Head Game Movie Providing Head Scratching Already: UPDATE

UPDATE BELOW

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

Parent Urges School Board to Take a Look

In Maryland, Montgomery County to be specific, the school board is taking – at the minimum – a look at what they can possibly do to help with the safety of the kids they are in charge of.  Lisa Gartner of The Examiner wrote a brief column on it;

Montgomery County school officials are weighing efforts to screen high school athletes for concussions and similar head injuries linked to Alzheimer’s-like disease and suicide.

Superintendent Joshua Starr said Tuesday that his staff is drafting a memo on concussions, while school board member Patricia O’Neill asked for a report on the cost and implementation of baseline screening, which would allow doctors to compare athletes’ brain activity before and after injuries.

“I know our budget doesn’t have an inch to spare,” O’Neill said, “but our students’ health obviously has to be paramount.”

As the board mentioned there is not much money there, so why are they entertaining the thought of using baseline tests?  It is just a tool that is often highly criticized for its results.  I feel that if baselines are needed then deals should be made with local doctors that use the tool and are trained to use the tool.  By deals I mean the baselines be given away or at a significantly high discount, then the doctors are in control.  Perhaps if the schools have outsourced athletic trainers the place of employment of the AT’s can defer or absorb the cost.

The point is that a Walt Whitman HS parent by the name of Continue reading

VCU Press Release

I thought I would post a Virgina Commonwealth University finding, begin press release;

 

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury May Alter the Brain’s Neuronal Circuit Excitability and Contribute to Brain Network Dysfunction

RICHMOND, Va. (May 10, 2012) – Even mild head injuries can cause significant abnormalities in brain function that last for several days, which may explain the neurological symptoms experienced by some individuals who have experienced a head injury associated with sports, accidents or combat, according to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine researchers.

These findings, published in the May issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, advance research in the field of traumatic brain injury (TBI), enabling researchers to better understand what brain structural or functional changes underlie posttraumatic disorders – a question that until now has remained unclear.


Previous research has shown that even a mild case of TBI can result in long-lasting neurological issues that include slowing of cognitive processes, confusion, chronic headache, posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.


The VCU team, led by
Kimberle M. Jacobs, Ph.D. , associate professor in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology , demonstrated for the first time, using sophisticated bioimaging and electrophysiological approaches, that mild injury can cause structural disruption of axons Continue reading

Will Football End? Not Because of Lawsuits

I was interviewed for a piece on Slate by Will Oremus on how it’s not the lawsuits for individuals that will cascade and make football go away.  Rather, it will be the lack of action by organizing groups and those that sanction the sport that could create suits against them that will make the game disappear.

For the record I love the sport of football, I truly believe it has its place in our culture and should not be “banned”.  Football has positive attributes that were discussed in the debate by Tim Green and Jason Whitlock, it too has its undesirable side as well (for the purpose of this blog it is injuries, catastrophic ones at that).

Oremus took a look from a different angle, one that makes a whole lot of sense;

It seems obvious that suing coaches and trainers like Dustin Fink, while holding institutions unaccountable, can’t be the answer to reforming football. Going after individual high schools and colleges isn’t much better. If the evidence that even small hits can cause permanent damage keeps mounting, people will start to ask whether fielding an amateur football team constitutes gross negligence in itself.

The answer to that question should come not from the courts but from high-school athletic conferences, Continue reading

Concussion Article Links – MUST READ

Since the tragic and untimely death of Junior Seau the concussion issue has begun to fester like a three-day old pimple on a 13 year-old’s greasy face.  It is ready to pop and keeping up with all of the pertinent articles and “specials” has been very trying.  In this post I will attempt to link up and highlight as many as I can (surely I will miss many, however Concerned Mom in the comment section will have more).

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Lets begin with ESPN and the Outside the Lines week-long look at concussions.  I have found this to be must see, my DVR is a testament to this; using previous stories and bringing in commentators on the subject have provided information and even fireworks.  Yesterday Merril Hoge and Matt Chaney did just that – provide information and create fireworks.  You can find the podcast here (panelists begin about 7:30 mark).

Hoge drew my ire earlier this week with his admonishing of Kurt Warner’s statement of being a father, however yesterday he did have a very valid point about the management of concussions.  I have said is ad nausea here: the elephant in the room is the management of concussions, however Hoge sounded a bit “underconcerned” about the actual injury.  Which is where Chaney had very valid points about the exposure of concussions to the youth.  They are both right in my estimation; the management is the larger issue but we are seeing too many too young people being effected by concussions.  There needs to be work in both areas and remember this is not just a football issue.

