What Does the Derek Sheely Case Foreshadow?

Inherent risks, of life and sport, are a constant issue none more controversial than concussions.  The truth of the matter is that concussions will occur in life without sports so playing: hockey, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, water polo or any sport comes with differing amount of risks/chances of concussion.  By playing those sports we should understand those risks and be willing to accept the chances of injury, particularly concussion.

As we have stated close to eleventybillion times now; the actual injury of concussion is not the issue of this crisis, rather it is the mismanagement of the injury that is the problem.  In other words it’s not the sports fault for concussions, it the people’s fault for not taking this brain injury serious.  Even worse, it is people in positions of power that have caused many to be “mishandled” after injury, bringing us to where we are today.

This is where Derek Sheely comes in; this young man died on a football field in Maryland as a result of head trauma and the purported facts in the case are very scary;

  • Four hour contact practice
  • “Preseason practices at Frostburg served more as a gladiatorial thrill for the coaches than learning sessions for the players… Practice involved virtually unlimited, full-contact, helmet-to-helmet collisions.”
  • Named coach in lawsuit explicitly told players to lead with their head and use their hat when tackling
  • Apparent lack of preventative medical care by an athletic trainer
  • And this quote: “Stop your bitching and moaning and quit acting like a pussy and get back out there Sheely!”

We have yet to have full discovery in this case and most likely there will be a settlement Continue reading

Matt Chaney – Tireless Worker

If you have been around enough you have seen the stylings of Matt Chaney on this blog, he is someone I call a friend.  In some circles that discounts me as a professional, which is both stupid and dumb.  I don’t always agree with Matt, heck him and I have been known to battle via electronic and phone communications.  However, his opinion is a valuable one – often his work is based in so much fact it makes your head spin as to why some of its missed.  Regardless, Matt has published two recent articles on his blog, for all to consume, here are some excerpts.

Part 1, published January 7th;

Historic football excuses thrive in modern debate over brutality

Lawsuits, criticism explode and officials project blame onto individuals

Old talking points of football apology resonate yet as officials tout anti-concussion measures like trainers along sidelines, new rules for safer play, injury reduction and expert consultation—same type of promises heard from gridiron leaders during the Victorian Era

American football gets lambasted in public for maiming and killing, denounced by an influential movement of critics, and game officials pledge safer play based on their new concepts of prevention, including:

*Qualified trainers and doctors will patrol sidelines.

*State-of-art medical response will treat the rare severe casualties.

*Limits will govern length of practices.

*Injury tracking will cut rates already on decline.

*Coaches will properly train players.

*Every player will undergo medical prescreening.

*Experts will lead safety reform in rulemaking and research.

*Referees and coaches will enforce new rules of experts.

*Players will follow new rules of experts.

Sounds familiar, these steps, a practical recitation of talking points for contemporary “safer football” promoted by the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell, in face of lawsuit frenzy against the league and sport in general, along with festering disgust in the public.

Except the football rhetoric is 119 years old, from 1894, a packaged response during the game’s initial siege against formidable opposition seeking abolishment. Continue reading

Recounting Tragedy: Austin Trenum Story

As the blog began in 2010 there were many things I hoped to accomplish by doing this project; I never dreamed this place would help springboard a family to recovery after the most horrible day of their lives.  However, looking back I am glad the blog was here for them and will remain here, for them and anyone else who need answers.

I am speaking of the Trenum family, specifically the tragic death of their son Austin, and how they chose to cope and “push on” after that dark day in September 2010.  In one of the most powerful pieces I have read, Patrick Hruby worked with Michelle and Gil to recount the last few days of Austins life; as well as what has happened since.  Due to my intimate history and wonderful bond with the Trenum’s I felt speechless after reading Hruby’s work in the Washingtonian;

It was Sunday, September 26, 2010. Michelle Trenum woke up around 8 am. Gil was out of town, returning that afternoon from a weekend drill with his Navy Reserve unit in New Jersey. Walker, ten, their youngest, was on the living-room couch, hiding under a blanket. He jumped up when Michelle walked in. Boo!

“Austin’s awake,” Walker said. “He’s in the basement playing a video game.”

That’s odd, Michelle thought. Austin never got up early on Sundays. Not voluntarily.

