2013 BIAC Annual Conference

The Brain Injury Association of Canada is having their annual conference September 25-27 in Kingston, Ontario.  I have worked with the BIAC and various American adjuncts for years, it is a great organization.  If this were not knee-deep in football season around here I would gladly attend.  I think everyone that has the chance; from the layman, survivor, and professional should be there.  There is an early bird rate if you get signed up before June 15th so don’t delay and get registered today.

Nick Mercer: A Story “like that of so many others.”

Benjamin Gray , 18, was a defenceman for the J.L. Ilsley Judges – a high school hockey team from West Pennant, Nova Scotia (about 20 km from Halifax). By grade 12, he had sustained three concussions from playing high school hockey and, after taking time away from school and after his rage boiled over one day in August, his family took him to a specialist who told him not to play contact sports again. “I never felt healthy. There was just too much anxiety, depression and definitely anger problems.” The full story, written by Monty Mosher, is here: ‘A ticking time bomb’ 

Benjamin, hoping to help others in similar situations, wrote a letter discussing his experiences. Unfortunately, it is a story to which too many can relate. I urge young athletes, parents, educators, coaches and league administrators to read this letter and know that it was written by someone who is only 18:

I started playing hockey when I was 6 years old. I was dedicated, motivated and passionate about this sport and I trained hard at being the best player I could be. I never imagined that I would one day be told by a neurosurgeon that I could never play hockey again. At the age of 18, I was diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome as a result of three concussions I had sustained while playing high school hockey. To say that this news was devastating and that it has impacted my life would be an understatement. My story, as I am learning, is like that of so many others.

By the time I had my third concussion, I was not allowed to play hockey for 6 weeks. I knew the only way to get my family doctor Continue reading

False/Misleading Advertising Targeted

If there is one thing in the concussion issue that really draws my ire its the false and sometimes fraudulent advertising of some companies claiming they can prevent concussions with a product.  There has been a good effort to reduce this, however now there may be some serious teeth behind the problem.  A press release;

For Immediate Release
May 22, 2013
Tom Udall Press Office / 202.228.6870 / news@tomudall.senate.gov 
Kevin McAlister (Rockefeller) 202.224.8374 / kevin_mcalister@commerce.senate.gov 
Udall, Rockefeller Introduce Bill to Help Protect Young Athletes from Sports-Related Traumatic Brain Injuries
WASHINGTON – To mark National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today introduced legislation that seeks to protect youth athletes from the dangers of sports-related traumatic brain injuries by improving equipment safety standards and curbing false advertising claims.
The Youth Sports Concussion Act will help ensure that safety standards for sports equipment are up to date and informed by the latest science. The bill will also increase potential penalties for using false injury prevention claims to sell youth sports equipment.
“We want our children to be active and participate in sports, but we must take every precaution to protect them from traumatic head injuries,” said Udall. “There will always be some risk, but athletes, coaches and parents need to be aware of Continue reading

Free Webinar (TODAY)

For those looking to cash in on this concussion issue with innovative ideas and products, you should not miss this opportunity;

GE & the NFL are teaming up to accelerate concussion research, diagnosis and treatment. The Head Health Initiative aims to develop new solutions to help diagnose mild traumatic brain injury. This initiative starts with a two-year open innovation program to invest up to $20 million in research and technology. This includes the first Challenge, the focus of this webinar, which offers a $10 million award to better understand and diagnose traumatic brain injury. A second component of the initiative is a four-year $40 million research and development program to determine the key imaging biomarkers in the brain.

Featured speaker include Mark A. Phillips, Chief Marketing Officer, GE Healthcare, Healthcare Systems and Kevin Guskiewicz, Ph.D., Chair, NFL’s Head, Neck & Spine Committee.

You must go to the link to register, the event is at 3pm EST today.


Nick Mercer: Why we continue to see players play

Nick submitted this article prior to the Bryce Harper wall escapade but it would certainly fall into this opinion piece.

While I didn’t intend to write a post about brain injury in sport, I was inspired to write it based on some events in the NHL playoffs.  Since it’s not my point to dissect the danger of the two hits, I won’t spend much time on them. In fact, I’ll just share the links to the Gryba hit on Eller and the Abdelkader hit on Lydman. Seriously, whether I think either of those hits was clean or delivered with malicious intent is not, in any way, the basis or inspiration for this post. What is, is the idea that we – the North American contact sports-loving public – have all but abdicated our right to a free conscience. Whether either hitter was deserving of the suspension they have subsequently received, depends not on the hit they delivered, but on which team you cheer for (or against), or whether or not you like seeing big hits in hockey. It has nothing to do with what happened.

Some people don’t like where the NHL or NFL are heading; the frequency with which penalties are called when a player hits anywhere near an opposing player’s head. I don’t think that either of these two leagues, NHL and NFL, understand the concept of risk and reward. Hard hitting contact sports are so popular because they exhibit risk in a raw form. That’s probably why some/many of the athletes who make it to the highest levels get into the types of trouble they do. We watch news about multi-millionaire athletes who crash Porsches or who get arrested, and we may think “why would someone with so much to lose risk so much?” However, the athletes actually made logical (that doesn’t necessarily mean good) decisions. They do what all of us do before making most decisions. They, however briefly, look at their risk/reward histories plus their confidence Continue reading

Nick Mercer: Spring’s on the way. Get moving

A while back I saw that Chris Nowinski tweeted this, study by researchers at the University of Buffalo about the benefits of exercise for people who’ve had a concussion, and I thought I’d post now. I was constantly told that my recovery from a severe brain injury (even though, by no means am I back to the way I was pre-injury) was due to my pre- and post- injury fitness. This is an issue I am passionate about and it seemed obvious to me throughout my immediate rehabilitation and continuing recovery/life after my brain injury that exercise and fitness are extremely important. It hasn’t solved my problems or made them go away, but it’s incredibly beneficial and allows me to deal with the effects/issues confidently.