We have the duty to protect our kids and if that means flag football for 5-13 year-olds then I am cool with that.  If we find after making such a drastic change that has not been enough then we can take it further if needed.  I feel that a change like this will allow a few things: 1) more time to let the brain develop and thus allowing research to catch up to what we know.  2) employ more medical providers in a position to find, assess and manage concussions (see athletic trainers). And 3) begin a culture shift about the seriousness of concussions, after all this is a brain injury.

As Chaney later told me; Continue reading

Are Our Kids Guinea Pigs for Concussions

This is not a “nuclear” question or statement, it is an observation – brought to the forefront by Irv Muchnick of BeyondChron.  Irv has the ability to write and raise questions that many do not want to address nor face, but he does make you think if you take the time to read.  As I heard a wise man once tell me; “read and listen to all sides even if you don’t agree”.  There are many reasons for this I have gathered over time, but the most important is that others seem to provoke more thoughts and further information.

Today Irv posted an editorial about how he thinks our children are now the subject of trial and error in the realm of concussions;

The toothpaste of “concussion awareness” is out of the tube, oozing like spinal fluid. When all the solutions have been implemented and (mostly not) paid for, more or less the same critical mass of bad outcomes will happen anyway. These include, silently, insidiously, the killing of brain tissue over time. And if I happen to be exaggerating a tad, who among us really want to volunteer their sons for the next generation of guinea pigs in the “control groups” of NFL-underwritten “peer-reviewed literature”?

Yes, football promotes some good values, such as teamwork and community. So does Continue reading

Concussion Information from UB

Dr. John J. Ledy performed a webinar for the Brain Injury Association of New York State.  It is a very interesting topic; how to utilize controlled exercise in concussion recovery.  This video was published on YouTube by BIANYS, it is over an hour in length but like most stuff I put on here it is worth the listen.

Again this falls under the mantra “none of us is as smart as all of us.”

Aussie’s Now Start to Take it Serious

You have seen us blast the Australian Rules Football league on occasion for how they handle concussions, but you have also see us applaud the forward thinking of research coming from Down Under.  Now there is a movement to subject players to a yearly brain scan exam in hopes of identifying problems;

Andrew Krakouer’s manager Peter Jess has written to the AFL seeking changes, as he stresses links between depression and continuing concussions in football.

The AFL research board has funded a study to see if elite players are more susceptible to cognitive disorders later in life due to concussions.

But Jess said the league must go further, and was frustrated with AFL doctor Hugh Seward’s assessment that there is no link between concussion and depression.

Jess said at least one brain scan — Continue reading

Ray Lucas Concussion Recall

In this quick video Ray Lucas, former NY Jets quarterback, recalls a concussion he had in a game.  Obviously this was prior to what we know now and it illustrates how bad it truly was.  The important take-away from this is that we can no longer handle concussions this way, ESPECIALLY in adolescent football.  However it would be a complete farce to think this still does not happen.

What Impact can WE make?

I have worked with Battle Sports Science for the past year, mainly as the athletic trainer trying to come up with all the problems one would have by putting any “concussion” device on the field of play.  The things I have gained out of this relationship are: friendship, an opportunity to be the overbearing and opinionated athletic trainer, be on the cutting edge of the concussion awareness movement, tickets to a Nebraska football game, and a few Impact Indicators (oh and an unflattering picture of me on the package).  More importantly what I have learned in the relationship; is that with Chris Circo at the helm there is truly a company out there looking to make a difference – yes they aim to profit as well – however they want to get it right.  It all begins with the words and actions.  One such action that carried heavy weight for me was a conversation about their mouthguards.  I mentioned to Circo that I felt his product claims on the mouthguard was out of line in terms of their concussion claims, and just asked him to remove it.  Guess what, he did!  He had to change packaging and even when there was a distributor that had the old verbage on a website was found he made a call and had that changed too.

I tell you this because Chris has worked on a post for this blog (hopefully others) to use to bring up the question: “How can WE ALL help?”  It explains what they are trying to accomplish as well, using the Impact Indicator as a good first step;

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What Vince Lombardi can teach us about protecting athletes from brain injuries.

