SNEER and LOAFING in the CFL: A Sad Trip to Apathy, Amnesia and Animus

Eric “The Flea” Allen

This post is by guest journalist, Terry Ott.  You may remember some of his work posted here previously in the seven-part series looking into concussions and possible long-term issues (you can click on links within the post to read all parts).  With the Canadian Football League avoiding a work stoppage by ratifying a new collective bargaining agreement and play about to begin Ott brings us a follow-up story.

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The Canadian Football League season is set to kick-off on June 26 culminating with the 102st Grey Cup in Vancouver in November. With a new team-the rather unusually named Ottawa RedBlackstwo new stadiums, a recently ratified 5 year collective bargaining agreement between the players and the board of governors that still leaves the owners with a major financial upper hand, and the ever-increasing fan interest in Canada and even south of the border, it would appear the CFL has landed in a cozy albeit modest pro sports sweet spot.

However, there is that not so little matter concerning the past, and especially the future…


Weird Scenes Inside The 110 Yard Gridiron

After my 7 part series on concussions in the CFL appeared at the end of last year, both Concussion Blog founder
Dustin Fink and I both had the same question:Why has the CFL (apparently) not been sued for concussion-related damages? And just where are all the players who played and suffered serious concussions that affected their quality of life after football? How could the CFL possibly be that much different from the NFL?

The CFL has been knocking and sometimes scrambling heads for well over 100 years and yet not a single class action lawsuit for damages due to concussion has yet been filed. It is possible that at some point in the past, singular concussion related lawsuits have been undertaken and settled out of court and bound by confidentiality agreement so they were never reported on but other than that possibility, it would almost appear that the CFL somehow exists in some bizarre twilight zone of brain injury legal non-culpability and/or amnesty. 

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Arkansas Looks Into Hit Limits

Over two years ago I sent an open letter and proposals to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) regarding hit limits in football.  Some took this as a “candy ass” approach and one that was not needed.  I disagreed with that assessment, in fact, I felt that what I wrote at the time was proactive and could be a way for this state to be a leader in the area of protection in concussions;

I am writing this letter to address the growing concern of concussions in sports, mainly in football.  It should be noted that football is not the only sport with a concussion issue; however this sport combines the highest participation, highest risk, and highest visibility.  This letter should not be construed as an attack on the sport of football, but rather a way to keep the sport continuing to grow.[…]

Recent evidence suggests that even the subconcussive hits – those that effectively “rattle” the brain but do not produce signs or symptoms – become problematic as the season wears on, let alone a career.  As the researchers in this field gain focus and more specific diagnostic tools, I feel we will see damning evidence that will put collision sports in jeopardy as they are currently constructed – the key being “as they are currently”.  There can be a change, both positive and proactive, that will signal to everyone that the IHSA is taking this matter seriously and can set a nationwide standard.

Needless to say it was brushed aside and was ignored, except for a kind email saying things were happening behind the scenes.  Now, two years and one month later there could be a 12th – TWELVE – states that have contact limits in place for high school football; as Arkansas looks into the matter;

According to reports, the Arkansas Activities Association has passed a recommendation to ask school superintendents to cut full contact practice time to just three times during game weeks. With one of those being the game itself, it leaves just two days of tackling if the proposal passes.

Jason Cates is the lead trainer for Cabot High School, and the former President of the Arkansas Athletic Trainers’ Association, he says, “Something has to be done.”

“The more studies that are showing that hit counts do count and add up.”

The Arkansas proposal limits the full contact days to three, opposed to the two I proposed, but it seems to me that others have seen the light.  That light is both the end of the tunnel and the oncoming freight train.  Kids need Continue reading

Hit Count Symposium

If you have a son or daughter in Little League Baseball you probably have heard of a pitch count.  Basically it is a set number of pitches a pitcher can throw in a certain time period.  The reasoning seems simple and sound, in my opinion; to protect the overuse of the arm/elbow.  Sure, there are many coaches out there in the baseball world that know what they are doing and will only throw players when they are fully rested.  On the other hand there a plenty of coaches out there that either don’t know or knowingly put players at risk when it comes to overuse of the pitching arm.

This has a relation to the concussion world; well, Sports Legacy Institute hopes so.  In an effort to be PROACTIVE about issues surrounding concussions and especially the youth players of collision sports SLI has created an initiative to limit, log and research “hits” absorbed.  I have blogged about it here when the initiative began.

Like many things that are new and different, people often dismiss or fail to grasp what is being attempted or cannot see what may be accomplished by doing them.  In regards to the Hit Count, it to is simple; limit the number of hits one sustains while playing sports – collision sports to begin with.

I may not be the worlds biggest advocate for sensor technology as we currently know it, however this approach is different and unique.  It is something that should be paid attention to, if not for the currently proposed reasons, at the very least the research capability.  How can we know if we don’t know.  In other words; how can we measure if we are making a difference with any of our so-called “advances in concussion issues” if there is not something to measure it against.  For a small niche in the medical community that is all about “baselines” and return to “normal” our peers seem to get all squirmy when people want to find this baseline.

