaching tool for coaches and a behavior modification tool for athletes, we can eliminate over 500 million head impacts next season.”

Committee member Gerry Gioia, PhD, of Children’s National Medical Center and Continue reading

University of Oregon Novel Study

22 Jan

I found a very interesting email about research being done at the University of Oregon.  It was so well written I thought I would just place it on the blog…

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In what may be the first study of its kind, the University of Oregon’s Motion Analysis Laboratory released a fascinating and chilling new video that illustrates the dramatic effect a concussion can have on high school athletes’ ability to control balance while walking.

Using computer generated images from reflective markers worn by the subjects, the video shows the gaits of two high school students – one a healthy subject and the other a victim of a concussion from a helmet-to-helmet collision in football practice two days prior – to emphasize the poor control and balance of the concussed athlete.

The full study included 40 high school athletes – 20 who were diagnosed with a concussion from sports including football, soccer, volleyball and wrestling, and 20 similar healthy athletes – who were tested over a two-month period. The results showed that the concussed athletes had trouble maintaining balance and walking speed while also responding to auditory cues as long as two months following the concussion.

Research on concussion recovery time, like what is being done at the University of Oregon, may help improve safety and better pinpoint when it is safe for to return to field or court.

Interesting .pdf Making Rounds Now – Addendum

16 Jan

AFCA pdfI was tipped off by a fellow athletic trainer in a state where this .pdf (click first link below) is being circulated around.  I find it interesting in the wake of the American Football Coaches Association meeting that this is being titled the way it is.

Concussions in Football is how it is titled on the info packet, but the subject line that my source received was “Our Game is Under Attack”.

ARE YOU SERIOUS?

First, let me say I have read it – three times – and find nothing wrong about what is being presented.  Even with the opening HUGE FONT reason/opinion Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman has for continuing playing youth football.  I respect that opinion and cases can be made for such a strong statement, in fact it is lore at this time.

But to claim the sport itself is under attack because some may be looking beyond the lore of benefits is a bit much, in my opinion.  I have explained many a time here on the blog that what I see it as – and my reason for presenting information – is to keep the game around.  The game is not under attack because of concussions, if the game was under attack it is because of the way it handles injuries – namely concussions – and the possible ramifications.  The document is correct in stating not all brain injury is permanent, yet we don’t have any long-term data (solid longitudinal) on the effects of this sport or others that are collision based outside of boxing.

I honestly believe that if every sport coach, parent or kid looked at this document and Continue reading

TCB Mail Bag

26 Dec

I trust everyone has had a wonderful Christmas experience (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or going to have a good Boxing Day), with that I would like to wish everyone continued successes in whatever endeavor they choose.  Over the Holiday I have received many an email regarding concussions; apparently the down time has given people opportunity to share frustrations or good news.

Today I am bringing you a specific case in which we all can learn from.  At the least we can read this and prepare for similar situations that may arise – whether as a parent, doctor, coach or athletic trainer.  

As always you can write in and with your permission I will re-post anything you would like (and it may suit the audience).  It can be attributed to you or anonymously.  Keep it between 500-2000 words and omit any personal identifying factors if it involves patient care or sensitive information.

Here is our post today – by Anonymous:

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Obviously today is Christmas Eve and in most regions of the country kids are not in school for at least the next two weeks. Maybe less, maybe more. All in all it is a great time to rest up that brain and recharge your body. As athletic trainers we also know that sports do not stop for the holidays. For the most part at least. If you remember last year I read an op-ed article that you put on your blog titled “Parental Decisions Can Undercut Good Concussion Laws” or something of that nature. Well, it’s happened again (as it has many times between that time and now but this one is a little more ridiculous than the last) and I’m nauseous!

