#TheConcussionChallenge

It’s really simple…  Watch this video, then RT or forward in email or post on Facebook…  It’s not as fun as cold water and you won’t be donating money, but you will be understanding concussion and passing that along…  This was the idea of my good friend Katherine Snedaker-Price…

 

At the time of this post there were 787 views, I would like to see that at 2,000 by next week…  Lets do it!!!

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Concussion Trends 2010-2012; TCB Original Research

The National Football League is nine days away from the kickoff of its regular season.  If social media, fantasy sports, and hype are any indication 2014 is set up to one of the most watched seasons in history.  There are plenty of story lines abound: from each division, to playing time of newly drafted players, to veterans returning from injury, and of course concussions.

The league is doing its best to keep concussions from overriding the game itself, as they should be.  Concussion is but just one of a myriad of injuries sustained in the sport; plus it is not unique to just American Football.  However this issue continues to gain/keep traction because of the relatively late and “slow-footed” response to this topic.  Even though the settlement with the players has been all but signed-sealed-delivered (there are some interesting issues posed by Patrick Hruby that are worth noting), the youth arm of the league is promoting and teaching a “safer” way of tackling, and the talking points about this injury are becoming more evident from players and the league; there still is a shroud of secrecy.  In all the hand-wringing and court battles and public relations scuffles the leader of this glorious sport has yet to “rip the band-aid off” and assess the situation.

How can you assess the situation?  I think it is rather simple: gather data to find out the “true” value of actual concussions sustained in the NFL over a season.  Then and only then can you see if any changes brought forth are actually helping the cause.

Sure the league has its own data and is probably doing just that, but it is so far behind a curtain, tucked in a corner where light has no chance of hitting it.  I have always thought we should be transparent on this issue; or at least have a truly (Pollyannaish) independent data collection group for it.  At the very least an Ombudsman should be hawking this situation, for this is not going to go away over night.  It won’t go away until we can definitively say ‘X’ is the way to play this game with ‘Y’ & ‘Z’ at the professional level; then each subsequent level below the pro ranks need to modify based upon age and development.

The NFL probably doesn’t want this responsibility for it comes with some liability, not only on the medical front but in the public relations department…  SO WHAT!  When I chose to have a child I didn’t have the choice to be a role model and change the way I played life in order to make sure my children grew up safe and learned a better way to live.  The NFL is basically the “father figure” for the other levels of this great sport.  I have heard a great saying, it was applied to business in general: “the tree rots from the top”.  This is exactly the case in a family, in a business and in sport.

When the blog began in 2010 there was no way to find out how many concussions were occurring in the NFL without Continue reading

#tbt Mouth Guard BS Research!

This was originally posted in May, not a long throwback, but since football started I have been hit up with this question a lot.  So here is the “truth” about this research.  I love the effort and attempt to find a reason; however when you have a critical and FUNDAMENTAL flaws then present it in a way that could be considered fraudulent I have a major problem.  I would also like to add that this research has not been pulled by the publisher.  This is exactly how we get in trouble, the Academy of General Dentistry needs to address this, now, as this peer-reviewed “science” is getting run in media…

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The basic fundamentals we should be cognizant of here are: concussion is a BRAIN injury, the BRAIN floats inside skull, Physics dictates that the BRAIN will move depending on the forces applied to the skull/head (not always from a blow to that area), mouth gear cannot stop the BRAIN from moving, mouth gear cannot attenuate any forces to the skull/head that are not in the oral region, mouth gear does nothing for the skull/head when forces are placed on it in rotational, angular, acceleration or deceleration fashion.

Now that we have that all out-of-the-way this is the General Dentistry article I was asked to comment on.  On face value and from a “peer-reviewed” angle it seems all good.  A significant finding between custom mouth gear (noted as LM MG in article) and over the counter “boil and bite” mouth gear (noted as OTC MG).  However once you take a deeper look there are some peculiar problems, in my humble opinion – that comes later.

First, we should look at the possible limitations of this study that seems well populated and well thought out (honestly these were my first concerns before finding the real issue):

  • Were the injuries controlled for by football position? (we have documented this issue here)
  • Were the injuries controlled for by size of players/school they were playing?
  • Were the injuries controlled for by playing time? (more exposure more risk)
  • Were the injuries controlled for by game vs. practice?
  • Were all the injuries seen and recorded by a single MD or was it the ATC at each school?
  • Did any of the players have a previous history of concussion?
  • Was the study controlled based on practice habits of the teams? (do some hit more than others)
  • How do we know that every player complied with the “no wedging or chewing” rule? (this plays a massive role later)
  • The study says that all 412 subjects wore the same exact helmet, I find that: A) hard to believe and B) was the fit on every player the relatively the same?
  • Who funded this research? (no disclosure)

As you can see there is a litany of reasons I would have dismissed this research, if I were peer reviewing because those limitations are extremely real and realistic to control for in this type of study.  I wrote to the public relations group handling this research and was unable to get a straight answer on those questions I raised.  In the meantime I sent out the article to some better than average “stat nerds” and awaited a response.

