On the surface this article may be innocuous to many, but the the minutia of concussion research and information is coming to a head very quickly, especially pertaining to the NFL. Tomorrow is the first hearings in front of the judge – and the possibility of total dismissal - for the concussion law suits filed by thousands of former NFL players.
ESPN and its Outside the Lines department (in conjunction with Frontline) filed this article taking a look at two of the most prominent people in the concussion research/awareness arena, Dr. Robert Cantu and Chris Nowinski;
Two prominent concussion researchers — including a senior adviser to the NFL — served as paid consultants to law firms suing the league for allegedly concealing the link between football and brain damage, according to interviews and documents obtained by “Outside the Lines” and “Frontline.”
The article written by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada sheds light on the very issues the research community faces with this problem. Some of this information can be classified as “not new” to people who participate in the constantly shifting arena of litigation and research, while some information can be deemed as scathing. There is a very tight and ubiquitous line in this matter;
Researchers often are asked to appear as expert witnesses in legal proceedings related to their fields. The NFL suit, with the potential for billions of dollars in damages, has created a large demand for researchers with expertise in the science of concussions.
But some researchers said they have turned down such requests despite the potentially lucrative payoff out of concern the perceived conflict could compromise their research.
Conflict of interest (COI) is something we all need to pay attention to, although it applies to this current article, the COI in this field is rampant and often unchecked. This is nothing new, players have talked about COI, other journalists have noted it, and one of our prominent commentators (Dr. Don Brady) on the site has even devoted some of his dissertation to COI.
It would seem this is nothing “new” in the world Continue reading
I recently read a story in the Globe and Mail, “Stampeders backpedal on concussion talk” about Calgary QB Drew Tate who was hit in a head-to-head collision in the 2nd quarter of play on Sunday, November 11. At halftime, Tate said that he had his “bell rung” and couldn’t remember the first half of play, generating this comment from Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun, “All the questions Monday will and should revolve around the apparent silliness of letting Tate play after his halftime admission to TSN.” (emphasis added) Not to worry though, according to Tate all that really happened is that he was “dinged” and “felt some fuzziness”, besides, as Tate says, “As far as talk about a concussion, I didn’t get what the fuss was because I felt fine and just wanted to play.” The Stampeders administered concussion tests during the game, after the game, and Monday morning. Tate was ruled to be symptom free.
It seems fairly clear that Tate was concussed. However, not according to Dave Dickenson, Calgary’s offensive coordinator and a former QB, whose diagnosis was that he “can tell when I look into someone’s eyes if they are concussed or not,” and he didn’t see any symptoms. Nevertheless, Chris Nowinski knows a thing or two about concussions, concussion management, and the Continue reading
I have stated from day one, that simple awareness of what a concussion is and how it should be handled will help with the epidemic and looming issues in all sports. Football is the easy target but concussions come from all walks of life, mainly bike riding and wheeled activities like skateboarding. Awareness is spreading, and along with that there will be changes to the things we enjoy. They should not be taken away, but to prevent someone from doing that proactive steps must be taken.
Mike Cardillo of ctpost.com wrote an article about such culture change in his neck of the woods, Connecticut;
“There’s always been a culture of football about playing through injury,” Coyne said earlier this summer at a concussion awareness night in Westport. “It doesn’t seem like a real injury, like an ACL tear, so it doesn’t seem important.”
Across the board, only a few years after Coyne last played a down, attitudes toward concussions and how they pertain to the sport of football have changed, if not revolutionized.
And more changes are needed, if we are to stave of those that want to bubble wrap our kids. The article explained the Pop Warner rule changes with practice, a good first step in my opinion, but there is more to be done without harming the game, as Chris Nowinski stated in the article;
“The way we were playing in the past, a few years ago, I wouldn’t expose any child to where you’re hitting three, four days a week, drills that never should be done with coaches who aren’t trained for concussions. That was the Wild West,” he said. “Now if we truly commit to attacking all the risk factors, which does include assessment and management, then it remains to be seen if it’s safe enough. Then it becomes a personal decision for the parents to make.”
And with that, the injury of concussion is not the elephant in the room, Continue reading
Apparently it is press release day here at The Concussion Blog, ha. The film that used Chris Nowinski’s “Head Games” as its base will be released September 21st for the general public. Although I was invited to the premiere in Chicago I could not make it, so I too am looking forward to what Steve James has directed. Regardless of who produced this work it has the potential to provide the needed awareness about the negative culture of sports in regards to concussions. Here it the official press release;
Award-winning filmmaker tackles hot-button issue of concussions in sport
Alex Klenert, Prodigy PR, firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-857-2020 x141
Dylan Marchetti, Variance Films, email@example.com, 212-537-6769 x1
New York, July 31, 2012 – Variance Films announced today that it has acquired theatrical rights to HEAD GAMES, the new documentary feature from acclaimed director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” The Interrupters”) that takes a nuanced, intelligent look at the concussion crisis in American sports. The film will begin its theatrical run on September 21st in select cities and expand throughout top markets in September and October, with select screenings to feature guest speakers and panel discussions.