To be as brief as I can on this without boring you this is the case of a female soccer player who sustained a nasal fracture as well as a concussion when fighting for a header in the air with an opposing player almost a month ago. To be clear, she actually suffered a deviated septum. Anyway, after our AT did a beautiful job of getting this athlete “entered” into our concussion protocol (which Mom still couldn’t get over the fact that she indeed had a concussion; whoda’ thunk it, right?) we all sat in our physician’s office (Mom, AT, myself, physician, athlete) and witnessed the concussion as well as the nasal issue being addressed. The athlete was clearly concussed (clinical exam, balance assessment, and symptom reporting were all abnormal but ImPACT scores remained at baseline) and the athlete was sent for an MRI and referred to an ENT for further evaluation of the nasal issue. Pretty simple. These folks were given the “red carpet” treatment as all of our athletes/parents are and everyone left happy. The consensus was to see the ENT and address that issue then to follow back up with our physician for the resumption of the concussion issue. The athlete ended up having surgery about a week later. She was out for about a week after that. The ENT cleared her to resume play and actually said that there was no concussion. Wow! OK!

Fast forward to last week during exams and the athlete did not follow-up with the AT during exams like she was instructed to do. She THEN shows up to a game on Saturday with a face shield and tries to plead her case to enter the game. The AT did her job and did not allow the athlete to play. Mom was irate. Athlete conceded. Coach was with the AT. So athlete did not go through the GRTP process and as of today the mother refuses to follow-up with our physician for final clearance after all of the objective information is noted. She is choosing to Continue reading

Hot And Heavy Monday

9 Dec

With Rob Gonkowski and Wes Welker injuries there is a ton a debate today on the interwebs about concussions and other injuries in the NFL.  I figured I would link up some information that would help with the background and even further thinking for the topic de jour.  It would also help if you read my editorial on Everyone Pumping Their Brakes.

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1st for posterity sake, here is the current NFL Concussion Protocol, found at the NFL Players Association website.  It is worth reviewing and I am sure the NFLPA is monitoring this closely.

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2nd is a link to Concussion Myths from Nationwide Children’s.  Although aimed at youth participants and parents, these myths are very prevalent all the way up to the professional ranks.  One would assume that it should not be predicated there, but alas it is.  Read this and pass it along to all that you know concerned about concussions.

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3rd is a link to some very interesting research about ACL injuries.  It seems the authors are thinking that cognitively impaired individuals (females in this research), may be predisposed to ACL injuries.  I just came across this but it makes logical sense to me.  Here is why; part of a concussive episode the brain can be effected in a way that impairs your spatial awareness and reaction time.  This research could be a waterfall for expected injuries and recovery as well.

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4th is a MMQ article on ACL injuries in the NFL.  There have been 50 thus far this year, an all-time high, but only half are due to contact.  Perhaps the above link may be more poignant after reading this and putting your thinking cap on…

Tottenham Hotspurs; More Like Tottenham Hotmess

4 Nov

The center of the club soccer world resides in England (two teams in Wales) with the Barclay’s Premiere League (BPL).  Being the “best” soccer league has allowed the BPL to be televised live here in the States as the sport is showing some growth in participation and in viewership.  I have recently found myself watching more matches and even choosing “a side” – as they call it across the pond (it should be noted that soccer it called football everywhere else but here).  Through research and general information gathering as I get further into the sport the BPL or other European soccer leagues are not much different in its fandom.  Supporters of teams and players are similar to the fanatics that follow football here in America; critical of team play, ownership, players effort and results.  One area where the fans and the sport of soccer is well behind, in terms of knowledge, is concussions.

The readers of this blog know quite well that a concussion is simply an event that alters normal brain function.  Being primarily subjective it may be hard to distinguish a concussion by simply looking at a player or person.  However, the vast majority of sports fans here in America and participants know that there are tell-tale signs of concussion that cannot be disputed.  When one of those objective signs is observed it is and should be understood that said player was concussed and requires immediate removal from the game/practice/activity.  The reason is simple, concussions are a brain injury and bad.  Research has shown that playing through a concussion is very detrimental to short-term and long-term mental health.

Years ago, pre-2004, getting knocked out or displaying signs of a concussion was a mere nuisance and even a “badge of honor” among the top-level sporting participants.  It was known back then that something as obvious as someone losing consciousness was not a good thing for the younger participants, however it wasn’t looked upon as it is now.  When a sports participant absorbs enough force to effectively “reboot” the body’s central nervous system that is NOT A GOOD thing.  As the information about concussion has become more clear through the years if a player is KO’ed that player is removed from play immediately and does not return for the period determined by the medical staff.  In the NFL the soonest anyone has returned to practice or game after being knocked out, since 2010 has been six days.  Even that may not be enough time for the brain to recover.  Heck, in boxing and MMA, fighters that are KO’ed are medically suspended for 90 days.