Gap-toothed and sporting a trademark crew cut, the face of Vince Lombardi brings to mind one word for most football fans, winning. It’s easy to see why too. The legendary coach led the Green Bay Packers to 3 straight league championships, won 2 consecutive Super Bowls and never had a losing season as a head coach in the NFL. He’s also famous for a quote about winning he never uttered, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” The hard-nosed coach’s actual quote “Winning isn’t everything … but wanting to win is” gives us I believe, cause to stop and think.

The place we find ourselves today in the battle to reduce head injuries in football is Continue reading

Lesser known but just as powerful

Thirteen days before Junior Seau was found dead in California with an apparent gun shot wound to the chest there was another former NFL player who ended his own life.  His name was obviously not as “powerful” as Seau’s however, Ray Easterling left in his wake just as much trouble and turmoil over the issue of head injuries.

In an article written by Mike Tierney of the New York Times it is tough to shrug off all that we have come to know over the past few years, just read about how Mary Ann Easterling, Ray’s widow, is handling and plans to go forward with her life and her husbands legacy;

For Mary Ann Easterling, the prudent and less painful options, it might seem, are to move away and move on.

Relocate from the home where she found the body of her husband, Ray, a handgun nearby, and the neighborhood where Ray, a former N.F.L. safety, would become disoriented on long-distance jogs, sometimes prompting one-woman search parties at 2 a.m.
Withdraw his name from the class-action lawsuit that accuses the league of improperly caring for retired players with head injuries, a consequence that she contends turned Ray’s last two decades into a living, foggy hell.
Instead, Mary Ann, 59, plans to go nowhere. She won’t leave the brick ranch house on Continue reading

Educational Videos

Thanks to our heads up commenter Concerned Mom I perused two videos that she linked up.  They are produced and posted onto YouTube by the Massachusetts School of Law.  In the two-part series you will learn what we know and are learning; being in Massachusetts there is access to the BSTE (Nowinski, Cantu, Stern and McKee group).

Both videos are an hour in length but are again worth the time to sort out some things you may find questionable.  As with most information regarding concussions it is hard to agree with ABSOLUTELY every part of this information, but it is as one person told me “worth posting”.

In the second one at 17:04 mark is where the now famous statement from Dr. Cantu on collisions sports and those under the age of 14.  It echos what we have come to accept at this point.  The way collision sports are being played currently are not a safe ground for youth and adolescent brains.

Thoughts on Warner, Toomer and Concussions

Even with the recent events of the Junior Seau passing the issue of concussions, CTE, safety, and longevity of the sport have been very much a hot topic.  What hasn’t happened, until recently, is the overt and valuable opinions of those that played in the public forum.  Yesterday while traveling to the high school I was listening to the radio and hearing what Kurt Warner had to say about his thoughts as a father watching his sons play football.  Basically he stated that AS A FATHER he had concerns and was worried for his children, mainly because of safety and the long-term effects of playing.  He himself stated he is “worried” about his health going forward as well.

All genuine and pertinent information from a former player that carries a lot of weight, and I didn’t have one problem with it.  Even though he stated he didn’t want his kids to play (as a father) he is not the first, Harry Carson made the same statements about his grandchildren.  What caught me completely off-guard was the reaction from former player, teammate of Warner and NY Giant (same team as Carson), Amani Toomer;

“What this reminds me of is the guy at the basketball court, who once he gets done playing takes the ball and ruins the game for everybody else,” Toomer said  Thursday on NBC SportsTalk. “I think Kurt Warner needs to keep his opinions to himself when it comes to this. Everything that he’s gotten in his life has come from playing football. He works at the NFL Network right now. For him to try and trash the game, it seems to me that it’s just a little disingenuous to me.”

Disingenuous?  He is a father concerned about the safety of his children, how in the world is that disingenuous?  Yes the sport Continue reading

Review: Graduate Study Article on CTE

During this tragic time the inbox has been besieged by many stories, questions and information.  One such email came in on Wednesday night;

In light of Junior’s death, which dovetails with the Saints bounty fallout, I thought I’d pass along this paper I wrote in grad school last year about the long-term risks associated with concussions in professional football. Its something of a review article, that covers the development of CTE and physiology of concussions. I played football in high school and “sucking it up,” as you know, is part of the gridiron culture, but we need to education players, parents, and trainers about the difference between having your bell rung and developing a neurological disorder. This paper hasn’t been peer-reviewed by anyone except my professor, who was a medical writer, not a neurologist but I stand by the science. I started this article by asking for advice from Dr. Robert Stern, the chairman of the Center For The Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University. I drew on their research and many of their articles and they do excellent work.

