Ken Dryden via Grantland

Ken Dryden was an amazing goalie in the NHL, and has been around long enough to see the transformation of the sport.  Hockey is a very exciting game to watch and really many are missing out on its action.  I continue to tell everyone that there is nothing like a NHL game in the stands, probably the best event one can go to (unless you score a Game 7 ticket in the playoffs).  The issue that Dryden is taking on is one that I have been clamoring for – for a long time – remove shots to the head.  Dryden wrote his article for Grantland and is calling on the NHL and NFL to start playing “head smart”;

This is a difficult time for the NHL, for its commissioner, Gary Bettman, and for hockey. It’s no less difficult for the NFL, for its commissioner, Roger Goodell, for the NCAA, and for football. Head injuries have become an overwhelming fact of life in sports. The immensity of the number, the prominence of the names, the life-altering impact on their lives, and, more disturbing, if that’s possible, the now sheer routineness of their occurrence. The Crosby hit didn’t seem like much. If it hadn’t been Crosby, the clip of the incident would never have made the highlight reel. And if so much can happen out of so little, where is all this going? Who else? How many more? How bad might this get? Careers and lives of players, we know now, have been shortened, diminished, snuffed out by head injuries. What once had seemed debatable, deniable, spin-able, now is not. What once had been ignored now is obvious. Not just contact or collision sports, hockey and football are dangerous sports.

Dryden does not suggest to Bettman, rather implores him to make necessary changes; Continue reading

Advertisements

Irv Muchnick: NYT Blacks Out Omalu

Irvin Muchnick is a writer and investigative journalist writing focusing mainly on the WWE.  Muchnick has been heavily involved in the concussion issue in the WWE and its crossover as well.

Irv has been and will continue to be looking at how the media and other entities cover the concussion issue.  Recently he has taken a close look at the New York Times and Alan Schwarz as it relates to concussions (LINK);

An examination of the Newspaper of Record’s coverage over the last six months suggests that the answer is it is leading us to a world made safe for the National Football League and its $9-plus billion in annual revenues.

Pay plenty of lip service to the alleged mental health toll for the thousands upon thousands of professional and amateur athletes employed by the NFL or in its orbit – but also make sure all the opinion-making honor and Continue reading

Matt Chaney: Football-Meida Complex

Matt Chaney is a former football player and even self-described “juicer” during his time in the game.  He used his first hand experience to write a book about steroids in football “Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football“, and now has taken his focus on the concussion issue.  Chaney is what I like to call a “pseudo contributor” to The Concussion Blog, he has helped with finding many articles and topics on this blog.  Behind the scenes Matt is one of the most profound people to spark conversation, and has very “real” views on this issue; not to mention that Chaney is a very good journalist.  (This post is part 2 of an excerpt preview for a pending analysis on Chaney’s Blog, ‘Brain Trauma Stalks Football Players, Dictates Impact Game Reform,’ which will include independent experts’ recommendations for constructive steps imperative to the sport’s survival at public schools and colleges.)

A couple of months after Matt Chaney took a hard look at Neuropsychological Testing he now looks at how the media has been handling the issue.  Matt holds nothing back as his analysis and opinion make people take a look at how things are being done.  Chaney has even given The Concussion Blog some of his feedback and we listen to every point.  Some of his points are clear but yet seem to be overlooked;

Despite the contemporary campaign of “concussion awareness” and “culture change” for tackle football, as game officials and media promote, America essentially remains insensitive to brain disorder in victims and especially athletes.

“Generally speaking, mankind does not empathize with brain diseases as well as with physical ailments; there is this negative response, culturally, for diseases of the brain,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who first discovered cerebral damage in an American football player, deceased NFL lineman Mike Webster.