The Hit Count most likely will not be the panacea which our culture so desperately wants but this is at least a step in the right direction.  Below you can see the full press release on the Symposium.  I cannot attend on July 15th, but I have been afforded two (2) transferable registrations.  Please contact me if you will be in the area and are looking to attend.  Without further ado:

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For Immediate Release —Thursday, June 12, 2014

Media Contact: Chelsea McLeod (781) 262-3324 or cmcleod@sportslegacy.org

Sports Legacy Institute Announces 2014 Hit Count® Symposium to be Held on Tuesday, July 15, at the Boston University School of Medicine to Advance Discussion on Use of Head Impact Sensors in Sports to Prevent Concussions

Co-Chaired by Dr. Robert Cantu and Dr. Gerry Gioia, event will gather researchers, athletic trainers, coaches, parents, athletes, medical professionals, and administrators to explore how Hit Count® Certified sensors can be used to improve brain safety  Continue reading

World Cup Time

I took this pic at FIFA HQ
I took this pic at FIFA HQ

For all the blame football gets for concussions and concussion problems; futbol – or the worlds’ game – has its share of concussion issues (so do just about all contact sports).  The unique thing to soccer is that it is not a “collision” sport, by definition.  Yes, it is a contact sport, however it is not designed for full contact or collisions all the time like other sports like: rugby, Aussie Rules, Football, hockey and rodeo (you could even include lacrosse because of the sticks).

The nature of sport, competitiveness, lends itself to injury risk and risky behavior – this is always the case of concussion and their issues.  In the game of futbol/soccer the basic rules have set up a game where concussions can and do occur at frequency for a “non-contact” game.  Of course calling soccer “non-contact” is a complete misnomer if you watch or understand the game at all.  Players are constantly using their bodies to gain an advantage on opponents, from shoulder charging to grabbing or using hips to knock another player about.  The issue as it relates to concussions is how the head is used in this sport.

It is used as a much-needed tool to clear, pass and score the ball.  It is currently unclear as to how heading a ball in general relates to concussions and long-term issues although a general causation link can be observed and some studies have shown higher incidence of deficit of “brain measures” with increased heading.  Most often concussions occur due to collisions on the pitch.

It could be as simple (and scary) as a boot to the head or as subtle as an aerial challenge that resulted in a violent and unanticipated shaking of the head.  Often, concussions occur when the player falls to the ground and the head uncontrollably smacks the ground.  The point being there is ample opportunity for a soccer player to sustain a concussion and at the least subconcussive brain injury.

I thought I would look in to the research done about concussions in soccer and came across a very peculiar paper: “Chronic traumatic brain injury in professional soccer players”.  It is not the title that caught my eye, with all the information we are currently gathering on concussion it seems natural to see that kind of title.  Heck, very recently we saw something that was originally thought of as non-existent, CTE in a soccer player.  No, what made me stop and note this study was the year the paper was published………. 1998.

Yes, 16 years ago.  Let me repeat that, SIXTEEN years ago this information was made available by these pretty dang good researchers: Chronic Traumatic Brain Injury in Professional Soccer Players.  Below are the results and conclusions:  Continue reading

It Has Been A Long Time

Hello everyone, my name is Dustin Fink.  I am an athletic trainer and I have created a blog about concussions…  Wait, what?

It has been a long time since I have gotten to this blogging thing, perhaps I needed to reintroduce myself.  As devout readers – that you all are – you have noticed a sharp decline in the publishing prowess of The Concussion Blog.  Thank you for your concern and information over the past few months, it means a lot to me.

I am writing today to simply keep you all in “the loop” when it comes to this space going forward.  The simple answer is that it will remain what it was; a spot for information about the issue of concussion and the issues surrounding concussions.  With a much more active family (three kids getting to the “we go everywhere” age), a welcome increase in responsibility in my main job as an athletic trainer, and simply being more selfish with my time you all can expect decreased frequency of posts from me.  However, there will be spurts of information, commentary and editorials from time to time.

There is plenty to be talked about in this “concussion world” as we currently know it; I plan on doing just that going forward.  Recently I have tried to delve into other parts of this entire Pandora’s Box – attempting to get research published, commenting on research, discussions about being educational partners, lining up speaking engagements, etc.  So, I have not strayed away from this issue, in fact, I feel I have become more aware of things happening in this arena.

If you have followed me on Twitter (@concussionblog) you would have noticed I am not far away.  It seems 140 or less is a bit easier to keep up with.  Thank you for being a follower, supporter and reader.

One thing I have had hammered home to me, very recently, is that people do care what is shared here and appreciate both the candor and experience this space brings.  This ranges from: those affected by concussions, medical professionals, athletic trainers (also a medical professional), press/journalists, students and even the professional sports leagues and players themselves.  It is truly an honor.  Because of this I am going to ramp back up starting this month.

There are exciting things coming to TCB, some exclusive and some in partnerships.  What I am most excited about is being the place that people can comment or even post about things that may cause disagreement or consternation.  Being comfortable allows us to be content and that leads us to my favorite proverb/saying – currently – “If you do what you’ve always done, you will be what you’ve always been.” – Mick Buttz.  If this means rocking the boat and questioning people to create further thought and get away from “group think” then sign me up.

Going forward you can expect some of the following (and much more):

  • NFL Concussion Reporting
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Critical Commentary on Research
  • Guest Blogging/Posting from Critical Thinkers
  • Guest Journalism
  • Partnerships in Communication with vastly different “circles”
  • My continuation of keeping sports – I don’t dislike any sport!
  • My main theme: THE INJURY IS NOT THE MAIN ISSUE, RATHER THE MISMANAGEMENT OF THE INJURY IS
  • My skeptical eye on prevention in the way of equipment
  • My soap box about getting medical professionals to the adolescents – athletic trainers
  • My promotion of new and “outside the box” ways of limiting exposure and management of concussion

We are an outlet for those that would like to get information out not only about concussions but for athletic training.  Feel free to drop a line and bounce ideas off of me.  There is plenty lined up for the next month, but I can always add more!  And buckle up for what is surely going to be a much talked about June-July here on The Concussion Blog!

Thank you again for continuing to visit The Concussion Blog!