This leads me to the bloody mess that occurred in Everton, England yesterday.  Continue reading

“League of Denial” (Part 2)

8 Oct

Coming to a bookstore and TV near you today is “League of Denial” a book and documentary about one of the dirty little secrets the NFL has been avoiding for some time.  Fortunately, I have been provided with advance copies of both; the Frontline film was easy to digest, as for reading a book, well we can just say I am trying to read as fast as possible.

I was reminded quickly, yesterday via Twitter, that I may lack valuable perspective when it comes to concussion information (and that I am not normal – this is not breaking news).  Will Carroll of Bleacher Report let me know that this information will be new to a lot of people out there.  He is exactly right, not only that, this documentary will be easily digestible for the fan of football.  For any person just wading into this, when you tune into PBS tonight to view “League of Denial” you will be absolutely hooked from the start.

The sounds of the crowd, visuals of big hits grab your football part of the brain IMMEDIATELY, over those sounds you will quickly discover the problem NFL players have faced with brain injuries playing their sport.  Harry Carson saying “and then they are gone” when talking about former players.  A bold statement that the level of denial was “just profound.”  An NFL lawyer saying “we strongly deny those allegations that we withheld information or misled the players.”  And more video and sound of punishing hits that used to fill the highlight reel bring the opening curtain of this very important documentary.

This problem is real – it’s not just real for the professionals – and from the get go Frontline makes you understand, vividly and personally, why this is.  After listening to old radio calls of the Steel Curtain it all begins with the story of Mike Webster and the forensic pathologist who studied his brain, Bennet Omalu.

The discovery of a possible reason one of the most respected and lauded players in Pittsburgh sports pantheon fell from grace and eventually found and early demise.  If the football portion of your brain does not connect to what is being presented then I would haphazardly guess that you are not ingrained within the fabric of football.

As Harry Carson explains how the game was played and to some extent how it’s still played you can begin to understand the issue at hand.  This is hammered home when Robert Stern, PhD tells the audience blows to the brain are at forces 20 times greater than the force of gravity (20 G’s); or as he so eloquently put it “driving into a brick wall at 35mph”, 1,000 times or more in a season.

In the first 11 minutes of this 2 hour presentation you are at full attention and want to understand the “whats”, “whys” and “whos”.  If you are not engaged and ready for further explanation I can only say that you don’t care or want to bury your head in the sand.

Contributions in the film include Continue reading

Delaware Youth Concussion Summit – Wrap Up

27 Sep

A regular reader and a very good friend to The Concussion Blog was fortunate enough to attend the Delaware Youth Concussion Summit the past week.  I had asked her to write-up a report and she kindly and succinctly did that for TCB.  Because of Dorothy Bedford I can bring you this information, thank you.  This is also a reminder that if you attend a conference, symposium or summit and feel the information would good for the readers you are more than welcome to submit it so us in a .doc or .docx form and we will publish.  Without further ado here is Dorothy’s contribution;

The Delaware Youth Concussion Summit, an initiative organized by the State Council for Persons with Disabilities Brain Injury Committee, Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children, and the Brain Injury Association of Delaware, yesterday released its three-point Action Plan regarding the diagnosis, management, and return to activity for the rising number of young people sustaining concussions in sports activities. Participants in the summit and action work groups include leaders and experts in medicine, neuro-psychology, education, sports, advocacy, state agencies, and elected officials.

The Summit aims to further the aims of Delaware’s concussion legislation, signed in August 2011, which mandated both concussion training for all DIAA coaches and awareness training for parents and athletes, and set some rules around written medical clearances before returning to play.

After convening in May 2013, the Summit divided itself into working groups and today announced three focus areas for further action:  Continue reading

Interesting Find This Morning

17 Sep

NFL Screen Shot 9.17.13The title and the article is nothing new, we have known for some time that computer based neurocognitive testing is not perfect.  Some have even concluded that these type tests are not worth the time and money.  More and more I am hearing from professionals that feel that they HAVE to give this tests or others like it, even though it’s not precise enough in cases.