I also wanted to thank you all for following this issue, which is becoming a major concern for athletes, fans, and families.

The author of the email and of the paper is Doug Taylor and I feel it is a very good piece for all to read.  Although, as Doug notes, the paper is not “peer-reviewed” it does not mean there isn’t valuable information for everyone to read and think about.  I would like to thank Doug for sharing this.

Long Term Effects of Concussions – Doug Taylor

Sports-related concussions are one of the most common injuries sustained by professional football players. The acute symptoms that follow a mild traumatic brain injury are well established, with many instances of headaches, confusion, dizziness, and short spells of amnesia. The long-term effects of these injuries are less comprehensively understood. Continue reading

Family Allows Brain to be Studied

In the aftermath of the suicide of Junior Seau the most pressing question was if the family was going to allow researchers to study his brain in-depth.  It has now been reported that the Seau family has agreed to this as Michael O’Keeffe wrote last night;

Two research groups — the Brain Injury Research Institute and Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy — made bids to persuade Seau’s family to donate his brain to them within 24 hours after the Pro Bowl linebacker’s death.

It sounds ghoulish for scientists to vie for a beloved athlete’s brain so soon after his death, but the researchers needed to let the Seau family know of their interest before it makes arrangements for his remains. “You can’t do this kind of test on a living person,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, the director of the Brain Injury Research Institute.[…]

“Either they get it or we get it,” Bailes said Thursday before the Seau family told BIRI it would donate Junior’s brain to the Boston researchers. Bailes said it could help researchers determine if genetics play a role in CTE, or whether concussions — as opposed to repeated, but less serious, blows to the head — are necessary to bring on CTE.

“This specimen needs to be examined,” Bailes said. “It doesn’t matter who does it. There are only two groups doing this kind of work.”

Although the BIRI – Continue reading

The Reaction in Media to Seau’s Death

We have seen a snippet of what the former players have said, in this post I will pass along articles and samples of them.  The underlying current is troubling for football.  We have posted and posted and posted about this from the word go here, caution and education seem to be the tenants to keeping football safe, however it will never be completely “safe” but in regards to traumatic brain injuries there are answers.

If one wants to really divest themselves of emotion over the sport of football then the answers are clear.  However the current answers are only a STEP in the right direction.  Eventually finding all independent information about repeated blows to the head in sport may be a doomsday for some.

The first article to highlight is by Andy Staples of SI.com; Continue reading

Former Players Reaction to Seau

With all the illogical conclusions that are happening in the press there are some small positives already.  The biggest of which, less than 24 hours after the untimely death of a great individual is the former players speaking out about depression and post-career condition.  No longer has it become taboo to talk of depression.

Now players need to take stock of their physical and mental health, some players are such as Emmitt Smith;

“Depression & suicide are serious matters and we as current and former NFL players should demand better treatment. Lack of info … no more!!!,” former Dallas Cowboys Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith said on his Twitter account.

“And for you current players who think this issue doesn’t effect u. Get your head out of your but. Where u r 2day was his (Seau’s) yesterday.”

In the same article James Johnston Jr., had this comment on former NFL’ers; Continue reading

CTE Insight from the Bostonia: but take time to remember the real pioneer

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

RIP #55… Everyone Hold your Horses #C4CT

With the tragic news of the death, at his own hands, of Junior Seau along with the peculiarly similar initial circumstances of Dave Duerson everyone needs to step back.  Yes, the very first thought that crossed my mind was Dave Duerson upon hearing the reports, mainly by Twitter.  However, what we must collectively do now is allow the process to unfold.

Not unlike sustaining a concussion the news is just the beginning.  When someone sustains a concussion often there are instant leaps to conclusions about time missed, long-term effects, and safety.  With a concussion it is a process, after time is allowed to properly asses the situation, create a plan and implement it there is nothing more to note other than it is a concussion.

And just like concussions people act in different ways, there is no rhyme or reason for many of these tragic situations, often it is because one has not had the proper education and levity of the situation.

I would just like to caution EVERYONE, let the process begin without jumping to conclusions.  In due time we will find out all the necessary information.  I for one hope against all hope that this has nothing to do with his brain health.

Thank You. #C4CT

Malcolm Gladwell and His Thoughts on Football and the need for AT’s

Malcolm Gladwell is an accomplished author, in fact I find his book “Blink” as one of the most influential in my little world.  He has spoken out against the dangers of football even comparing it to dog-fighting, but through all the hyperbole there are some very valid and astute points that need to be listened to.

