UPMC Blazes Trail… Comes up with curious results

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh did something that has not been done up to this point; an intensive study on youth football.  Using geography as its selector the prestigious group looked into Pop Warner football and concussion rates.  The sample size is impressive, over 11,000 athletic exposures over an entire season of play (2011).

However, instead of heralding the work more questions have been raised about the conclusions drawn by lead researcher Micky Collins, PhD.  I don’t want to “lead the witness” before you had the chance to hear yourself, watch Dr. Collins below;

Interestingly enough Dr. Collins’ points regarding the depth and breadth of this investigation are spot on, it was both needed and welcome.  It is good to have a starting point and something to say “this is where we came from” at all levels of sport – with regards to concussions.  After that, I personally Continue reading


Series from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on CTE

Mark Roth of the Pittsburgh Post-Gaette put together an informational series on chronic traumatic encephalopathy; “a brain disease that afflicts athletes”.

In the first part that came out this past Sunday, Roth took a look at the global perception of CTE through the examples of Chris Henry and the possible case of still living Fred McNeill;

Chris Henry was a fleet wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. During his five seasons with the team, he developed a reputation as a talented athlete on the field but a bad boy off it, even though those who knew him well say he was typically quiet and respectful. […]

Fred McNeill played 12 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings in the ’70s and ’80s. After retiring, he finished law school and became a successful attorney in Minneapolis, helping to win major class-action lawsuits.

Henry would end up dead after an accident that was predicated with some unusual actions by him, McNeill now has full-time care takers as dementia has stripped him of everything he worked hard for.

Roth begins the second piece with those that can be easily called the experts in this area, Bennet Omalu and Ann McKee; Continue reading

Dr. Bailes Gives 7 Ways To Help With Concussion Management

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Chuck Finder (a regular writer on concussions and previously cited here) had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Julian Bailes of the BIRI and discuss some thoughts on ways to help avoid damage from concussions.  His article is both brief and very informational, so give it a read, here are the seven (I cannot rip off his whole article so here are the topics).

  1. Continue improvement in helmet technology
  2. Limit exposures in practice
  3. Enforce existing rules on helmet-to-helmet contact
  4. Study Omega 3/DHA (fish oil) supplements
  5. Take lineman out of three point stance
  6. Take a more conservative management approach
  7. Genetic testing

Although I am obviously late to the party on the BIRI, Dr. Bailes has always been on the radar screen and is mentioned in the same breath as the other “leaders” in head injuries/concussions.  I have been a proponent of five of the seven, and only now am understanding the genetic aspect of the concussion.  The only one that I have yet to come around on is the 3-point stance, but it too has A LOT of merit.

Focus on Athletic Trainers

The first line of defense for concussions is athletic trainers, however not everyone knows or understands why that might be.  Chuck Finder does a great job explaining why in is Head in the Game series of articles for the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh.

“The old story is, ‘We can’t afford to have one,’ ” said Mike Cordas, parroting some school districts’ explanations. He is a Harrisburg-area physician and chairman of the sports-medicine advisory committee to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association. “You can’t afford not to have one. That is your first line of defense.”

“There are 7.6 million kids playing high school sports in this country, and now less than 50 percent of those high schools have a certified athletic trainer on staff,” said Dawn Comstock, the principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio. Another survey last summer by the Scripps-Howard News Service placed the figure at nearly two of every three school districts nationally without such full-time help. Dr. Comstock added, “I think we’re letting those kids down.”

Dr. Cordas has this exactly right without an athletic trainer, especially if they would be available in your area, the risk and liability of not having one is greater than the cost of retaining one.

“The athletic trainer is the most important [medical professional] on that field,” continued Dr. Cordas, who also worked with Penn State football in years past. “He or she knows that athlete better than any physician; he or she sees them every day. The athletes confide in him or her; they trust them. The athletic trainer is the most indispensable part of the outfit.”

Read the entire story HERE.

Concussion Effects More Widely Known

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, for the five hours total for which a school district gets reimbursed by the state, a Southmoreland High School math teacher brings books, coursework and specialized instruction to the Mount Pleasant home of Gaige Pavlocak, 15.

Gaige, despite recent improvements in his symptoms, health and outlook, has been academically exiled to his home for more than six weeks because of the post-concussion effects still lingering from a helmet-to-helmet collision on the third day of high-school football camp.

That was Aug. 18, 101 days ago.

Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opens up his article today about concussions on the youth. Pennsylvania is a good place to read about concussions and school-aged kids, as it is where the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is, the home of Dr. Micky Collins and the ImPACT program. The northeast in general has been much quicker to adapt and adopt (Washington state not included) changes necessary to the well-being of adolescents across the board.

One such novel idea and program is BrainSTEPS (Strategies Teaching Educators, Parents and Students), a homebound educational system provided by the state, for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries. Although the program was initially set forth for severe (coma-like) injuries to the brain, a majority of assistance is given to those that have been concussed.

We have students who have never lost a second of consciousness who are doing far worse in school than students who were in a coma for a day or two, those considered severely, traumatically brain injured,” Mrs. Eagan Brown said.

A very good article that I encourage everyone to read, especially those involved in teaching our youth. Resistance is not needed in this area however, we see that on a daily basis.