Not only will you be able to feel for the Trenum’s you Continue reading

Follow Up Story On Gupta Show

CNN presented an article today to outline the upcoming show on Sunday;

“You expect a pristine brain. I saw a brain that was riddled with tau proteins. I was stunned at how similar that brain was to the boxers who lived into their 70s,” she said. Tau proteins are the same type of proteins found in brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

We have also highlighted the tragic story of Nathan Stiles here.  Remember to set you DVR if you are looking for more insight into this issue. (Thanks MS for the email).

Chaney Tracks Catastrophic Injuries

If you have read the blog much you will find a fair amount of information and commentary from Matt Chaney regarding his position on head/brain injury.  One thing that Matt does well, from his journalistic background, is document the many cases of catastrophic injury related to football in America.

Chaney is not the only one who does this, he just appears to be more transparent about it than the national foundation for such tracking, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSI).  In his most recent post on his blog, Chaney gives us the list he has compiled for 2011, both by the NCCSI criteria and his extended criteria (which deserves credit).

The rate of catastrophic injuries in American football could be a record in 2011, with more than 70 survivor cases of conditions such as brain hemorrhage and spinal fracture, according to an intensive electronic survey by this reporter.

See the complete annotated list of cases below, with juveniles comprising the large majority of victims.

The findings belie talk of “culture change” by football officials, their popular claim of “safer” football in America, and raise question whether catastrophic injuries of the inherently brutal sport are significantly under-reported in record-keeping of the present and past.

Last year the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (NCCSI) logged only 24 survivor cases—barely half the 2010 cases still available online, including players with brain bleeds and spinal paralysis missed in the report.

Now stronger accounting is assured for 2011, standing on results of my daily searching of Google banks that’s garnered a solid 70 survivor cases for verification as catastrophic football injuries, defined by the NCCSI as affecting the brain, skull, spinal cord and/or vertebral column.

My cases include the following: Continue reading

Catastrophic Football: Matt Chaney

In the news just this weekend was the terrible news from Upstate New York, as Ridge Barden of Phoenix High School died due to head trauma suffered in a game on Friday.  This type of news rarely escapes the “lights” of the media, in fact Sports Illustrated picked up on this case recently.

However what about these names;

  • Brennan Barber, 17
  • Tucker Montgomery, 17
  • Logan Weber, 21
  • Dominic Morris, 21
  • Robby Mounce, 17
  • Zeth Shouse, 17
  • Adrian Padilla, 17
  • Adam Ingle, 17
  • Bobby Clark, 17
  • Shelton Dvorak, 17
  • Dillon Lackhan, teenager
  • 5 year-old from Hawaii
  • Unnamed teen from California
  • Connor Laudenslager, teenager
  • Dylan Mercadante, 16
  • Neiron Ball, 19
  • Alan Mohika, 17
  • Matt Ringer, 15
  • Jadon Adams, 16
  • Lamont Baldwin, 17

Those are kids that have Continue reading

Helmet Maker Fears Realized

On August 22nd, Derek Sheely was in contact drills with his college football team at Frostburg State in Maryland.  After some reported blows Sheely became ill and collapsed, he was immediately rushed to a local hospital then transferred to a trauma center in Baltimore.  Sheely was in critical condition until he died on August 28th;

Derek Sheely’s death certificate states he died Aug. 28 of a traumatic brain injury as a result of helmet collision, almost one week after he collapsed at practice, said Kenneth Sheely of Germantown.

The fact that mom and dad are without their son from an accident is unfortunately becoming news that is both Continue reading

Comprehensive Article From LA Weekly

Kids are the reason there is so much buzz about concussions.  The professional player understands the risk and is getting paid to take those risks, kids are not.  The other more important reason is that a younger brain can be more adversely affected by an insult/concussion.  Steve Jansen and Gus Garcia-Roberts wrote an extensive and comprehensive article titled: Concussions Take a Terrible Toll on America’s Young Athletes.

Across the country, people have awakened to the sometimes irreversible damage of concussions, especially in high-impact professional sports. With much of the attention focused on the National Football and National Hockey leagues, Village Voice Media conducted a nationwide investigation into the consequences of concussion on youth athletes.

