U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce

Yesterday we posted the press release regarding the hearing on concussions and the marketing of sports equipment.  Soon after that post I received many communications about what was said and my feelings on the subject.  Before we get into how exactly I feel regarding this one short hearing I think you should take the time to see it for your self.  It is a long hearing with five witnesses, so you will have to have a lot of time, HOWEVER IF YOU ONLY HAVE 10 MINUTES IT CAN BE SUMMED UP FROM THE 30:20 MARK TO THE 40:45 MARK.

Click HERE to jump to hearing, via US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation website.

In those ten minutes you hear exactly what is wrong with current the current concussion situation, not from doctors, senators, or the “high-ranking” researchers, rather from former student-athletes that lost their playing careers due to this brain injury.  Alexis Ball and Steven Threet paint a picture of the athlete, the one in harm’s way, not fully knowing about the severity of the brain injury called concussions.  They discuss the “athlete mentality” of playing through pain and giving the necessary answers to continue to play.  The main reason for the hearing was not to show what is wrong with the awareness of the injury rather how companies may be relying upon the lack of knowledge to sell products.  Both individuals discussed equipment they wore that may they or others may have thought would have attenuated the injury or even prevent the injury, but have in retrospect done nothing of the sort.

It is not fair to throw all equipment makers under the bus, some have efforted changes (or never began) in the approach of capitalizing on concussions, like Xenith, Schutt or TapouT mouthguards.  However there are others that have said/marketed questionable things as to muddy the water and use information in a way to garner possible sales, and they are not limited to those included in the hearing.  This topic is needed, the hearing was needed, if nothing else to start the conversation about proper and prudent information to the parents, coaches and athletes – particularly the adolescent athlete.

In today’s society often times perception is reality regardless if the facts and information that may lead other directions.  With big budgets on advertising and marketing and the sometime loose interpretations of “scientific claims” people and industry can get away with misleading – even fraudulent – claims to put their product in better standing, thus getting more sales (see money).  This not only encompasses equipment and supplements, but also testing and evaluation products/mechanisms.  Everything in the concussion realm MUST be looked at as unproven until further, independent, well-designed clinical studies have weighed in.

I have taken on the “mouthgear” controversy for some time and felt as I was the only one, I have spoken to the ineffectiveness of helmets/equipment in the concussive brain injury (the brain is floating in cerebro-spinal fluid), I have discussed the blood-brain barrier and how supplements and pharmaceuticals may not be effective, I have presented both sides of the neurocognitve testing, I have looked at smartphone apps, and just about everything that gets emailed to me.  One constant remains, if these products and services claim anything other than being A PART of the processes in identification and management of concussion then they usually are heavily scrutinized by me (a lot of the time behind the scenes in rather short email conversations).  If anyone claims prevention or attenuation then usually the cordial emails turn into research based tongue lashings.

Yes there are things out there like neurocognitive test that have been through the ringer and will test out well for the population, but that “screening” is not the sole answer; nor is any equipment, no mater the technology employed (at this time).  We simply don’t have all the information about the concussive brain injury, and probably won’t for some time.  Can there be hope for tests and equipment, absolutely but it takes time and effort and science (see money).  However for the time being everyone should know that there is no “magic pill” in prevention, identification and clearance for concussions.  What we should have are inventive people who can bring products to the market that over time will show their effectiveness; but at the same time they should not make any claim other than “a tool for the concussion tool box”.

I will leave you with a great analogy from Don Brady, PhD, PsyD, NCSP;

If I am suspected of having a heart attack; I do not want just a 20 minute screening conducted on myself and final conclusions drawn on limited “evidence”.  Screening that DOES NOT assess ALL known heart attack symptoms.  I want a comprehensive assessment; then why are we even allowing screenings for RTP the same day or any time when: a- not all symptoms of a concussion are assessed. b- it is clearly known symptoms related to concussions may take several days to manifest itself .

Would love to hear your comments…

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