What is interesting to me is the website it appeared on, NFL.com, the one league that has propelled this product more than any other.

The timing of this article is also curious to me as well.  Lately I have been getting many emails regarding computer based testing and the need for it and my overall thoughts on them.  Perhaps there is a wave of skepticism regarding this tool, which is nothing new, or perhaps there have been more and more issues with these tests, now that they are being used by so many.

There is no doubt there has been an impetus upon Continue reading

It. Has. To. Stop.

20 Aug

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

Next Level… In Concussion Care

14 Aug

As an athletic trainer – an opinionated one at that – I struggle with all the “bells-and-whistles” in this conundrum that is the concussion issue.  If you have visited here or heard me speak you undoubtedly know that mismanagement of concussions is the true issue of this complex paradigm.  Yes, we need to know when a concussion occurs to begin the process in the right direction; however, this can be accomplished by simply making sure you have a trained medical professional on hand when the need arises.  Getting an athletic trainer to cover the most at risk sports at the most at risk times is a great start (and in the authors opinion is the only choice if you want to have collision sports).  Short of that, education over-education is necessary for everyone: players, coaches, parents, officials, teacher etc. to properly identify and accept the nature of concussion in sport – it is a risk.

Even having an allied medical professional, like an athletic trainer (AT) at practices and games does not stop the injury from occurring.  In fact, many products that may claim reduction in concussions or “possible concussions” are toying with fraud; at the very least they are practicing deceptive marketing.  The point being, once we identify a concussion how do we and who do we send the injury to, to avoid the rest of the iceberg lurking under the surface of the water?  Moreover, what tools do we have that can help get the right prognosis, treatment and recovery for the injured (and there are many out there)?

I feel there is a new product (I am not a paid endorser, nor have I been given compensation for this article/opinion) now hitting the market that may get us closer to the panacea that we are all hoping for (note I said “closer”).  Although it may have been presented as some big secret; the C3 Logix: Comprehensive Concussion Care system is not a secret rather it is something I feel is a “game changer” for concussion care.  It is Continue reading

Why Are We Here? Confusion and muddy water

17 Jun

With all the work that has been done up to this point with concussions I truly believe that we should have a better grasp on this injury.  Recently, we have seen some very confusing information come forward, I feel the message has been mixed and may lead to further issues when handling concussions.  Patrick Hruby, in his article on Sports on Earth, takes a very critical look at the Collins research as well as other studies that have pointed to the players being the problem in this concussion issue.

It is not the players fault, it’s not the referees fault, it’s not the coaches fault, it’s not the sports fault.

I do think that football and collision sports do require some sort of “full” practices in a controlled environment.  Although the actual speed of a game is difficult to replicate in a practice, full-go is needed for players to understand the closing speeds, angles and decision-making of the sport.  Without a full grasp on this the player may be at further risk for overall injury in sport.  It would be insane to have a football, hockey Continue reading

Downplaying brain injury is not the way to attack this

6 May

Concussions have gained so much attention that the news is almost inundated with story-after-story of occurrences, recovery, litigation and people trying to mitigate the injury.  There seems to be a shortage of press clipping and stories on how to handle this injury.  More often I have witnessed stories downplaying the injury or the oft cited “Heads Up Football“.

The former, downplaying the injury itself, is not a good thing it is exactly what put us in the spot we are in now.  Patrick Hruby also took note of this while reading an article from Andrew Wagaman in the Missourian;

Still, when it comes to the single most head-scratching public statement I’ve seen regarding brain trauma and football, University of Missouri neuropsychologist Thomas Martin takes the pole position. Hands-down. In a piece about youth football and cognitive risks published this week in the Columbia Missourian, Martin compares brain damage to … knee injuries[...]

This blew my mind. I had to read it twice. And then a half-dozen more times. It still blows my mind as I’m typing this. Here’s why people react differently to brain and knee injuries, and why football is in a world of potential trouble: because the potential harm resulting from a brain injury is nothing like that resulting from a knee injury.

