Hit Count Symposium

If you have a son or daughter in Little League Baseball you probably have heard of a pitch count.  Basically it is a set number of pitches a pitcher can throw in a certain time period.  The reasoning seems simple and sound, in my opinion; to protect the overuse of the arm/elbow.  Sure, there are many coaches out there in the baseball world that know what they are doing and will only throw players when they are fully rested.  On the other hand there a plenty of coaches out there that either don’t know or knowingly put players at risk when it comes to overuse of the pitching arm.

This has a relation to the concussion world; well, Sports Legacy Institute hopes so.  In an effort to be PROACTIVE about issues surrounding concussions and especially the youth players of collision sports SLI has created an initiative to limit, log and research “hits” absorbed.  I have blogged about it here when the initiative began.

Like many things that are new and different, people often dismiss or fail to grasp what is being attempted or cannot see what may be accomplished by doing them.  In regards to the Hit Count, it to is simple; limit the number of hits one sustains while playing sports – collision sports to begin with.

I may not be the worlds biggest advocate for sensor technology as we currently know it, however this approach is different and unique.  It is something that should be paid attention to, if not for the currently proposed reasons, at the very least the research capability.  How can we know if we don’t know.  In other words; how can we measure if we are making a difference with any of our so-called “advances in concussion issues” if there is not something to measure it against.  For a small niche in the medical community that is all about “baselines” and return to “normal” our peers seem to get all squirmy when people want to find this baseline.

The Hit Count most likely will not be the panacea which our culture so desperately wants but this is at least a step in the right direction.  Below you can see the full press release on the Symposium.  I cannot attend on July 15th, but I have been afforded two (2) transferable registrations.  Please contact me if you will be in the area and are looking to attend.  Without further ado:

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For Immediate Release —Thursday, June 12, 2014

Media Contact: Chelsea McLeod (781) 262-3324 or cmcleod@sportslegacy.org

Sports Legacy Institute Announces 2014 Hit Count® Symposium to be Held on Tuesday, July 15, at the Boston University School of Medicine to Advance Discussion on Use of Head Impact Sensors in Sports to Prevent Concussions

Co-Chaired by Dr. Robert Cantu and Dr. Gerry Gioia, event will gather researchers, athletic trainers, coaches, parents, athletes, medical professionals, and administrators to explore how Hit Count® Certified sensors can be used to improve brain safety  Continue reading

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Hit Count® Has Come To Fruition

Prevention of concussion is a bit of an oxymoron; nothing we know about concussions can stop them from occurring while in action.  HOWEVER, there is one way to prevent concussions – limiting exposure to the collisions that create a concussion.  Moreover, research suggests – as well as observations – that being exposed to subconcussive hits can have detrimental effects on brain function.  The subconcussive hits may even predispose someone to getting a concussion later on; this is obvious if you look at the data we have collected on NFL concussion over the past four years, (305 concussions in weeks 1-9 vs. 377 concussions in weeks 10-17) greater than a 20% increase as the season wears on.

Sports Legacy Institute has announced a certification program to further the Hit Count® initiative during a press release during Super Bowl week in New York City, today (along with the SLI Hit Count White Paper – see link below press release);

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Sports Legacy Institute Launches Hit Count® Certification Program in Collaboration with Leading Concussion Experts and Head Sensor Device Companies to Make Contact Sports Safer

Using Hit Count® Certified Products to Monitor and Minimize Brain Trauma Could Eliminate 500 Million Head Impacts in Football a Year, with the Goal of Reducing Risk of Concussion and Long-Term Brain Damage

New York City – January 27, 2014 – The non-profit Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) announced a major advance in the effort to prevent concussions and brain damage in contact sports today with the launch of the Hit Count® certification program after two years of development, which was unveiled at a press conference at the 2014 Super Bowl Media Center in New York City.

Hit Count® builds on the progress that head sensor device companies have made in developing devices that can measure acceleration of the head. Current products used on the field are focused on  alerting coaches, medical professionals, and parents when a potential concussive impact occurs.

Inspired by Pitch Counts baseball, which set limits to the number of times a player throws from the  mound to prevent arm injury, Hit Count® Certified Devices will have a second function that measures and “Counts” impacts that exceed the Hit Count® Threshold, set by a committee of  leading scientists, with the goal of minimizing brain injury.