“If you talk about having mental disorder, psychological disease, people wouldn’t empathize with you,” Omalu said. “Rather, they would Continue reading

Bradshaw Speaks Up

It has not been easy for former players to discuss the issue of concussions and head injuries.  In fact, you rarely hear from the most prominent (analysts, talking heads, etc.), some of them you hear misinformation from, or lack of education on the matter (Mike Golic, Mark Schlereth, Hines Ward, etc.).  However recently one of the most well-known “talking heads” and former quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, is now revealing his current dealings with repeated head trauma.  In a report on CBSSports.com and Will Brinson, Bradshaw tells all;

The latest former player to speak out against long-term concussion symptoms is a big name: FOX Sports NFL pregame host Terry Bradshaw, who revealed on Tuesday that he’s suffering from short-term memory loss and the loss of hand-eye coordination as a result of brain injuries suffered when he was in the NFL.

Brinson did a wonderful job of tracking down the subtle hints that Bradshaw has been laying down; Continue reading

Ideas to End Football Head Trauma

Jeff Pearlman of SI.com has wrote an editorial delving into ways to curb the head injuries in football, more specifically the NFL.  The op-ed piece is on CNN.com as well.  He proposes five ideas to curb the issue;

Change the helmets: When it comes to helmets, the clichéd belief is that the NFL needs to delve into its bag of technological tricks to come up with a safer, more secure, more layered product. That’s nonsense. In professional football, a hard hit is a hard hit, and if one’s head is jarred by a 300-pound man flying through the air at full speed, no amount of outer protection will save his brain from rattling against his skull.

Ignore the desires of the NFL’s executives and owners: As we speak, the league and the union are fighting over various issues and trying to avoid a lockout. One of the key points is the league’s so-insanely-and-ruthlessly-greedy-it-makes-me-want-to-vomit desire to move from a 16- to 18-game regular season.

Suspend players for the season: How about this? Continue reading

Football Mom Looks Back

Denise Crosby has seen her share of football and admittedly loved every second her sons were playing; that was before knowing what she knows now.  Crosby has  written an op-ed piece for The Herald-News of the Chicago area;

Now, honestly, I wish the four of them had never donned pads and a helmet. Of course, that’s easy to say now that I no longer have sons playing under those seductive Friday night lights. Or that I’ll never have to tell a little Pop Warner superstar he’s hanging up his cleats and going out for swimming instead.

I’m enough of a football mom to understand why so many ex-athletes say they have no regrets about playing the sport, even those who have to bury their comrades.

Crosby also took time to ask others in the area about concussions and the risk involved for those that play.  One such person was Kurt Becker, Continue reading

Telander Is Right

Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun Times has written some good articles on the issue of concussions and head trauma, as it relates to sports.  In a recent article, post Super Bowl, he wrote about the undercurrent of head injuries in the NFL;

But if you can hack through the noise and pseudo-symbolism of our favorite billion-dollar, entertainment-driven sport, what you will hear, still softly drumming, is the danger of head trauma.

Yes, there has been a lot of talk of late about brain injury caused by sport. But the danger hasn’t vanished just because it has been labeled.

Pros are pros. And it could be argued that grown men have the right to risk their own health. As Steelers receiver Hines Ward, who had seven receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s big game, said, ‘‘It’s my body. I feel like if I want to go back out there, I should have the right.’’

He was talking about what a player should be allowed to do after suffering a concussion.

Hines’ logic is debatable, but it’s not the point here.

He went on further to discuss our leading cause here, the adolescent brain Continue reading

The Morning Call Responds

The Morning Call newspaper has responded to the editorial/opinion of columnist Paul Carpenter (our take here), by printing some responses the paper received after the publishing of the column.  Included in the article were responses from the bill sponsor, State Senator Pat Browne, President of PA Athletic Trainer’s Society, Gregory Jank, and three other athletic trainers.

You can read the article in full HERE.  This was a class move by The Morning Call and along with this Carpenter is set to respond tomorrow as well.

I would like to say thank you to all that took the time to respectfully and professionally respond to the Morning Call and Mr. Carpenter, as action has been taken and will be further examined in tomorrows column.

Bill Is Bogus or Paul Is Bogus? You Make The Call…

Just minding my business going over some things about the site before my paternity leave, soon (wife is so ready to get our third into the world she is miserable, I feel for her) and I get a tweet from @kbkorte asking if I had seen a particular editorial.  I had not and since work beckoned I didn’t get time till later in the day.  It was about concussions, in particular the Pennsylvania proposed bill, and how this writer/journalist Paul Carpenter thinks its “bogus”.

