10/17 Quick Hits

HockeyNow question and answer with Charles Tator (one of the best);

HN: What have we learned about concussions that maybe we didn’t know a decade or two or three ago?

CT: There are about 30 things that we didn’t know just 10 years ago. For example, the adolescent brain seems to be most susceptible to concussion and takes the longest to recover. It’s rather unfortunate because that age is when kids are now big enough and fast enough that they are getting concussions—it’s also the risk-taking age.

Also, women appear to concuss more easily than men; and that holds for sports like hockey and basketball. We’re not really sure why that is but that’s what the data is telling us.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about concussions. We still don’t know the exact mechanism—although, rotational acceleration is more important in producing concussions than linear acceleration. And also, we don’t know how to detect a concussion on imaging techniques; for example, there is no telltale sign on a CAT Scan. And the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is still not showing us the effects of concussion. We are hopeful that some newer sequences of MRI will be more informative.

A concussion is still a clinical diagnosis, meaning that it depends on a knowledgeable examiner, like a physician, as well as a compliant patient. And not all patients are compliant; there are still people who want to hide the symptoms and signs of a concussion.

HN: How important is recognition of a concussion?

CT: All you have to do is look at Sidney Crosby—the fact that he got his first concussion on a Monday and it wasn’t recognized; and then on the Wednesday, he got his second concussion and it took a year to recover. It’s important to sit out until you’ve fully recovered and follow the six-step process of gradually incorporating more physical activity, so that your brain is ready to take another hit. If you run around the block and get a headache and get dizzy, that means your brain is not ready for the next hit and then you’re subject to the serious consequences of another concussion because your brain has not recovered fully from the first one.

Ex-ESPN exec says “Stop denying brain damage“;  Continue reading

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“League of Denial” Wrap Up and Reax

I surely hope everyone was able to watch PBS Frontline’s “League of Denial” last night, if you happened to miss it you can view it HERE.  This is also an opportunity to insist that you seek out the book, which is much more detailed and has more “players” in this issue.

During the film I along with others was asked to tweet live about what we were seeing, and as the app updated on my iPad the comments and opinions were very interesting.  I thought it was great that both the Fainaru’s were adding key details of the story while the action was unfolding, a lot of my retweets were from them.

From my feed it was obvious that the league did not look like they did enough in the way of getting information out.  Most poignant to me was the timeline of first admission – 2000 when the NFL Retirement Board awarded Mike Webster disability and admitted football created his problems.  Yet for years after that the league itself denied all research that supported those findings, Dr. Ira Casson even went as far as saying “No” to every question asked about long-term damage in 2007.  SEVEN YEARS AFTER.  Further, the league continued to deny and even down play leaked research (that was sponsored by the league itself) about brain issues after retirement, in 2009 when Alan Schwartz was leaked that information.  Later that same year Greg Aiello – after the thrashing of the league in Congress – admitted to Schwartz that there is a connection.

The film did a tremendous job of showing the plight Continue reading

“League of Denial” (Part 2)

Coming to a bookstore and TV near you today is “League of Denial” a book and documentary about one of the dirty little secrets the NFL has been avoiding for some time.  Fortunately, I have been provided with advance copies of both; the Frontline film was easy to digest, as for reading a book, well we can just say I am trying to read as fast as possible.

I was reminded quickly, yesterday via Twitter, that I may lack valuable perspective when it comes to concussion information (and that I am not normal – this is not breaking news).  Will Carroll of Bleacher Report let me know that this information will be new to a lot of people out there.  He is exactly right, not only that, this documentary will be easily digestible for the fan of football.  For any person just wading into this, when you tune into PBS tonight to view “League of Denial” you will be absolutely hooked from the start.

The sounds of the crowd, visuals of big hits grab your football part of the brain IMMEDIATELY, over those sounds you will quickly discover the problem NFL players have faced with brain injuries playing their sport.  Harry Carson saying “and then they are gone” when talking about former players.  A bold statement that the level of denial was “just profound.”  An NFL lawyer saying “we strongly deny those allegations that we withheld information or misled the players.”  And more video and sound of punishing hits that used to fill the highlight reel bring the opening curtain of this very important documentary.

This problem is real – it’s not just real for the professionals – and from the get go Frontline makes you understand, vividly and personally, why this is.  After listening to old radio calls of the Steel Curtain it all begins with the story of Mike Webster and the forensic pathologist who studied his brain, Bennet Omalu.

The discovery of a possible reason one of the most respected and lauded players in Pittsburgh sports pantheon fell from grace and eventually found and early demise.  If the football portion of your brain does not connect to what is being presented then I would haphazardly guess that you are not ingrained within the fabric of football.

As Harry Carson explains how the game was played and to some extent how it’s still played you can begin to understand the issue at hand.  This is hammered home when Robert Stern, PhD tells the audience blows to the brain are at forces 20 times greater than the force of gravity (20 G’s); or as he so eloquently put it “driving into a brick wall at 35mph”, 1,000 times or more in a season.

In the first 11 minutes of this 2 hour presentation you are at full attention and want to understand the “whats”, “whys” and “whos”.  If you are not engaged and ready for further explanation I can only say that you don’t care or want to bury your head in the sand.

Contributions in the film include Continue reading

“League of Denial” (Part 1)

Coming to a bookstore and TV near you tomorrow is “League of Denial” a book and documentary about one of the dirty little secrets the NFL has been avoiding for some time.  Fortunately, I have been provided with advance copies of both; the Frontline film was easy to digest, as for reading a book, well we can just say I am trying to read as fast as possible.

In all honesty, if you have followed any part of this issue nothing revealed in either medium (thus far in the book) is seen as “BREAKING NEWS” rather an illustration of what has been happening with the research arm and policy makers of the National Football League, with regards to concussions.

“League of Denial” the Book:

In what I have been able to read thus far both Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada have done a good job of telling the hidden secret.  The Fainau’s went as deep as they possibly could without the help of the league itself, even as far as getting one of the original researchers to recount some of the possible misgivings in the past.

By utilizing the real stories of players that met an early demise (Mike Webster most notably) the information has an emotional connection with the reader.  While reading this you understand why this information may have been so valuable to the families and friends of those that could have been effected by repeated head trauma.

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to tell you that repetitive brain trauma is bad for you, but the problem here is Continue reading

NFL Concussion Litigation Settled Out of Court

Twitter and my in box is exploding at this very moment…  The NFL and the players who have filed suit against the league have come to a settlement of $765,000,000, Judge Brody’s statement can be found HERE.  This works out to about $170,000/player or estate if there were only 4,500 plaintiffs (numbers are not clearly known).

This is a good thing for the league, and for some players this is well needed cash flow.  If the promise of establishing a better future with study and plans for players hold true it will be a great day.  But excuse me if I’m a bit reserved on the confetti and marching bands…

The 88 plan was supposed to be the answer, then the new Head Neck & Spine Committee, then the Mackey Council within the league (headed by Sean Morey).  There have been many band aids placed on this gashing wound before, perhaps just throwing money at it will clot it up?

Moreover, the fact that the NFL does not have to go through discovery in the litigation process makes those in Manhattan pop the champagne!

Doesn’t it seem a bit coincidental that this has come on the heels of the release of “The United States of Football” and the upcoming release of the Frontline (formerly co-partnered with ESPN)  “League of Denial“?

Perhaps I am skeptical, fine, but who has really won in this?