While waiting I noticed something really troubling, as in a fatal flaw with the research.  In some places an oversight like this is intolerable, because Continue reading

One Man’s (Athletic Trainer) Critical Eye and Observation From Week 1

It’s the beginning of high school football season across this glorious land.  I honestly love nothing more than getting back on the gridiron with the high school kids.  There are so many intangibles that the beginning of any sport brings; and in our massive consumption of football world this sport seems to bring a lot of people together, quickly.  You will see a lot of this “love for the sport” breeding through my posts and rants – the same love I have for all sports.  Seeing kids overcome hurdles and demons and using sport/activity to express their selves is awesome.  Seeing boys and girls using sports as a conduit to become better men and women by learning virtues such as: integrity, commitment, discipline and expecting to succeed.

Over the years I have obviously developed a keen eye for concussion as it relates to sport.  There is no greater sport for this injury to occur at my high school than football.  I have been blessed with coaches and administrators that listen to my input regarding overall safety, particularly when it comes to concussion.  But this past week I noticed something that perhaps I had seen plenty of times before, but it just finally hit me.

It has to do with the practice collisions and how things that start innocently enough can change and create issues.  I must give my head coach massive credit for being on the same wave length and even finishing my sentences when we were discussing my observations.  It shows, to me, that he has the best interest of the players in mind – and he wants a fully healthy team.  Secondly I happened to read a recent research paper about data collection on forces in football (while writing up my Sensor Overload post).

In a simple “technique” tackling drill two players were approximately five yards apart.  To either side of the players were agility bags spaced at about 4 yards.  The purpose of the drill was for the ball carrier to angle run to either bag, while the defensive player was to use proper technique and wrap up the ball carrier – not taking him to the ground.  The players were outfitted in helmets and shoulder pads only.  The players were directed to begin at “3/4” speed and the ball carrier was to be willing to let the defender use current “proper technique” to achieve the form and fit for a tackle (face mask up, wrap-lift-drive through the man).  It started all well and good, and the players naturally began to increase their speed/effort as they became comfortable with the drill.  The drill lasted five minutes from setup to finish.

Upon completion of the drill – rather near Continue reading

Terry Ott: Former Canadian Football League Star Terry Metcalf To Sue League

Metcalf.Terry3
Terry Ott has filed this report to The Concussion Blog, again this is his journalism, we offer up the space for him to publish.  If you want to post here feel free to contact us.
 
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Will Claim Debilitating Injury From Multiple Concussions and “Neglectful” Treatment
 
 
HAMILTON,ONT.
August 14, 2014
 
Running back Terry Metcalf  was an NFL 3rd round draft pick in 1974 and played 5 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals before coming north and signing amidst much hoopla with the Toronto Argonauts in 1978.
 
From 1978 to 1980, Metcalf gained nearly 3300 all purpose yards with the Argos, including 1900 yards rushing and was the subject of much media attention, if not winning seasons.
 
Metcalf retired from football in 1981 and is now suffering from what he says are major health deficits as the result of multiple concussions suffered while he was playing for the Argonauts.

Mr. Metcalf, who now resides in Seattle said in an interview that the last concussion he received was in a 1980 Toronto home game and “was a pretty good shot.”

“I don’t remember finishing the game,” said Metcalf, adding that he categorized his concussion treatment at the time as “neglectful, nothing, really.”

Now Metcalf, who teaches kindergarten, complains of chronic ringing in his ears, memory issues, and says he has a “50% loss of feeling in (his) right hand.” Mr. Metcalf said his symptoms had been noted when he had been examined by doctors in 2011 for the NFLPA class action suit against the NFL for concussion related injury.

Mr. Metcalf has retained a Canadian lawyer and is intending through counsel to file suit against the CFL for concussion injury.

Metcalf, 63, also complains about his mood saying that he had been “quite depressed in his life” and that he was lately “grumpier, and you can ask my wife about that.”

Perhaps just as troubling is the fact that of the three CFL players who have come forward in the last year complaining about multiple concussion injury-Phil Colwell, Eric Allen and now Terry Metcalf-all three played for the same Toronto team between 1972 and 1980 and all three former players claim deficient or even non-existent concussion medical care.

