When and How ‘Not a Concussion’ Becomes a Concussion: Klay Thompson Injury

The Western Conference Finals not only provided an opportunity for the Golden State Warriors a chance at winning an NBA title it has provided a wonderful opportunity for people to learn more about concussions. The knee-jerk reaction to incidents like we have seen in Games 4 and 5 are often a mix of truth, hyperbole and eye-rolling; however what is clear they are cases that we can use to forge further understanding and education.

Last night in the would be close-out game of the WCF, Klay Thompson shot faked and the defender rose as he [Thompson] ducked and the defender’s knee blasted the side of Thompson’s head right in his right ear.

Unlike his teammate from the game before, Steph Curry, Thompson did not show overt signs, to my trained eyes, of a concussion. His face was “scruntched” in pain and he immediately grabbed for his ear, plus after the incident he immediately rose to his feet and walked straight to the locker room without assistance. As noted in Tuesday’s post signs are paramount when making critical in-game decisions about return to play; if they are there, there should be no doubt about removal.

The next report we received on TV or Twitter was about Thompson having an ear laceration and that they didn’t need to do a concussion evaluation. Which is entirely possible but unlikely, because I do believe they did a concussion “screen” at the time. The Warriors med staff probably didn’t do the full-blown evaluation because five minutes would not have been sufficient for that, but that was enough time to go over any symptoms and quick balance assessment (think roadside sobriety test). It is also important to know that because concussion are mainly subjective that a massive portion of any concussion evaluation is the interview: talking, questions and mental challenges about venue/score/date/etc.  Continue reading

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“Contussiongate”*: The Steph Curry Incident

*I will admit that I could not come up with a catchy title for this post so I ripped this from Mike Freeman’s twitter feed (@mikefreemanNFL) last night:

But not only is this funny but it is about as accurate as it could have been when summing up the Steph Curry incident last night in Game 4 of the Western Conference series. So, thank you Mr. Freeman for your insightfulness and wonderful wordplay.

Those that were watching the game last night and happened to be on Twitter should know the entire process this sequelae; because of that I will be as brief as possible while injecting the overriding issues and thoughts on this.

It all began in about halfway thought the second quarter as the Warriors were getting throttled by the Rockets;

There is not speculation when looking at that vine, Curry hit his head on the court after taking an uncontrolled fall. What is not seen in the vine is Curry laying prone on the floor for a few minutes as the medical staff took a look at him (even noted checking his c-spine). When the world was brought back to the game from commercial we saw Steph getting assistance off the floor to the locker room, where further evaluation was to be done, obviously.

The first point to note in this event is that Curry not only immediately grabbed his head where it contacted the floor but he also was “down” for some time, that is obviously not normal. He hit his head and very hard so of course he would be slow to get up, but it was the amount of time that would and did have me concerned.

Before we go further we should define concussion for all of you out there, if you want the drawn out and dictionary definitions you can find it HERE, but for the simplest and most poignant way: a concussion is a disruption of normal brain function after a traumatic event. Notice there is nothing about getting hit Continue reading

More Concussions in Practices or Games?

There was a recent study released that has turned some heads in regards to where all the concussions come from in sports. In this JAMA Pediatrics study appearing at the beginning of the month the investigators have concluded that American football practices were “a major source of concussions” for all three levels of participation studied (youth, high school and collegiate).

Often when we see this type of information released there can be confusion due to the limitation of each individual study. The above data reflects a single sport, football, as compared to other data often cited that deals with all sports. Case in point this National Institute of Health study; which reports “athletes tend to have a higher risk of concussion in competition as compared to practice.”

The discussion topic of where concussion occurs more is not only often debated but it is an important set of data because we can control for one side of this equation, practice.