The article finds that there are some inherent gaps in the former and current systems for concussion recognition and return to play.  A lot of the confusion Continue reading


This post was written on Saturday 7/16/11 in reflection of meeting the Trenum’s.

Well I arrived to the Hotel and Conference Center around 2pm EST today the first thing on my list to do was to text Michelle Trenum to arrange a meeting if possible.  As if it were fate, the Trenum Family was on their way to vacation in Maine and made arrangements to go out of their way to meet up.  The Trenum’s are from Prince William County, Virgina and if you have followed this blog you will know their story and how we have helped here at The Concussion Blog.  Ever since I received the email from Michelle I have had Austin on my mind with just about everything I do in regards to concussions.  I must say there are even times I look at my own children and can only imagine the pain this family has endured.

Gill, Michelle, Cody and Walker were in the lobby of the hotel as I walked up, as I turned the corner I saw Gill and pointed to him and I was greeted with a smile and a feeling of comfort.  Michelle rose and came over and introduced herself, but before that could happen Walker and Cody both jumped in to make sure they extended a hand to introduce themselves.  There was absolutely no awkwardness, it was as if I was seeing long-lost family, I was at ease, and excited to just talk about Austin and what has transpired since last year.  I did not want to take too much of their time Continue reading

Live From Princeton

Welcome to the continually updated live feed from the Athletic Trainers Society of New Jersey 2nd Annual Concussion Summit.  I would like to thank the ATSNJ in particular; John Furtado, Eric Nussbaum, and Mary Jane Rogers for the help in getting things set up.  We are at the Wyndham Princeton Forrestal Conference Center & Hotel in a stunning amphitheater, attendance is anticipated to be high.  I anticipate updating this post as soon as possible after each speaker.  Follow @concussionblog for updates.

6:25am CST: Crowd flowing in with provided breakfast in hand.


6:33am CST: Jason Mihalik, PhD “Biomechanics of Concussion”;

  • Concussion is a FUNCTIONAL injury not structural injury
  • Brian injury a major public health concern (showing a pyramid with the head injuries on the bottom, unseen or caring on their own)
  • Things that feed into Traumatic Brain Injury:
  • Cognition, Concussion History, Postural Stability, Mechanism of Injury, Physical Exam, Symptomatology, Knowledge/Attitude
  • Injury Prevention (anticipation, infractions, play type, closing distance)
  • Kinds of impacts that cause concussion; research obviously done primarily on animals beginning in the pre 40’s.  The coup-contracoup model was found by using animal models
  • Research moved from animal models to human analogs; wax skulls/gelatinous brains Continue reading
  • Knowing Is Half The (UPDATE)

    UPDATE: Thanks to commenter @SpMedConcepts I should write that one test is just a piece to the puzzle.  And a comprehensive testing procedure that includes all of the available “baselines” and assessments should be used.  It becomes more difficult to cloud the picture with deception when using this approach.

    Knowing about concussions is one thing, but knowing that players may take advantage of the system is another factor.  Like anything else in this world people will look to exploit weaknesses in systems to gain an advantage.  After all isn’t that the crux of competition and sports?  We have seen Irv Muchnick open up the dialogue on Ritalin as a possible way to “cheat the system” and now Alex Marvez of Fox Sports tells us the other, more obvious way to “cheat the system”;

    Dr. Daniel Amen, who has treated current and former players for post-concussion symptoms, said some of his clients have confessed to fudging the initial baseline tests administered by NFL teams. By doing so, Amen said those players are seeking quicker clearance to return from any future head injuries they might suffer.

    If the baseline tests are to be used to compare then why try hard and excel at them, only to have that first test hinder their return?  This is the common question that the professional and adolescent athletes are dealing with.  Even though baseline tests, be it neurocognitive computer based or hand written like the SCAT2 or the new NFL test, are objective Continue reading

    Parents In Action

    Gil and Michelle Trenum of Prince William County, Virginia have taken what was the most horrible day in their life and are doing something about it.  After Michelle so genuinely shared her story about her son, Austin — here exclusively with The Concussion Blog — her and her husband refused to believe something could not be done about it.  The Trenum’s have put forth a tremendous effort in connecting with some very “stout” individuals in the concussion research and management area.  It was not to find out why this happened so much, as it has been an effort to not let this happen again, to any parent or any kid.