“Research using sensor devices has revealed that each year in the United States, there are over 1.5 billion impacts to the heads of youth and high school football players,” said Chris Nowinski, Founding Executive Director of SLI who launched the Hit Count® initiative in 2012 with SLI Medical Director Dr. Robert Cantu. “Most hits are unnecessary and occur in practice. By utilizing  Hit Count® certified products as a teaching tool for coaches and a behavior modification tool for athletes, we can eliminate over 500 million head impacts next season.”

Committee member Gerry Gioia, PhD, of Children’s National Medical Center and Continue reading

SLI Press Release Primer

Coming up at 3:30 EST in New York City as part of the Super Bowl week the Sports Legacy Institute will being having an announcement about an initiative that could help with concussion issues.  It is no secret this will deal with the Hit Count ideas floated two years ago.  Below is the re-post of the February 3, 2012 announcement:

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Sports Legacy Institute did in fact release their white paper today; it simply brings to the surface something that they along with others have been saying with more frequency.  Their initiative to create a Hit Count is a bold step and on that is welcomed, especially in light of the very current research from Purdue.

You can find the article on the SLI website (here) or you can read the final white paper .pdf here; there is a very good background for this idea and the simple yet powerful citation of research already performed in this area.  Their idea is mapped out very well, again the devil will be in the details as it all begins to be sorted out;

There are technological and monetary limitations to a pure Hit Count, as Hit Count systems currently are only sold for helmeted sports, and there are costs involved.  A Hit Count is not as simple as a pitch count, where coaches only need a pencil and paper.

However, hits to the head can be accurately estimated, and methods can be developed to approximate the brain trauma exposure during games and during practice based on known variables, like position.  With these estimations, rule changes and practice guidelines can be provided to ensure few, if any, athletes exceed a proposed limit.

Little League pitch counts are limits on the number of “pitches thrown per day” and mandate up to three days of rest after exposure to elbow trauma to allow the ulnar collateral ligament to recover.

A Hit Count should explore the following guidelines:

  1. Minimum threshold to be considered a “Hit”
  2. Maximum Hits per day (all counts stratified by age)
  3. Maximum Hits per week
  4. Maximum Hits per season
  5. Maximum Hits per year
  6. When the technology is available, should there be a “Total Force” threshold derived from number of hits times mean force per hit
  7. Minimum required days of rest after a minimum brain trauma exposure

In football, a Hit Count might lead to fewer practices that involve helmets and pads or the limits on the use of high impact drills. In soccer practice, it may mean tracking headers in practice and games. This policy is probably most critical to the youngest athletes, who may be at the greatest risk, and should receive less brain trauma than older athletes.

As noted the implementation of this may be difficult to get an accurate hit count for each individual, it is not like a pitcher where they are the only one on the field performing the specific task.  However, that being said and the limitations discussed in the white paper, simply reducing the number of full contact days will reduce the overall number of hits.

Until research can identify a more specific number we must Continue reading

IHSA Proposed Heat Acclimatization Policy

There was big news out of Bloomington, Illinois coming and I was getting fired up because the word on the street was they had been working with the Kory Stinger Institute and Sports Legacy Institute to create a new “football” policy.  With my effort over the past two years to get the Illinois High School Association to look at and make some proactive changes to the way football is practiced, there was hope it had not fallen on deaf ears.

Well, the announcement/proposal is out…  It’s a good first step; one that addresses the heat issues that plague football. Some highlights are;

  • 14 day period that every player must go through to be eligible to play
  • Strict guidelines on actual practice time and rest time during multiple practice days (traditionally 2-a-days)
  • Set rest days
  • Removal of “grey area” of weights/agilities/walk throughs
  • Definition of scrimmages
  • No matter what was done before the start of the season all must do the 14 day period

Moreover this proposal is very specific and makes very good sense in the area of heat acclimatization.  Obviously you can see the hard work of KSI in the proposal, but where is SLI input?  Some of the missing talking points Continue reading

Jane Leavy’s Article on Ann McKee

In the category of must read, this piece on Grantland by Jane Leavy is one the mouth-breathing, booger-eating, Neanderthal types who thing science is ruining the game, should become acquainted with (if they can even read).  Dr. McKee and people like me are not trying to take away the sports you love.  In fact we are trying to save them, football included.