Reading the JAMA article one might be confused about the conclusions if you were to look only at the data and not have complete context of both the sport and participation. The rate of concussion was extremely higher in competition versus practice yet the majority of overall concussions came from practice. This can be explained by noting that there are far fewer games – thus exposure – and fewer participants in games – thus exposure. The sample set for the data (JAMA) was fairly robust: 118 youth football teams, 96 secondary school football programs and 24 collegiate programs. Ages of athletes exposed were 5 to 23, presenting a very good cross-section of the sport at all levels it is being played at. This information was collected in 2012 and 2013, and the researchers collected over 1,100 concussions over that time frame.

The NIH study breaks down the information for 13 different sports in high school and college only. Their findings Continue reading

The “Mild” Concussion

Mild

This post was written originally in 2011, but has been re-posted numerous times, it will continue to be posted until we all get the message…

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Hogwash!  There is NOTHING mild about a concussion, period.  However media, teams, players and even medical staffs continue to use this nomenclature with this injury.  It is simply counterproductive to label this injury with a “mild” tag, and hampers the effort of everyone trying to increase awareness.

When public speaking I often times compare a mild concussion to being mildly pregnant. It is rather simple you are concussed or you are not, just like being pregnant.

Granted, those that have extensive training in the area of injuries, and particularly head injuries, understand the term “mild” when it is in concert with concussion.  This subset of the population is not the one that needs the education, rather it is the general public, which includes players, coaches and parents.  A common problem amongst people who are educated in a particular field is that they forget about both who they are servicing and the education level of people other than their peers.  It’s a fine balance to educate without talking down to others, but understanding the stigmas of the topics help with that effort.

One serious stigma is the “mild” tag that is placed on concussions.  Those that watch and participate in sports are so used to using that clarification when assessing and addressing injuries as a whole, that perhaps it carries over to the traumatic brain injury just sustained by the athlete.  We as athletic trainers and doctors Continue reading

Play Smart. Play Hard.

PSPHlogo

Today the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) launched a national initiative for overall student-athlete safety and participation in sport. It is called Play Smart. Play Hard. 

The campaign will focus on education and equipping athletes, parents, coaches and schools on ways to better safeguard the heath and welfare of student-athletes, including minimizing the risk of head injuries.

The main function of this campaign is to have readily available information and tools for player safety; taking on the current issues/risks as well as being forward-thinking and discussing and formulating plans for other issues that are of concern in sports. At the center of Play Smart. Play Hard. are the resources including a Player Safety Toolkit which is directed at concussions at this time. When going to the Play Smart. Play Hard. page (www.playsmartplayhard.org) in the resource tab you can find all the current Illinois and IHSA concussion information as well as the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concussion info.

Play Smart. Play Hard. may have been trumpeted by the IHSA and Illinois but there are many other state high school association supporters of this innovative approach, 27 to be exact, check the site to see if your state is part of it.

As mentioned on the blog yesterday Continue reading

Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety

It was last month and I was routinely checking the inbox when I noticed a correspondence from the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) with the subject line “IHSA Request”. Of course this piqued my interest because it is not often I get information from the state high school organization and the ‘request’ portion may have been dealing with athletic training. As I opened the message I simply thought this was a blasted email with necessary information from the IHSA…  I was wrong, on so many levels.

This is how the email opened;

Good morning, Dustin.  I hope things are going well.

I wanted to write you today to invite you to be a member of the Illinois High School Association’s (IHSA) newly established Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety, which aims to influence, shape and strengthen the IHSA’s commitment to protecting the welfare of all those involved in interscholastic competition in Illinois.

Needless to say I was kind of taken aback, but after that fleeting moment I was honored and excited and quickly read the entire correspondence and even more quickly responded to the IHSA with a definite yes (I didn’t want them to second guess my invitation, hahaha).

The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety aims to be a well-rounded plenary body – with much and varying expertise – that can guide discussion on ways the Illinois high school athletic community can improve, advance, set initiatives and create higher standards for player safety. This body cannot create policy but it can influence decisions and create internal debate. Initially the main focus will be on head injuries, however, it is thought that the Council will eventually take time to look at all player safety issues going forward (heat illness, sudden cardiac death, and many more). The Illinois Advisory Council on Player Safety is a part of a greater campaign that the IHSA is unveiling tomorrow (more on that then).