Additionally, audiences elsewhere will have the opportunity to bring the film to their local theaters using Tugg, a new collective-action web platform that enables individuals to choose the films that play in their local theaters.
HEAD GAMES contrasts eye-opening evidence and cutting-edge science on head trauma from the nation’s leading medical experts with first-hand accounts from athletes, coaches, and parents who Continue reading
The Ivy League once again takes proactive steps in regards to concussions. After reducing contact days in football last year, the league Presidents approved similar changes for lacrosse and soccer;
The league announced Monday that its presidents accepted a series of recommendations made by a committee, including the possibility of suspension for hits to the head. The changes, which also will limit the amount of contact in practice, will take effect this fall for men and women.
The recommendations call for continued emphasis on educational initiatives. Consistent with current protocols, preseason meetings will emphasize learning and recognizing the signs of concussions, as well as the importance of reporting symptoms of concussions.
The Ivy league will next turn its attention on hockey.
I truly appreciate what the Ivy League is doing; non-radial with little to no cost moves that will be reassessed as time goes on. I don’t know why it takes the smartest schools to make simple changes. Honestly do you think they were the first to figure out that decreasing exposure will decrease concussions?
Lester Munson of ESPN gives a insiders perspective of the law suits the former NFL players have filed;
The numbers are reaching the point where the litigation now qualifies as “mass tort,” a legal term that has been used to describe litigation on tobacco, asbestos and toxic medications.
The players are also demanding in a separate class action lawsuit that the NFL fund a program of medical monitoring for all former players (even those who did not play enough to qualify for retirement benefits), a program that would provide periodic examinations for early signs of concussion damage. The number of retired NFL players is uncertain, but players’ lawyers and their union estimate that there are at least 20,000 players who Continue reading
Irv Muchnick has been using his investigative nature to find out about the new movie “Head Games” based on the Chris Nowinski book and history. Although the use of alternate media is a wonderful thing and that this movie will at least bring more people to the discussion there are some peculiar things about at least the production and the producers that make one wonder.
Muchnick, who has turned over a new leaf and started to lean away from the ‘nuclear option’ of banning the sport of football period to a more incremental – albeit very conservative incremental (however he does deserve credit for adjusting his train of thought) – approach to limiting tackle football for youth. However the bulldog that he is, Muchnick has uncovered some interesting tidbits on the new movie, currently he is in Part 5;
The principal funder of the new documentary film Head Games is Steve Devick, a billionaire music and technology entrepreneur, who co-invented and is marketing a sports sideline concussion tool called the King-Devick Test.
On the virtual eve of the first preview screening of the movie in Chicago – originally billed as a “red carpet premiere,” now called a “private sneak peek” – Continue reading
Shortly before this blog began in September of 2010 there was a brilliant article written in Bostonia regarding the work that Boston University was doing. This article did not fall into my lap until yesterday during the Junior Seau reporting, it was found tweeted out by none other than Will Carroll, @injuryexpert.
We have come to understand a bit more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) though the work of those in Boston. It would be an absolute shame to not mention the person who first found this brain issue, Dr. Bennet Omalu. Dr. Omalu found it but then was unceremoniously Continue reading
Sometime today Sports Legacy Institute (SLI), headed by Dr. Robert Cantu and Chris Nowinski are going to release a “white paper” that will “plan to spread successful NFL policy changes to all youth sports,” this according to Irvin Muchnick via his blog Concussion Inc.
What is a white paper? Glad you asked it is important for context (via Wikipedia);
A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that helps solve a problem. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions, and may be a consultation as to the details of new legislation. The publishing of a white paper signifies a clear intention on the part of a government to pass new law. White Papers are a “ … tool of participatory democracy … not [an] unalterable policy commitment. “White Papers have tried to perform the dual role of presenting firm government policies while at the same time inviting opinions upon them.”
It is mentioned that along with SLI, Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy (headed by Dr. Ann McKee) will be in the white paper as well.
I will be interested to see what exactly they are Continue reading
We have seen that Omalu and others in the field have been saying one or two weeks may be not enough to “calm down” the effects of a concussion. What was pointed out by our friend Matt Chaney is that some of the “heavy hitters” had not followed the same plan. That was until now, as Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute said this during an interview on the Dennis & Callahan show of WEEI;
Nowinski said it makes no sense to rush an athlete back after a concussion. “Science is starting to show that you almost can’t be too sensitive to this issue,” he said. “While guys are coming back from concussions in a few days or maybe a week or two, some studies are showing that the changes in the brain — that really expose the brain to another hit will cause more damage, this window of vulnerability — is really a lot longer than a few days. And some people might be 30 days or even 60 days. The reality is, maybe if you don’t want to make a concussion worse, no one should be back within a month. The science is starting to point in that direction, but it will be a while before we can confirm that.”