If you read Hruby’s article you will see he makes a strong case for this analogy being utterly false; Continue reading

Archaic Thinking/Management of Concussion Not Just a N. American Issue

4 Apr

I have cataloged this problem many times in many sports across the world.  It seems that perhaps the focus and glare is greatest here with North American sports (mainly football and hockey), but this problem extends further.  This issue perhaps came to a head in the UK over the past week with this article by Tom English;

Barry O’Driscoll played rugby for Ireland in the Five Nations championship of 1971.

As a respected doctor (whose son was team doctor for Ireland and the Lions in the recent past) with a background as an international full-back he became an important figure on the International Rugby Board where for 15 years he held positions on the medical, anti-doping and disciplinary committees. Until late last summer, when he resigned.

Dr. O’Driscoll left his post because of the way the International Rugby Board (IRB) was/is handling concussions on the field and in general.  As an aside, the IRB is a founding partner of the Zurich statement as well.

What would make a highly trained and well-respected doc – with rugby in the blood – step away?  Take a look, specifically at what happened to his nephew;

After one collision too many that day Brian O’Driscoll lost his bearings, was clearly unsteady on his feet and had to be helped from the field, like a boxer assisted from the ring. You did not need experience in pathology to know that the great man was out of it for a moment in time. Yet a few minutes later he was back on the pitch, supposedly as bright as a button and fully recovered.

He was back on the field because ?????;

There is an accompanying rule now – still on trial – and it states that if a player with suspected concussion can pass a series of tests lasting five minutes then he can be allowed back into the fray: the Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) – or the five-minute rule.

Even worse the “new” rule was not even in place when his nephew sustained his concussion, leading the good doc to question what the sanctioning body and the medical board was doing;

“Rugby is trivialising concussion,” he says. “They are sending these guys back on to the field and into the most brutal arena. It’s ferocious out there. The same player who 18 months ago was given a minimum of seven days recovery time is now given five minutes. There is no test that you can do in five minutes that will show that a player is not concussed. It is accepted the world over. We have all seen players who have appeared fine five minutes after a concussive injury then vomiting later in the night. To have this as acceptable in rugby, what kind of message are we sending out?

“If a boxer cannot defend himself after ten seconds he has to have a brain scan before he comes back. And we’re not talking ten seconds for a rugby player, we’re talking maybe a minute that these guys are not sure what’s going on. They don’t have to have a brain scan, they have to have five minutes where they have to stand up straight without falling over four times, they have a basic memory test – ‘What’s the score? Who are you playing against? Which half did it happen in? And do you have any symptoms?’

“These questions should serve as a landmark for when you examine them six hours later to see if they’re getting worse or if they’re bleeding into their brain. That’s why you ask them, not to see if they can go back on. They are already concussed at that point. You don’t need to ask questions to find that out. If six hours later their responses are worse than they were earlier you say ‘Wait a minute, this shouldn’t be the case, is this guy going to bleed?’ That’s why you ask the questions and so it has always been. But we’re going in the other direction now. We’re going from being stood down for three weeks to one week to five minutes with players who are showing exactly the same symptoms. The five-minute rule came out of the blue. I couldn’t be a part of it so I resigned from the IRB. It saddened me, but I couldn’t have my name attached to that decision.”

As you can clearly see some places are not quite ready to accept the real issue of concussions – not the actual injury – the mismanagement of the injury once it occurs.  If the IRB places the new “five-minute pitch side rule” into place they are going in the absolute wrong direction.

If any player in any sport shows clear signs of concussion they should be removed and not allowed back in, period.  Even Zurich, which the IRB is part of states this.  Dr. O’Driscoll is merely saving his reputation by stepping aside, and in my opinion it is the exact correct move.

 

Concussion Conglomeration “Road Marker” (UPDATED FREE ARTICLE LINK)

27 Mar

A paramount review of concussions and their “long-term” effects has been published (or soon will) in Nature Reviews Neurology that I certainly hope does not slip past the masses.  Not only is the information somewhat of a “where we stand”-moment of clarity, it is authored by a very underrated and proficient researcher; Dr. Barry D. Jordan.