The Council is going to be made up of eight members from across the state; student-athletes, coach, official, athletic trainers, alumni and state legislators.  Below are the quick bios of the Council at this time: Continue reading

It. Has. To. Stop. (revisited)

This is one of my more outspoken and shared opinion pieces about concussions, it originally was penned in August of 2013.

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There is a lot of belief and trust each and every one of us has in those that are medical professionals.  The further you go up the chain in those professionals our trust is greater and our belief is stronger that they know more.  The sad fact that in some instances those near or at the top of the chain don’t know enough and are putting people, in this case a kid, in danger; not only in the near future but the long-term.

Compared to a physician (MD/DO) I would say my medical skills are pale in comparison, and rightfully so; their schooling and experience far outpace what I have learned in the medical field.  Because of this the athletic trainer (I) am not held as in high regard when it comes to decisions about the care of an athlete; which I am fine with… 97.43% of the time (I just made up that number, ha).  However there are times when a MD/DO – those making the final and binding (in parents and patients minds) decisions – make a mistake.  This is not just some Monday morning quarterbacking either, its FACT.

Just recently I had an athlete take a blow to the body and head in a practice, and they immediately came to me distressed.  How distressed?  Well that is one advantage I have over a MD/DO, especially the ER doc, I know the kids and have the resources of his/her peers as well as coaches who have known the kid for many years.  In this case the Continue reading

Concussion = Brain Injury (revisited)

This post originally appeared in February of 2012, it is a good summation of the minutiae surrounding concussion.

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For years we in the medical community have been struggling with the terms “concussion” and “traumatic brain injury”; is there a difference?  The simple answer is no.  As you have seen on the blog, we use the term interchangeably, however just like anything in life semantics make a difference.  The perception of a “concussion” is that of sports and “not really that big of a deal”, and that would be horribly wrong.

As Broken Brain — Brilliant Mind posts today this injury is to the brain and confusion about semantics need to be cleared in order to gain a firm grasp on the issue at hand;

I’ve been giving a fair amount of thought to concussions over the past couple of years. In the course of my tbi rehab, my neuropsych has referred to my mild tbi’s as “concussions” and oddly, I never really thought of them that way. I’m not sure why I didn’t make the connection. I guess I thought, like so many others, that concussions are not that big of a deal — just a bump on the head. Getting your bell rung. Getting dinged. Big deal, right? Then, when my neuropsych talked about all the concussions I’ve had, the light went on.

My mild traumatic brain injuries were concussions. Concussion sounds a lot less dramatic than TBI, but essentially, it’s the same thing (I won’t go into the distinctions that SUNY-Buffalo Concussion Clinic people make).

By the way if you have not been going to BB–BM you should, as his/her perspective on dealing with brain injury is a massive resource.  Needless to say, whether you use the term “concussion” or “brain injury” the results Continue reading

Fish Oil Revisited

This post originally appeared on the blog in 2011, not much has changed in this area, it is still not definitively known if this is good, bad or indifferent (probably the latter).  However, this is a supplement that is good for all athletes for a myriad of reasons. I have chosen to post this again because it is one of the most popular and commented on post in the blog history.

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After posting about the “7 Ways To Help With Concussion Management” I realized that I had not posted about the possible benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids/DHA supplements for concussion management.

In a July publication of The Journal of Neurosurgery, Dr. Julian Bailes (BIRI) and Dr. Barry Sears (leading authority on anti-inflammatory nutrition, creator of Zone-Diet) found that supplementing rats with O3/DHA after head injuries reduced the observed issues with a concussion; (SOURCE via weightlosingideas.com)

“Animals receiving the daily fish oil supplement for 30 days post concussion had a greater than 98 percent reduction in brain damage compared with the animals that did not receive the supplement,” Dr. Sears said. “It is hypothesized that the omega-3 fatty acids in the fish oil reduced the neural inflammation induced by the concussion injury.”