He started his editorial with the backdrop of hockey and helmets, making the case that he felt he was “safer” without one on, and even went as far as saying that only football should be required to wear a helmet.  He used Gordy Howe as the example of someone who played until he was 52 and “seems fine” now.  Then he went on about Sidney Crosby;

Now that the use of helmets in the NHL is concomitant with a plague of head injuries not noticed when players played bare-headed, there is an ever-increasing emphasis on bigger helmets, along with rules to make the sport less rough and tough.

The NHL story focused on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ brilliant center, Sidney Crosby, sidelined since Jan. 5 with post-concussion symptoms (the result of getting bumped while playing with a helmet).

“Bumped”?  Really?  I bet Mr. Crosby didn’t think he was “bumped”, perhaps Mr. Carpenter is a true “tough guy” in the sport of hockey and to him it was just a “bump”, although I will point out that Mr. Carpenter was not on the ice to feel the forces of the “bump”.  Secondly, I believe that Mr. Carpenter is lacking the education about concussions that most have come to understand, well at least us “trainers” have known and been taught, I will get to that in a second.  The FACT is that anyone can sustain a concussion WITHOUT Continue reading

Savard Perspective

Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe wrote today about some perspective in the Marc Savard issue.

How about never? How about retirement as an option? Anybody thinking in those terms?

Those questions are huge and important questions to be asked of Savard.  Hockey is a ruthless sport at times and the head is exposed to a lot of danger.  At the very least, perhaps Savard should do what Crosby was thinking of doing, sitting out until the NHL decides to get up to speed with the IIHF, and ban hits to the head, period.  The unlucky thing for Savard was that the hit that caused his most recent concussion was clean and within the rules.  This is something Taylor Twellman knows a lot about.

“It’s the hardest thing,’’ says Twellman. “It’s really a sickness. I’ve heard people say, ‘Aw, it’s only a concussion. Why is he out there crying?’ He’s crying because of fear. He’s scared out of his mind. He felt bad for so long and the symptoms are back.

“When it comes to feeling better or playing, you are behind the 8-ball. Finally, I said, ‘Screw playing, I just want to feel better.’

“We all hope Savard heals quickly. The longer the symptoms go on, I would tell him, ‘Be smart about it. It definitely impacts your life after sports.’

“We see those NFL players. You’ve got to be smart. You can’t replace the brain.’’

Savard is 33 years old. He has three small children. He stands to make $28 million over seven years (a pact signed in December 2009), and he’s going to get that even if he can’t ever play again. Why take a chance on another concussion?

It Is A Shame

That an injury to hockey’s number on attraction and best player has people up in arms about the concussion issue.  This was an issue before New Year’s Day and will continue to be one for a long time, as long as the leagues that want to make a boat load of money look the other way.  I should rephrase that, they are not looking the other way, rather than taking a stance based upon solid information and evidence leagues like the NHL think that putting a band-aid on a lacerated wrist is going to give them enough time to figure something out.

Two editorials about Sidney Crosby and his injury have made poignant arguments for a call to action in the sport of hockey.  The Globe and Mail ran an editorial last week stating that the NHL did not penalize the players that hit Crosby, which according to them were blatant rule infractions.

Anyone who thinks this point is exaggerated is welcome to review the hit on the Internet (http://bit.ly/i9ir2X). It is painful to watch. Mr. Crosby struggled to stand, skated doubled over to the bench. Use of the NHL’s protocol should be automatic in such a case. A trainer is supposed to ask: What just happened? Who are we playing? What was the score of the last game? If the answers aren’t clear, the team doctor probes his concentration, memory, balance and co-ordination. Continue reading

Headshots And NHL

The National Hockey League took a swift and correct move back in October to remove blindside hits to the head from the game.  The move was made for player safety, and in particular to try to reduce concussions in the sport.  However we saw the NHL’s #1 star, Sidney Crosby, take a shot to the head in the Winter Classic that was obviously deemed legal (there was no penalty), and he is still suffering post concussion symptoms.  Now there is a call for the NHL to remove all shots to the head, a “no-brainer” in my mind;

It shouldn’t take having your best player knocked out of the game to get rid of headshots.Of course, there is no reason to believe having leading scorer Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s marquee guy, suffer a concussion will do anything to change the level of urgency the NHL should be feeling to penalize all contact to the head.