    Joe Conroy of InsideNova.com reported on a recent school board meeting, where Gil Trenum is a board representative, at this meeting was Dr. Gereld Gioia, cheif of the Division of Pediatric Neurosugery at Children’s Medical Center in Washington D.C.;

    “A lot of people are asking ‘Why now? What’s so special about these times?’” said Gioia, who was invited by Brentsville District School BoardrepresentativeGil Trenum. “We have a perfect storm coming together in the sense that we better understand the brain, we have the resources at our disposal now that we can be informed about this injury, concussions, which are really a type of mild traumatic brain injury.

    “There aren’t more concussions than years ago, but we have more knowledge about them and their symptoms,” Gioia said.

    In the article is the issue that I have been trying to make more and more of, removal from school and cognitive activities.  However, this time it is Dr. Gioia explaining Continue reading

    Recent ABC Story

    ABC has run a very extensive story about head injuries in sport (see football) in light of the Duerson suicide.  The article is good but what is striking are the videos associated with it.  Not only the embedded video on the first page, but the sourced videos below it, mainly about Mike Webster (Driven Mad?).

    Neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, MD, who was the first to identify the condition, told MedPage Today, “There is no reason, no medical justification, for any child younger than 18 to play football, period.”

    As we should know Omalu is the godfather of CTE, he first found it with Webster and subsequently other former NFL’ers, once called a “doctor of Voodoo medicine” Omalu has some of the best perspective on this injury.

    “People said then, and still are saying today, that when former athletes deteriorate into depression, drug abuse, and even violence and criminality, it’s because they don’t compete well on the field of life after competing well on the field of football,” Omalu said in an interview with MedPage Today. Continue reading

    Concussions Bigger than Steroids?

    Matt Chaney is a journalist, editor, teacher and publisher, and he too has a blog that is just getting up and going.  However, Chaney has published a book titled Spiral of Denial; Muscle Doping in American Football, so he is not new to finding and presenting good information.

    Chaney sent me an email today alerting me to his most recent piece, and it is a good one;

    By Matt Chaney

    As a foremost authority on sport doping, Pennsylvania epidemiologist Charles E. Yesalis identifies a public health problem of longstanding: athletes’ use of anabolic steroids, stimulants and more drugs that permeate amateur and pro ranks.

    But Yesalis, professor emeritus of health policy at Penn State, sees a larger issue rearing now, brain trauma, to threaten all contact sports and particularly American football.

    “This is going to eclipse the drug problem, and it probably already has,” Yesalis said in a recent telephone interview. “I think the whole drug issue is passé, to some extent. You don’t see any protests at moment about drugs in sports. … Steroid fatigue is all over the place, and I think people have just accepted it, deciding to go along.”

    “But I really think that tackle football is in trouble (for concussions),” Yesalis continued. “Football is clearly the No.1 game in American sports, and it does not look good from an epidemiological standpoint.”

    You can read more on this by clicking HERE.

    In the entire post you will see how the Nathan Stiles case was viewed by Dr. Robert Cantu, a renowned neurologist of Boston University and the Sports Legacy Institute.  Cantu does not completely believe the medical examiners report of an undiagnosed or missed subdural hematoma.

    Thank you for the email and story Matt!

    Austin Trenum, What His Mother Wants You To Know

    I recently ran a story about Brad Evans and his untimely death, knowing this was not the only person or family that has suffered from such horrible things.  What I didn’t know was that there are families that want their stories told.  Let me preface by saying that I am just a guy who has devoted his spare time to raise awareness about concussions and their lasting effects, just ONE guy and I was utterly floored and brought to tears by an email I received today, the sender was Michelle Trenum, mother of Austin Trenum who also ended his life prematurely on September 27, 2010.  Austin had been diagnosed with a concussion sustained in a game the previous Friday.  Here is Mrs. Trenum, a grieving mother’s email to me;

    I saw your blog posting on Brad Evans.  Our son, Austin Trenum,  received a “mild to moderate” concussion on September 24, 2010 at his football game.  Less than 48 hours later, our beautiful, smart, funny, happy, athletic, talented son took his life suddenly and spontaneously.  There was no warning, no depression, no mental health issues, no drugs or alcohol issues, no divorce or financial issues, no trouble with friends, no trouble with school, no fights or breakups with girlfriend, etc.  We found out about Brad Evans the day after it happened when the press contacted us noting the similarities of the two boys.  We were not up to speaking to the press but a friend who represents the family did call down there.   The reporter down in Fayetteville who’d personally interviewed Brad’s family and friends and they all said that everyone said the same thing about Brad:  that there was no reason and that he was excited about his future.  That sounded so familiar to us.