O3/DHA has been documented to help with the inflammatory response of the body, many people use this SAFE and AVAILABLE supplement when training to temper swelling.  It is also has shown great promise for the cardiovascular system, mainly heart health.  Further investigation is underway Continue reading

The Fencing Response

Originally posted January 7, 2011 this was one of the first places to examine and educate people about the Fencing Response, since that time this post has been viewed nearly 50,000 times. This is a great resource.

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The fencing response is an unnatural position of the arms following a concussion. Immediately after moderate forces have been applied to the brainstem, the forearms are held flexed or extended (typically into the air) for a period lasting up to several seconds after the impact. The Fencing Response is often observed during athletic competition involving contact, such as football, hockey, rugby, boxing and martial arts. It is used as an overt indicator of injury force magnitude and midbrain localization to aid in injury identification and classification for events including, but not limited to, on-field and/or bystander observations of sports-related head injuries.

Source: Hosseini, A. H., and J. Lifshitz. Brain Injury Forces of Moderate Magnitude Elicit the Fencing Response. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 41, No. 9, pp. 1687–1697, 2009.

Concussion by Sport (revisited five years later)

This was another very early post of this blog back in 2010, September to be exact. As you can tell I was very green to the whole linking of articles and writing. However, this is an important article regarding concussion statistics by sport from five years ago. I would be interesting to do a follow-up to this with what we know now. Looking back at my observations have not changed much in the five years, I may move wrestling above cheerleading but that is about all.

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Concussions are not exclusive to American football, although it is the most covered sport as it relates to concussions.  This is a good time to note that in the United States the next most concussive sport, is soccer, the number one sport in the world.

A reasearch project by University of North Carolina reported concussion rates by 100,000 athlete-exposures Continue reading

The Need for Sleep

This post appeared in the infancy of this blog back in October of 2010, I have made some editorial changes since that time.

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It used to be that doctors would tell you to keep people awake with head injuries.  That has changed, quite a bit.  Keeping someone awake might be indicated for a possible brain bleed, but concussions need the sleep and recovery time.

Sleeping is first. If you’re not sleeping, forget it,” said Cara Camiolo Reddy, the co-director of the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute brain program and the medical adviser to the Sports Medicine concussion program. Sleep is vital in the recovery process because the injured brain needs rest to begin to heal itself. The concussion program and Camiolo prescribe medications, however, only to post-concussion syndrome sufferers who are three weeks or longer into their injury.

This quote was from and article by Chuck Finder of Scrips Howard News Services and appeared on NewsChief.com today.

In the article you will find that this prescription is not widely accepted by the community that deals with concussion management.  However in my experience it is vital to let the brain rest.  When I am debriefing with the athlete and their parents, the most often question I get is “can you sleep too much?”.  My answer is no. Parents often time are apprehensive if they subscribe to the old method of waking every hour, but I try to educate using the snow globe example. If the must wake their child I encourage it at infrequent and few times as possible.

With my experiences at the schools I’ve been an AT at, the kids and parents that abided by the recommendations of sleep and complete brain rest have recovered at a much quicker rate.  The kids and parents that did not listen often times have delayed recovery.

I know that is not a research study in its most proper form, but the observational evidence tells us, and those in the above article that sleep is indeed needed.