That’s where we are now. Just penalizing blindside headshots clearly isn’t enough. Just look at what has gone on this week.After researching a three-part series on concussions and their immediate and long-term effects, it has become clear the NHL should penalize all contact to the head, intentional, predatory or simply accidental.

Players have to be responsible for their sticks, right? An accidental high stick still gets you a penalty (most of the time, anyway). So why not shoulders, too?

Maybe if he knew he would get a penalty, David Steckel of the Washington Capitals might have tried harder to avoid hitting Crosby the way he did in the Winter Classic — the hit Pat Brisson, Crosby’s agent, now blames for the concussion which has kept Crosby out for the past four games, with no date set for his return.

Chris Stevenson of the Barrier Examiner wrote more, and is exactly right.  I do want to make some issues clear, however…

First, it is interesting that Crosby’s agent is now officially stating that the hit during the Winter Classic is the one that caused the issue (as we have been saying since it happened).  Not only is it a capitulation of the facts, Continue reading

Athletic Trainers for Christmas

Thanks to regular follower Mike Hopper for finding this gem from The Portland Press Herald in Portland, Maine.  Dr. James Glazer wrote an editorial about how all of Maine’s schools should have an athletic trainer, by simply writing Santa about his wishes.

All I want for Christmas this year is an athletic trainer for each of Maine’s high schools. I know it is a lot to ask, but I’ll explain why it is so important.

Put simply, for the thousands of Maine teenagers who play high school sports, an athletic trainer is the most essential piece of safety equipment. They’re more important than shin guards for soccer athletes, than mouth guards for hockey players, and even more important than helmets for football players.

Dr. Glazer promotes athletic trainers at all times and has an interesting perspective as to what we do on a daily basis;

Athletic trainers are some of the most hard-working people in our schools. They open up the training room hours before the athletes hit the field, and they stay long after the teams’ equipment has been put away. Most athletic trainers wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they only had one thing going on at a time. Most can easily perform an entire evaluation with one athlete while taping three others, and at the same time keep tabs on the four basketball players rooting around in their desk for a snack.

I’ve never been around a training room that wasn’t a bustling hub of activity. Plenty of athletes come for treatment, but just as many are there to hang out. Athletic trainers, in addition to being great clinicians, usually chose their career because they genuinely care for the kids.

His direction and call for action is in the state of Maine, it applies to ALL states;

But as your school’s budget is being debated, think about this: When your son or daughter is at an away game, lying on a strange field in pain, frightened about an injury they just sustained, who do you want out there keeping them safe? In that situation, and in a thousand others all over Maine, there’s no substitute for an athletic trainer.

If you see more of these articles send it our way, not only do we bring concussion awareness but we are here to promote the health care professionals, athletic trainers.

Editorial by Dawn Knight

Dawn Knight, an author who writes for the Washington Post, penned an editorial piece about concussions and how more needs to be done in the education aspect of this issue.  LINK to entire editorial from Washington Post.

I’m no expert, but I learned a lot about concussions after my son suffered a severe one during a rugby practice in August. People who have had concussions are not actually more susceptible to concussions, I discovered. However, if they are not fully healed and try to return, they are very likely to suffer another concussion – and a concussion on top of a concussion can be very dangerous…

It was scary to watch what the concussion did to him. For weeks he was a different person, often confused, unable to focus on school and enduring severe headaches and nausea. When he would start feeling better, he would try to catch up on school work, but that would lead to a headache and set him back again. He went in for an MRI and more evaluations, but they only indicated that he needed more time to recover. There was nothing we could do to hurry it along.

A great perspective to write from, and the ending of the article hammers home what we here have been saying all along about education;

Football players are going to get hurt – it’s the nature of the game, but head injuries cannot be taken lightly. The same set of requirements my son had to pass — evaluated independently of the team doctor — is a start. Beyond that, there needs to be an education program for the players and coaches about the long-term effects of concussions.