Jordan, B. D. Nat. Rev. Neurol. advance online publication 12 March 2013; doi:10.1038/nrneurol.2013.33 (note you need a log in).  Here is the FREE DOWNLOAD LINK

Acute and chronic sports-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a substantial public health concern. Various types of acute TBI can occur in sport, but detection and management of cerebral concussion is of greatest importance as mismanagement of this syndrome can lead to persistent or chronic postconcussion syndrome (CPCS) or diffuse cerebral swelling. Chronic TBI encompasses a spectrum of disorders that are associated with long-term consequences of brain injury, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), dementia pugilistica, post-traumatic parkinsonism, post-traumatic dementia and CPCS.

Dr. Jordan also discussed CTE in further detail including the limitations of possible antemortem detection; including imaging and categorization.

In this Review, the spectrum of acute and chronic sport-related TBI is discussed, highlighting how examination of athletes involved in high-impact sports has advanced our understanding of pathology of brain injury and enabled improvements in detection and diagnosis of sport-related TBI.

The overriding theme I gathered from this review article is one that I have been hammering home for a very long time: the mismanagement of the original sequale may be the largest factor in discussion the multiple faces of “chronic TBI” that result from concussion.  This paper is also very succinct in demonstrating the massive amount of work that still needs to be done.

I urge you to find a copy or pay for a subscription for this article, it should be one that we look back on in 5 years as the “where have we come from” moment in this issue, regarding chronic issues from sports related concussion.

AAN Concussion Guidelines – One Stop Post

19 Mar

Here is the presser for the updated AAN Sports Concussion Guidelines; their guidelines are simple and to the point, via YouTube;

  • No Grading System of concussion
  • 10 day rest period – “key” – Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher
  • Greater risk if you have had a concussion
  • Addressing of youth and recovery
  • Helmets are not the full answer
  • Licensed Health Care Providers should be clearing
  • Repetitive head injuries are bad
  • The discovery and annotation of “Chronic Cognitive Impairment”
  • No single test, CLINICAL assessment
  • “Kids are not little adults.” – Dr. Christopher Giza

Here is the LINK to the Updated Guidelines (can someone give me permission to post it here?)

Here is the LINK to the Sports Concussion Toolkit from AAN

Here is the LINK to the Concussion Quick Check from AAN

==========

What does this mean in comparison to the Zurich Statement?  That is a great question; both groups used “consensus” however this group is much more centered on American practices.  Both have similar approaches, both advise nearly the same thing; but which one carries more weight.  I have been told the AAN will be much more “powerful”, respected and learned than Zurich.

This is a good debate, regardless, there is ample evidence to sit kids and any concussed individual.  This statement also continues the wave of information that cumulative and repetitive trauma to the brain (still figuring out thresholds) is not good.  Based on this and the Zurich statement the only way that we can collectively abate concussions at this point is exposure limitation.  No where in that last sentence does it state “stop playing sports,” or “get rid of football”.

When dealing with the brain and the injury of the brain less is better, which is ironically simple and a “no brainer”.

Zurich 2012 In Writing

12 Mar

If you all recall I went to Zurich in November to attend the “Concussion Conference”; mainly as an observer, but there was enough time and opportunity to impart my questions/knowledge as a practicing athletic trainer.  Here are the links to DAY 1 and DAY 2 of my live blogging.  By the way, the live blogging was WELL received and continues to provide great insight into what went on.  I hope that I am asked back for the next conference, or any other conference that wouldn’t mind my attendance.

Now the information gathered at the conference has been hashed and rehashed and now appears as the 4th Consensus Statement (tweeted previously).

As part of the initiative the Standardized Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) was looked at and changes were made to the 2nd version from 2008.  You can now find the new version by clicking SCAT3.

A new wrinkle was an assessment tool for the younger ages, the group decided on the “Child” version of the new SCAT3, that can also be found by clicking Child SCAT3.

Also included in the addendum of the Consensus Statement was a recognition pocket card, found by clicking Recognition Pocket Card.

All of the above is free and intended to be used as a resource for better concussion assessment and even early management of concussion.  Please read the Statement regarding best practices.  As always this blog is NEVER to be used to diagnose or treat a concussion.  There is a lot to be absorbed and read; one thing is for sure we as athletic trainers and concerned/educated individuals now have the most recent information at our fingertips.  I guess this blog is actually doing some good work :)  A side note; how about this appearing during National Athletic Trainers Month?  It might be a coincidence, but I find it serendipitous.

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