I should know better than to write those four title words when we’re hardly clear of winter. So, first I will apologize in advance to the people of St. John’s. For all intents and purposes, I’ve just guaranteed another dumping of snow. In fairness to me, the title sounds good and I’m looking at a beautiful sunset out my window, so I couldn’t help but write with a tauntingly cheery attitude. Nevertheless, sorry, my bad.

It’s Sunday and the wind was really kicking up a fuss this morning. I, however, stayed safely inside and, although it was sunny and marginally warmer than it has been in a while, I had no need Continue reading

Ohio’s New Concussion Law FAQ’s

I was forwarded an information sheet on the newly enacted Ohio Return to Play Law.  It appears as a Frequently Asked Questions form, here are some highlights;

  • Guidelines for both interscholastic and youth sports
  • Who can clear the athlete
  • Specific definition of required training for coaches, referees and officials of youth sports
  • Resources for parents and athletes

This “fact sheet/FAQ” is probably the best written resource I have seen regarding the new return to play legislative actions by states.  It is good that each state is doing something, but in my honest opinion these laws are just a start.

Unfortunately it took actions by legislature to make it perfectly clear that those with concussions, show signs of concussion or report concussion symptoms shall not return on the same day and must be evaluated by a health care professional.  This is something we have known for a few years now.  Each state piece is great for raising awareness.

What we need to advance is the true problem of this concussion “crisis”, that is the proper management and overall treatment of the brain injury.  Concussions will occur, it is an inherent part of all sports – essentially something we cannot “control” – however we can certainly control how the after effects of each concussion are handled.

Series from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on CTE

Mark Roth of the Pittsburgh Post-Gaette put together an informational series on chronic traumatic encephalopathy; “a brain disease that afflicts athletes”.

In the first part that came out this past Sunday, Roth took a look at the global perception of CTE through the examples of Chris Henry and the possible case of still living Fred McNeill;

Chris Henry was a fleet wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. During his five seasons with the team, he developed a reputation as a talented athlete on the field but a bad boy off it, even though those who knew him well say he was typically quiet and respectful. […]

Fred McNeill played 12 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings in the ’70s and ’80s. After retiring, he finished law school and became a successful attorney in Minneapolis, helping to win major class-action lawsuits.

Henry would end up dead after an accident that was predicated with some unusual actions by him, McNeill now has full-time care takers as dementia has stripped him of everything he worked hard for.

Roth begins the second piece with those that can be easily called the experts in this area, Bennet Omalu and Ann McKee; Continue reading

HS Class Uses Blog to Educate

One of the more gratifying things about this blog is the chance to educate anyone about concussions and the athletic training profession.  I truly enjoy going out to speak and even debate this hot topic.  I understand that my thought process is not like everyone else, nor do I expect everyone to see it the way I do; however I do want people to become more educated and understand what we are facing with this problem.

As I was wrapping up my interview for a local TV station about the new IHSA Heat Acclimatization Policy, I received and email from a school here in Illinois that used my blog to become better aware of the concussion issue.  Honestly, nothing makes me smile more than to provide that to teachers and kids.  The email ended with some questions regarding concussions, I will answer them here (not only for everyone to see but to give a little pub to the students and teachers of Cuba High School).

My current events class has been debating and conducting research about concussions. I have had them use your blog for resources and it is very informative. We also just finished watching “Head Games” documentary and had further discussions. Many of my students are athletes and have raised interesting questions specifically towards how our small rural high school can best prevent head injuries. I know you’re a busy guy so we cut our questions to just 3. Any chance of a response would be greatly appreciated. Continue reading

Bennet Omalu Recent Talk

For a long time the “father” of CTE, the first pathologist to find/identify the disease in an American football player, Bennet Omalu has been relatively quiet; going about his normal business and continuing his work with CTE.  Last week he was highlighted on the ESPN Outside the Lines/PBS Frontline story about the Junior Seau death aftermath.

Even more recently Dr. Omalu was invited to speak at the 2013 Football Veterans Conference – a sport specific event put on by Dave Pear and his blog;

Well, we just wrapped up our 2013 Football Vets’ Conference in Las Vegas at the South Point Resort and it was our best yet! In two packed days, we covered everything retired football players need and want to know, from concussion lawsuits to CTE to visual rights and everything in between. Our sessions were packed and no one wanted to miss a single discussion. And thanks to the amazing Jennifer Thibeaux, all of our discussions from Friday are already processed and uploaded so you won’t have to miss a minute of it either!

Thanks to Dave we can bring you the entire talk by Omalu – although over an hour its worth your time.


IHSA Proposed Heat Acclimatization Policy

There was big news out of Bloomington, Illinois coming and I was getting fired up because the word on the street was they had been working with the Kory Stinger Institute and Sports Legacy Institute to create a new “football” policy.  With my effort over the past two years to get the Illinois High School Association to look at and make some proactive changes to the way football is practiced, there was hope it had not fallen on deaf ears.

Well, the announcement/proposal is out…  It’s a good first step; one that addresses the heat issues that plague football. Some highlights are;

  • 14 day period that every player must go through to be eligible to play
  • Strict guidelines on actual practice time and rest time during multiple practice days (traditionally 2-a-days)
  • Set rest days
  • Removal of “grey area” of weights/agilities/walk throughs
  • Definition of scrimmages
  • No matter what was done before the start of the season all must do the 14 day period

Moreover this proposal is very specific and makes very good sense in the area of heat acclimatization.  Obviously you can see the hard work of KSI in the proposal, but where is SLI input?  Some of the missing talking points Continue reading

Downplaying brain injury is not the way to attack this

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