Concussions and Politics

Irvin Muchnick of BeyondChron out of San Francisco wrote an article about the concussion issue reaching a critical mass both in sports and in the political arena.

He makes great points about the start of the investigations into the long-term effects of concussions, crediting Chris Nowinski of the SLI and formerly of  World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).  We have shed a bright light on the issue many times here, however the angle that Muchnick takes is into the political scene.  With the election of Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut (home of the WWE), he feels that more attention needs to be given to the matter of concussions.

Although we as sports fans are not looking for an overhaul of the “distractions” we enjoy, particularly on Sundays in the fall, the impetus is now, and with help we can come up with resolute actions to protect EVERYONE.  This includes the professionals all the way down to the youth, and back up to the recreational athlete.   Plus, do not forget about the general public, as this is not a sports-only issue.  Sports will be the vehicle to get the action Muchnick is looking for.

Is It Worth It?

Derek Hart of the Bleacher Report has written an article about the costliness of playing professional football.  Before recent studies and investigations, general orthopedic injuries made lives difficult for former champions of the gridiron.  Now it’s repeated head trauma that may in fact make playing in the NFL a scary proposition.

So when I hear about guys like Campbell, Jacoby and Marsh becoming cripples, or kids becoming virtual vegetables like Brad Ebner, the high school player mentioned earlier, or Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers player who was paralyzed from the neck down during the their game against Army this year, as well as the life span of ex-NFL players being shorter than the average American male, I can’t help but ponder…

Read more about this story HERE

Football’s Direction

Patrick Hruby wrote a thought-provoking article for ESPN.com.  In it he related the game of football with smoking and tobacco use.

Once upon a time in America, smoking was commonplace. Glamorous, even… lighting up sure as heck felt good, and that painful lesion in the back of your throat was nothing a spiffier, more sophisticated filter couldn’t fix.In short, smoking was a lot like football.

It has become evident that there will be a fine balance between the glorious destruction we as fans enjoy and the safety of the players, not only for the short-term, but long-term.

Football is brutal. It exacts a terrible physical toll, savaging current and former players alike, from Philadelphia ‘s DeSean Jackson to Hall of Famer John Mackey, a runaway fire truck of a tight end who now suffers from dementia and resides in an assisted-living facility. And fans know this. Players, too. Both groups have made their peace with the mayhem; for many, the mayhem is the draw.

Give yourself a few minutes and take a look at this article.

Varsity Season Over, Lesson Learned

Last night was our last varsity game, though we have one more JV game in about 30 minutes (thanks to my student for getting it all set up).  From a concussion standpoint, we ended the varsity season with a total of 4 concussions.  Over a nine-game schedule that is less than .5 per game.  The rate would be 45 players divided by concussions for a rate of 11.45 on the season, slightly higher than current rates.

That is what leads me to this post.  In our last game, we faced a team that has athletic trainers by the name of John Storsved and Steven Broglio, PhD.  Both are active in the athletic training community, working at nearby state universities.  Dr. Broglio is working with the HITS program (helmet sensors) at the University of Illinois.  John is the Clinical Instructor for athletic training at Eastern Illinois.  Prior to the game, the three of us were engaged in “nerd” talk about the increase in concussion rates.

We have all observed more concussions this season and were discussing possible causes of this alarming trend.  Although didn’t reach a consensus on a singular cause, we did all agree that awareness has increased across the board.  Parents, coaches, and student-athletes are allowing more access to the “unseen/unreported” concussions of the past.  But one topic we did spend some time on was the violence and velocity of the hits kids are taking and delivering these days.  This too could be a reason for an increase in concussions.  This leads me to my editorial for the day.

NFL players are getting paid millions to, in effect, destroy their bodies, brains included.  However, I feel that kids are emulating what they see on Sundays by taking to the field on Fridays.  The lowering of the head is something that coaches DO NOT teach, yet we see the best football players in the world continually do it, without penalty.  Last night I saw and heard a perfect example from one of our players.