Dr. McKee is a fan, just like most of us;

Every football Sunday, she parks herself in front of the TV in her authentic Packers foam Cheesehead ($17.95 at packersproshop.com) and Rodgers’s no. 12 jersey and prays that none of the men on the field end up on a dissection table. To date, she has found ravages of CTE, the neurodegenerative brain disease that has become her life’s work, in over 70 athletes, nearly 80 percent of those she has examined. Among them: 18 of the 19 NFL players she has autopsied; three NHL enforcers; and a boy just 17 years old. McKee, who received $1 million in funding from the VA as well as a home for her lab, has also documented evidence of CTE in combat veterans exposed to roadside bombs.1

“The coolest thing about Ann is she spends all day doing autopsies on NFL players and can’t wait for the weekend to put on her Packer sweatshirt and climb into bed with a big bag of popcorn and a beer,” says Gay Culverhouse, former president of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who now advocates on behalf of former players.

“Well, I don’t usually do it in my bed,” McKee says.

Dr. McKee relishes her job, no matter how anyone sees it; Continue reading

SLI “Hit Count” Initiative

Sports Legacy Institute did in fact release their white paper today; it simply brings to the surface something that they along with others have been saying with more frequency.  Their initiative to create a Hit Count is a bold step and on that is welcomed, especially in light of the very current research from Purdue.

You can find the article on the SLI website (here) or you can read the final white paper .pdf here; there is a very good background for this idea and the simple yet powerful citation of research already performed in this area.  Their idea is mapped out very well, again the devil will be in the details as it all begins to be sorted out;

There are technological and monetary limitations to a pure Hit Count, as Hit Count systems currently are only sold for helmeted sports, and there are costs involved.  A Hit Count is not as simple as a pitch count, where coaches only need a pencil and paper.

However, hits to the head can be accurately estimated, and methods can be developed to approximate the brain trauma exposure during games and during practice based on known variables, like position.  With these estimations, rule changes and practice guidelines can be provided to ensure few, if any, athletes exceed a proposed limit. Continue reading

McKee: Unpopular Changes Needed In Football

Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University was at a one day symposium about brain injuries discussing the effects of repetitive injuries to the head.  Dr. McKee has been on the forefront of the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research has information that has changed her perception of the sport of football in particular (via Chicago Sun Times and Tim Cronin).

“It’s scary because we know so many people it’s affecting,” said McKee, a doctor of pathology at Boston University and the keynote speaker at Advocate Christ Medical Center’s one-day symposium on brain injuries. “You see so many individuals in the prime of life, both in the military and former athletes, people who are our heroes, struggling with life.”

Over a ten-year career she surmises that a linebacker may sustain 15,000 sub-concussive hits; those hits that do affect the brain but do not produce instant symptoms consistent with a concussion.  That is fifteen THOUSAND hits, hits that are similar to a low-speed vehicle accident.  The forces being produced are doing some damage in the brain, and the collective damage is causing problems that linger later into life; such as CTE and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  To completely discount a “professor/doctor” because they don’t know sports would be wrong in Dr. McKee’s case; Continue reading

Bob Probert Found To Have CTE

On Thursday, Boston University researchers will release findings that show Mr. Probert had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when his heart gave out during a fishing trip last summer. The diagnosis makes him the second former professional hockey player to be found with the degenerative disease after Reggie Fleming, who died in 2009 at the age of 73 with dementia after three decades of worsening behavioural and cognitive problems.

Like Mr. Fleming, Mr. Probert was a fighter who banged his way through more than 200 fights during 16 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. He had suffered at least three concussions and struggled with substance abuse. And in his 40s, Ms. Probert said, her normally laid-back husband may have begun to show some of the telltale signs of CTE, such as odd bouts of road rage and memory gaps.

Bob Probert found himself, along with his wife, wanting to do something for this cause.  A mere six months prior to his death, due to a heart attack, he committed himself to the legacy of brain research and the NHL.  For reasons unknown the professional hockey Continue reading

Sad End of Dave Duerson

Dave Duerson was found dead in his Miami home on Thursday, and initially there was no reason given for his death.  Duerson was recently quoted in a newspaper article commenting on his fellow defensive teammate Richard Dent and his enshrinement into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Today the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the cause of death has been ruled a suicide;

The Chicago Tribune is reporting former Bears safety Dave Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, and the co-director of a medical school program tells The Associated Press his family has agreed to donate his brain for research.

Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute has confirmed that Duerson’s brain has been donated for research.

The initial report of his death can be found here.  What is shocking to most is that he had been in contact with former teammates very recently;

“When we spoke recently, he sounded great,” former Bears defensive back Shaun Gayle said. “It’s a real shock to all of the guys.”

Duerson is most known for his hard-hitting style in the defensive backfield, most notably with the Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears of 1985.