    We know with every fiber of our being that Austin would never have taken his own life.  He was too well adjusted, happy, and so excited about college.  He was making plans for that Sunday evening with his girlfriend, Continue reading

    The Sad End of Brad Evans

    YouTube Video Tribute

    A promising young athlete struck down in the prime of his life, at his own hands.  Brad Evans of Hobbton High School in North Carolina ended his life with a gunshot.  A seemingly “put together” young man who had no indication of depression or impulse control issues suddenly and without explanation felt compelled to end it.  Brad was going to go to college to play baseball and possibly strive for his ultimate goal of the Major Leagues.

    This was to happen after his senior season, including on the gridiron, where all the problems may have begun.  It is very important to say that there is and most likely will not be a link, but Brad suffered three concussion in a month’s time.  He  returned prematurely, and did not get a doctor’s clearance to participate.  His final concussion occurred on October 8th and required a helicopter transport to a regional medical center.

    The time line and a very good narrative of what happened to this young man are at the FayObserver.com, written by Greg Barnes.

    No one will ever know whether Brad suffered from CTE, or whether the repeated blows to his head altered his thinking and led him to take his own life.

    Suicide remains one of the most common causes of death among teenagers.

    But a mounting body of evidence – reinforced by the unlikely deaths of three promising young athletes since April – suggests that at least some of those suicides could be linked to repeated hits to the head.

    Collecting Information

    Fred Mueller has been running the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research in North Carolina for three decades, as Alan Schwarz writes on Ocala.com.

    Finding information about injuries has become easier throughout the year with the invention of the world-wide web.  Before that the Center had to hire news reading services to find what he was looking for.  Now with the awareness after a horrible event, some even call Fred Mueller.

    Not only did Alan Schwarz once again explain a part of the process that someone is doing, he shed light on things that may be missing in the recent concussion discussions.  Fred Mueller has written a book, it will be out very shortly, titled Football Fatalities and Catastrophic Injuries 1931-2008.

    As that book goes to press, Mueller continues to take his phone calls and scours the Web alongside file cabinets that read “Football Fatality Reports” and “Cat. Cases,” short for catastrophic. He seeks the stories nobody wants to hear, the most gruesome job in sports.

    “You could look at it that way,” Mueller said. “But you can also look at it as the best. You’re preventing deaths and disability injuries. That can be pretty satisfying.”

    Non-Sport Head Injuries Also Problem

    I know we usually focus on the concussions and head injuries in sports, however head injuries, especially those that go unchecked can create very dire situations as well.

    According to the Belleville News-Democrat (Illinois), a 42 year-old man shot and killed his wife before fleeing and taking his own life.

    What makes this an interest to us:

    It all may have started with a head injury from a car crash that led to a personality change in the man, police said.

    If the police are saying that, this early in the investigation there may be something there.  The key point of this part of the story is the “personality changes” as it related to post head injury.  As we have seen with research into CTE, former high-profile athletes have also had similar anecdotes prior to their deaths (Andre Waters, Chris Benoit come to mind).

    Sports can be our vehicle to take steps to stop this kind of stuff.

    Kansas City Area Athlete Dies

    Nathan Stiles of Spring Hill High School died Thursday night after a football game.  Jim Sullinger and Brad Cooper of the Kansas City Star reported on this tragic incident yesterday.  According to his father Nathan had a concussion during his homecoming game but did not note any significant hits during the game.

    This could be the first direct football death nationwide this year, said Fred Mueller, director of the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research at the University or North Carolina Chapel Hill.

    Denver Post Story

    McAvoy, through the REAP initiative, seeks to make sure athletes fully recover from a concussion before returning to play. If not, the consequences can be devastating.