He was blocking late on a play where there was a scrum and launched himself into the pile head first to make a block/hit.  It WAS NOT flagged (should have been), and he came off to the sidelines.  I asked this player what he was thinking and why he did that. His response…”They do it in the NFL.”

Enough said.

Need to Keep the Positive Momentum

Yup Crowder... Go ahead and play without your helmet... (Photo courtesy of Boston Globe)

Since the  multitude of concussion episodes in the NFL last  weekend, the media coverage has been relatively positive. A quick google news search returns 2,680 results for the search term “NFL Concussion”  dated between Sunday and Wednesday.  (http://bit.ly/9ExWRx)  But something happened yesterday afternoon.  NFL players (specifically defensive players), bloggers, radio hosts and guests began making considerably more negative comments about the NFL decision to impose suspensions as opposed to fines.

Across the web you will find various references to how football is a “warrior’s” sport and how it has and always will be dangerous. Many news outlets reported on James Harrison’s comments about having to sit out NFL games until he can learn to tackle or possibly just retire from the NFL because he doesn’t think he can play the game under the NFL’s rules (maybe in some strange way he is correct… maybe he should step away from the sport if he only knows how to play is to injure others).  Other players felt that the NFL response is a material rules change that should be addressed in the offseason and subject to the collective bargaining agreement. But one comment by Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder really stands out…..

“If I get a chance to knock somebody out, I’m going to knock them out and take what they give me.  They give me a helmet, I’m going to use it.”

While I could spend an entire post about how a helmet was never intended to be used as a weapon (as he is implying) or if this is the only way you can play defense, maybe you don’t have enough talent or speed to play that position…but the real problem with the quote is the amount of “air time” Continue reading

Penalizing The Hits

The TMQ (Tuesday Morning Quarterback) is a blog/Op-Ed piece written by Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com Page 2.  In today’s edition he spoke on why the NFL continues to have the problem with helmet-to-helmet hits.

For too long, NFL headquarters and sports commentators both have acted as though there is some gigantic mystery regarding why NFL players make so many dangerous helmet hits. Here’s why in three words: because they can. The play is almost never penalized.

As many people know the youth of America, especially sporting America, look at/to the professionals as examples, right or wrong.  And setting a good example in the NFL may help save some unneeded head/neck injuries at the lower levels.

Dr. Gifford-Jones

If you are reading this from Canada you know Dr. Gifford-Jones.  If not, you probably do not.  He is a doctor that has his opinions and editorials published across Canadian newspapers.  His most recent, about concussions is so good I am going to post the entire thing here.  Thank you to The Expositor

Do you know how much trauma the human brain sustains in contact sports? Unless you’re a concussion specialist, few parents, coaches, athletes or even doctors have much knowledge about the extent of this injury. Concussion is like sugar and salt. Few people are aware of the amount they’re receiving, and all three can be lethal.

Recently, 28 million people watched as the Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley collapsed on the field. Players frantically called for medical help. To everyone’s surprise Bradley, after a mere four minutes, was back in the game. At half-time, doctors diagnosed his condition as concussion.Later, critics asked why Bradley was not immediately removed from the game. The lame excuse was that a sideline examination showed no concussion. Moreover, Continue reading

Concussion Editorial

From Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun Times.

Clearly, nobody is in favor of brain trauma. The problem is the safeguards and preventative measures needed to protect all who might be head-injured playing football could bankrupt most child and adolescent programs.

It might surprise you to know this, but according to a study by University of Illinois kinesiology professor Steven P. Broglio, high school football head impacts exceed those at the college level. Why is not known, though the disparity in size and development of the players seem to be factors. But it shows you for sure that even pencil-necked kids will lay the lumber.

Great Editorial on Concussions

Paul Davies of The Philadelphia Inquirer penned a great editorial on returning to play with head injuries in this day and age.  CLICK HERE

But given the emerging science linking brain injuries and early deaths to concussions from playing football, I don’t understand why parents today would let their kid play the game. (Fortunately or unfortunately, given their father’s genes, my young kids are unlikely to face this dilemma.)