Kathy Waldman did and interview with Gladwell and wrote it up for Slate on Monday.  Here I will highlight the most striking Q and A’s, you can read the entire article HERE.

Slate: What do you think is the single most compelling reason to abolish college football? Corruption? Head injury? Lost focus on academics?

Malcolm Gladwell: The factor that I think will be decisive is the head-injury issue. Colleges are going to get sued, and they will have to decide whether they can afford their legal exposure. That said, the issue ought to be how big-time college sports subverts the academic mission of university education.

If it becomes a problem at the college level, what does that say about the lower levels?  I agree that head-injury issue is the biggest Continue reading

This is a Current Treatment for the Concussive Episode

First and foremost there is no “scientific” evidence of actual medical effectiveness with the product, however there has been recent and popular observational data to suggest that this modality and product may help.  The said product is the GyroStim;

The GyroStim™ is a fully automated, computer-controlled multi-axis rotating chair. Its spacious design is comfortable and safe, and can accommodate many types of individuals ranging from small children to elite athletes to those with significant disabilities.

I bet any sports fan out there has seen it, it was highlighted in the recovery of Sidney Crosby and most recently another NHL star Guillaume Latendresse of the Minnesota Wild.  The thought process is that when a concussion occurs one of the systems affected is the vestibular.  For the layman the vestibular system is responsible for our awareness in space using very fine and specific equipment in the inner ear.  Imagine when you were younger and had just gotten out of a pool from swimming and had water in your ears, then you decided to shake your head or run real fast and found yourself “a bit off”.  This is similar in nature with a concussion, the violent forces to the head can create a disruption of this system, Continue reading

Now what?

So I turn 32 today. It’s kind of a non-age. In my mind, 33 is a bit of a milestone, 30 is an obvious milestone, but 32, that’s nothing. Of course, I couldn’t care less either way. Age means very little to me now, but I guess this is as good a day as any for me to reminisce/write about the past 9 years (8 years and 9 months, actually) and where I am now.

I’m fairly surprised about how happy I am now and how good I feel. On this day 9 years ago, I was with a friends in London, ON, on a inter-term break from my Master’s program (in Public Administration – MPA) from the University of Victoria. The next day, I would get picked up in Toronto and would get a ride  to the Ottawa River, near Cobden, to go whitewater rafting for the weekend (along with about 15 more friends). Good times!

I then went back to Victoria for term 2 of my MPA program and I continued training for triathlon, a sport I tried for the first time in January of that same year. Three months later, I crashed into a tree and my life changed.

When we were rafting/bouncing our way Continue reading

Possible treatment for concussion?

As we progress on the concussion front there are many aspects of this PROCESS that we are still finding out about.  One of the most pressing is how to treat the after-effects of the injury.  Current management can help abate the symptoms of roughly 85% of those suffering from the injury, for the other 15% there are few “treatments” that have worked across the board.  Off label use of FDA approved drugs has shown promise for some, like Hillary Werth;

Werth, a brakeman who was considered an Olympic hopeful, had her bobsledding career cut short by a series of concussions she suffered while competing in Germany and Canada.

Despite the injuries, she said she doesn’t regret her relatively brief time with the team. And she is thankful for the novel intravenous treatments she received after the concussions — treatments for which scientists are seeking Food and Drug Administration approval because they believe millions of stroke patients across the country could benefit. Continue reading

Add Kentucky to the List

Just before the second biggest day in the state this year (behind the UK/Louisville game) Kentucky becomes the 34th state (by our count) to enact some concussion legislation;

House Bill 281 is now law. Governor Steve Beshear signed the bill at Central High School in Louisville, a school rich in football history. The bill is designed to protect all student athletes in Kentucky who suffer a concussion.

It requires coaches, trainers and athletic directors to not only receive training on how to recognize a concussion but to also act in the best interest of the student’s health before allowing that student to play again.[…]

Neurologist Tad Seifert was at Central High for the signing. He says the second hit to a concussed head can be a life-changing blow, “speech, memory, motor skills, it would be very similar to somebody that’s had a devastating stroke” said Dr. Seifert.

It is worth noting that legislation is only a step in the process.  Having mandatory recognition for those involved with adolescent sports is a good beginning.  We all can do much more than the bare minimum, that being said, good job Kentucky.