    Jake Snakenberg, unlike Camden, never got a second chance. Snakenberg, a freshman football player at Grandview, died from Second Impact Syndrome after suffering two concussions in a one-week span in September 2004.

    Ryan Casey of the Denver Post wrote a story about the impact of concussions beyond sports in today’s edition.

    Unable to focus, Courtney was pulled out of school. She started sleeping up to 20 hours a day. She started losing things.

    “I would forget where I was,” Camden said. “It was not good.”

    Five days after her concussion, the migraines started. Mother’s Day came and went. Other symptoms — the lethargy, the forgetfulness, the inability to concentrate — grew worse.

    “She just couldn’t

    Sideline concussion tests — like this one given by Chaparral athletic trainer Maggie Yates — are a crucial step in making sure high school athletes don’t return to play before they have fully recovered from a hit. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

    do what was asked of her, physically or mentally,” Joellen said. “All of a sudden, there was like nothing. I used to say it was like looking into her, and it was hollow. And I’m like, ‘Who is this?’ “Ten days after the concussion diagnosis, the family visited The Children’s Hospital in Littleton, where Courtney was put through a series of cognitive examinations, including a standard test during which she was told three words to remember and asked to recall them after a five- or 10-minute conversation.

    “If she got one or two, we were lucky,” Joellen said. “I’m sitting there going, ‘That’s like the capacity of a 6-year-old.’ ”

    Read the entire story HERE

    National Story on Sports Legacy Institute

    Pat Graham penned a story for the AP today about the Sports Legacy Institute and its ongoing contribution to the “concussion crisis” we are facing.

    Interviewed in the story were various professional sports athletes, as well as Chris Nowinski the Director of the SLI.  The point of the story was to shed light on the fact the 300+ people are dedicating their “brains” to the research of it all.  Not only will these people donate their brains after a long life, they are undergoing annual testing for data collection.

    Ideally, Nowinski said the center would like to sign up 50 athletes from each sport. Most of the volunteers are men, but there are women in the registry including soccer player Cindy Parlow and swimmer Jenny Thompson.

    Athletes who are enrolled in the registry take a medical history every year, perform cognitive tests and answer an array of questions, such as if they’ve been dealing with bouts of depression. It’s a way to establish a medical baseline, helping researchers watch for signs of CTE, which can eventually lead to dementia.

    “We have no idea how much head trauma is necessary to produce (CTE),” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery and co-founder of the institute. “We just know those who play sports and who have higher amounts of head trauma have a higher incident of it. … This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of studying this problem.”

    Follow this JUMP to read the entire article.

    ALS and Concussions

    A research study delved into the association of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease and head injury, more specific brain trauma.  Boston University and the VA published such information in Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology.

    The New York Times (and you guessed it Alan Schwarz) posted about this research on August 17, 2010 and wrote the following;

    Doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., and the Boston University School of Medicine, the primary researchers of brain damage among deceased National Football League players, said that markings in the spinal cords of two players and one boxer who also received a diagnosis of A.L.S. indicated that those men did not have A.L.S. They had a different fatal disease, doctors said, caused by concussion like  trauma, that erodes the central nervous system in similar ways.

    The Chicago Sun Times and their Soccer Blog wrote about the same thing on September 22, 2010, but how it has affected soccer players;

    The findings could shed light on the increased incidence of ALS in contact sports. An Italian study of 7000 professional soccer players from 1970 to 2002 showed 18 of them diagnosed with ALS The study showed Serie players were seven times more susceptible than the non-playing population.

    This is a serious issue and important finding, as the life long effects of concussions have yet to be fully discovered, in fact a lot has yet to be discovered on the frontier of the brain.

    CTE Found as Contributing Factor

    Another post on Owen Thomas and what researchers have found. 

    As we discussed previously chronic traumatic encephalopathy was found by Ann McKee at Boston University.  This case is EXTREMELY unique on many levels.  First, Thomas was the first college aged individual to show CTE, secondly he was never diagnosed with a concussion.  However, being a lineman in football he was exposed to thousands of head hits throughout his career.

    Here is a video with his mother and the full story found at bu.edu;

    This particular topic of concussions will be more on the “front burner” as time goes on.