And in previous interviews, all three former Argo players in question who claim to have suffered concussions while playing for Toronto had, according to a source, been treated by the same group of medical and training personnel at the time of injury, and afterwards.

Those familiar with a 2013 story on the Concussion Blog on former Argo Phil Colwell who was knocked unconscious in a 1981 game, will recall that he claimed the only medical advice given to him at the time was to not go to sleep the night of the injury, and was in fact allowed to drive himself (70 miles) home after the game.

Colwell, who is also suing the CFL, said that he returned to play one week after his 1981 KO hit and further said that “at the time, if I had gone on the injury list for a concussion, I would have been cut.”

And Colwell, who nearly became homeless earlier this year pulls no punches when it comes to his current situation: “The CFL stole my brain, ” he said, “maybe I’ll get it back (but) I want memories, not money.”

Also in a previous Concussion Blog story, former Argonaut Eric “The Flea” Allen described his treatment after concussion by the Argo medical and training staff in question as “I don’t think (they) looked at me.”

Mr. Allen, 65, who is also in the process of suing the CFL is now no longer able to walk and is for the most part bedridden with severe vertigo.


And while there would seem to be a common thread with the three former Argo players claiming to have had similar experiences with the Argo staff after suffering concussion injury, a source speaking on condition of anonymity said that there are many more former players from different CFL teams who had the same basic after concussion injury treatment and many of them would be coming forward in the future.

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Sensor Overload

With all that is new to the concussion realm, nothing is really new.  This includes: how the injury occurs (traumatic variable force vectors – often unanticipated – jarring the brain case), its recovery (unique and undefinable), its identification (mainly subjective but overtly obvious when objective), overall education and general understanding from day-zero to day-undetermined.

The current “hot topic” for concussions is sensors.  These sensors are nothing new, they have been around for years.  As with most technology the devices are getting smaller and more accurate; natural evolution, if you will, for sensors.  I have had the fortune of testing some products, getting deep information on others, and curiously viewing some brought to my attention.  The constant thought I have is: no product has provided a clear-cut reason for inclusion – at this moment in time.

Are sensors a good idea?

Sure, if and when they become accurate enough for trained individuals to use them without impeding current standards of care.  Further, I also believe that down the road we will be looking for a product that can accurately and systematically determine the gross effects of every blow the brain case takes.  The key being EVERY BLOW.  Not just hits to the head, or at full speed, or only in practice, or in helmeted sports.

The overwhelming information we have on concussions and their occurrence is that we just don’t know a threshold; for mine, yours, your son’s, your daughter’s or anyone.  We have a general Continue reading

Intended Consequences Lead to Unintended Issues: NCAA Settlement

Sure the lede looks backwards, but the overwhelming point, in my opinion, of the NCAA recent settlement on concussions has to deal with my profession of athletic training.  The issue is athletic trainers; the need for more of them and what happens if you cannot find them or afford them?

Don’t get me wrong, the fact that attention is being paid to the need for athletic trainers — although the wording does not explicitly name our profession, rather “medical professional” — is tremendous and often overlooked.  Sure, you can have a doctor on the sidelines, but what is their cost?  Perhaps there are some semantics that would allow other medical professionals to be in attendance, but what would be their experience, education and knowledge about concussions?  And how cost/time effective would it be to have another “medical professional” that didn’t have the ability to assess, treat, manage, and rehab other injuries that occur on a sporting field?

In other words, this is an awesome advertisement and endorsement for athletic training.

But there is an issue, as stated in the Chronicle of Higher Education;

Colleges have their own concerns about the settlement, including a requirement that they have a medical professional on the sidelines for every practice and game in the highest-contact sports: basketball, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, and wrestling.

While many big athletics programs already provide such coverage, lower-level NCAA institutions will be hard-pressed to afford it, several athletics officials said.

The requirement could lead colleges to use graduate assistants or others with little medical training, or to cut sports altogether over fears of liability.

“I’m worried about the financial fallout from this, and how it will impact Division II and Division III, and how it’s enforced,” said Tim Kelly, head athletic trainer at the U.S. Military Academy and a former member of the NCAA’s Football Rules Committee. “I’ve always wondered, Do too many schools provide too many sports at a level that’s not effective?”

If you have spent time in the “lower levels” of NCAA sports or even the NAIA you would note the very understaffed sports medicine team compared to the “big boys”.  This is no fault of the fine institutions, rather an economic issue.  From personal experience I can tell you that Continue reading