Time to Heal: Tracy Yatsko’s Story (3/22/11)

Last June, I had the pleasure of speaking at a press conference at Lincoln Financial Field in support of Pennsylvania State Representative Tim Briggs’ proposed concussion management legislation.  I was an eighteen-year old who had been researching concussions in sports for nearly ten months at that point—a task that I engaged in to further educate myself and others on the subject at hand; a project that would essentially close many doors in my past that had been left open for too long.  But as I situated myself beside the podium at this press conference, I had no idea what kind of story the young woman sitting to my left had to say.  Of course, throughout my research, I understood that others have been through worse—much worse—than what I had experienced, but never did I think I would meet someone I could relate to.  It was even more than just relating to, for this individual shared a heartbreaking story to the public.  She was at the press conference for the same reason as myself, and that was to promote the need for concussion legislation in our state, but she did more than that.  Her words were more than the cover to a bill.  Her words were the voice of the sports concussion crisis.

Today, Tracy Yatsko, a twenty-three-year old woman from Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, is still fighting the repercussions of an injury that ended her high school athletic career.  Six years removed from the moment of her last concussion, Yatsko represents the qualities of strength and motivation, for her battle has not been one that has been easy.  Sure, I have heard of stories in which athletes have sustained decisively fatal blows to the head.  But when I talk to this woman, and when I think about her story, the only words that I can describe how I have perceived her story is hell on earth.  Why did this situation in which Yatsko found herself within come to be?

2005 was a year, with regards to concussion awareness, that was still present in the sports’ ‘Era of Good Feelings.’  There was not much to worry about, and though there were stories creeping out of the media regarding concussions in football, there was not much of a worry in other athletic activities.  There really wasn’t much consideration as to what a concussion was.  It was merely an injury that was ignorantly summarized as a headache; a distraction; a joke.  And with such stigma comes tides of the familiar phrase that claims pain to be weakness leaving the body.  Only did we, or rather, do we, come to open our eyes to what a concussion is until the moment of a tragedy personally affects ourselves or those who we consider to be close to us. Continue reading

The Future is Good. Things are Changing.

Sq 300 JHello, once again, let me reintroduce myself. I am Dustin Fink, an athletic trainer in Illinois that has made it a special interest and hobby of mine to learn and talk about concussions [/sarcasm].

It has been some time since I have delved back into the blogosphere and I don’t feel I owe an explanation (to be honest many of you wouldn’t care, it’s rather boring), however things are about to change.  I cannot promise that this space will be as prolific as it once was with concussion news and commentary however I think it will be more active that it has been the past year or so.

The exact details about how and why this change is occurring I cannot say quite yet, all I can tell you is that nearly five years of work has been realized and this now gives me the reason to get back to this part of my life. To say I am excited is a vast understatement at this point.

While I have been away I have seen my growing family get more active and my resources as an athletic trainer get more useful and respected within my workplace/school. It has been quite the adjustment going from covering a small school to a medium school with all the events and time constraints. And back to the kids, my kids, they are crazy busy with baseball, volleyball, basketball, softball, flag football, etc. it will be entertaining trying to watch this family juggle three kids in all of that (will take unsolicited advice from parents any time).

Concussions have not and will not go away from the sports scene no matter how much snake oil we throw at it. Simply, concussion is a risk associated with activity – any activity – not just sports. It seems that the general media (those beyond the taboo “blogs”) have become a bit more familiar with it and there are plenty of organizations and people stepping in dog doodoo when handling the actual injury or the public relations portion of it, so coverage has been decent. We have continued to field interviews and speak to classes and groups about concussion as well as advise those that ask, in reality The Concussion Blog has not gone anywhere (still Tweeting up a storm).

There are many opportunities coming down the pipe in terms of concussion legislation, concussion rehabilitation, concussion identification, and a myriad of other things related to this brain injury (including the shams and rhetoric about the danger). This provides a chance for us to discuss those many things; highlight the positives and critically examine the questionable topics.

I am looking forward to letting you all in on the news, next week, but for the time being you will be seeing many old posts come back to the top of this blog as a reminder of where we stand and where we are.

I appreciate all of you that have stuck with this blog for so long and continue to click on it even though the content is not as fresh as it once was. I don’t know how long this adventure will last but lets take advantage of the time while we have it!