This is a very positive trend, one that I have been hammering into the coaches and Continue reading
While doing the usual searches I came across a neat article on an obscure website. Although the ranking of these individuals is purely subjective it is nice to see some “dues” being paid.
The title of the story is 10 Famous Athlete Who Are Also Incredibly Smart with the no. 1 spot going to Bill Brady (granted Myron Rolle has not achieved the stature of Brady I believe that Rolle may be the smartest ‘famous athlete’). However that is not what dove me there, it was number five ranked Chris Nowinski;
Chris Nowinski: Wrestling is no longer the costume sport for maladjusted 13-year-old boys: the brief tenure of Chris Nowinski shows that even Harvard-educated guys can take a pounding. Nowinski was WWE’s first Harvard alum, having studied sociology at the Ivy League school. He suffered a number of concussions during his wrestling career, and he retired in 2003 before going on to write Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis, which examines the dangers of concussions in football and pro sports. He’s now an expert in the field and serves as president of the Sports Legacy Institute, which is devoted to athlete brain trauma.
Not too shabby for a “wrassler” who had is “bell rung” a few too many times.
Why not buy a book, a good book?
First of all, the fact that I am recommending a book will come as a shock to my mother, as she swears I don’t know how to read anything other than the internet and research. Secondly, I am shocked that it took me this freaking long to get this out there.
Chris Nowinski of Sports Legacy Institute, and formerly of the WWE and a Harvard football player, wrote a book in 2006 that opened A LOT of eyes. If you have not read it or heard of it, now is a good time to do so.
You can visit his website or go to Amazon.com and get it for your Kindle, “Head Games” is the title.
Irvin Muchnick of BeyondChron out of San Francisco wrote an article about the concussion issue reaching a critical mass both in sports and in the political arena.
He makes great points about the start of the investigations into the long-term effects of concussions, crediting Chris Nowinski of the SLI and formerly of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). We have shed a bright light on the issue many times here, however the angle that Muchnick takes is into the political scene. With the election of Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut (home of the WWE), he feels that more attention needs to be given to the matter of concussions.
Although we as sports fans are not looking for an overhaul of the “distractions” we enjoy, particularly on Sundays in the fall, the impetus is now, and with help we can come up with resolute actions to protect EVERYONE. This includes the professionals all the way down to the youth, and back up to the recreational athlete. Plus, do not forget about the general public, as this is not a sports-only issue. Sports will be the vehicle to get the action Muchnick is looking for.
A story by WCVB TV in Boston takes a look at how the NFL needs to start teaching, by example, how often dangerous hits can cause harm.
Pat Graham penned a story for the AP today about the Sports Legacy Institute and its ongoing contribution to the “concussion crisis” we are facing.
Interviewed in the story were various professional sports athletes, as well as Chris Nowinski the Director of the SLI. The point of the story was to shed light on the fact the 300+ people are dedicating their “brains” to the research of it all. Not only will these people donate their brains after a long life, they are undergoing annual testing for data collection.
Ideally, Nowinski said the center would like to sign up 50 athletes from each sport. Most of the volunteers are men, but there are women in the registry including soccer player Cindy Parlow and swimmer Jenny Thompson.
Athletes who are enrolled in the registry take a medical history every year, perform cognitive tests and answer an array of questions, such as if they’ve been dealing with bouts of depression. It’s a way to establish a medical baseline, helping researchers watch for signs of CTE, which can eventually lead to dementia.
“We have no idea how much head trauma is necessary to produce (CTE),” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery and co-founder of the institute. “We just know those who play sports and who have higher amounts of head trauma have a higher incident of it. … This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of studying this problem.”
Follow this JUMP to read the entire article.
I encourage everyone to visit the Sports Legacy Institute via the link on the left. This is a great initiative that began in 2007 with the ideas from Chris Nowinski. Headed on the medical side by Robert Cantu, MD this program is the leader in CTE research.
On Friday October 1st, this conference was held with 192 in attendance listening to the 11 speakers about how head trauma is affecting sports/athletes in Boston, MA. More importantly it was being discussed how the young athlete is most susceptible and preventative steps must be taken.
Chris Nowinski, co-director of the Boston University Center for study of CTE, and advisory board member of www.sportsconcussions.org, was to the point about reducing hits to the head of individual athletes,
“We can have a way to reduce the number of hits in the head from 1,000 to 300, tomorrow.”
But a lot needs to be studied and in order to do that more brains are needed. Thankfully there are some out there that are willing to donate when the time comes.
Some 350 athletes, from all sports and including amateurs, have agreed to donate their brains to the Boston University center since the program’s inception last year; its goal is 750 donations. Meanwhile, six retired pro athletes are participating in a study in which their brains undergo state-of-the-art imaging tests, and they already have produced evidence of lost brain tissue compared to non-athletes.
Next month, the center directors said, 200 retired NFL players of all ages and years of experience will begin a program of neurological, psychiatric and medical study that will include spinal taps, to track potential brain injury and disease and find other ways that they can be diagnosed.
Read the entire story here.