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

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Transcript from Maryland State Board of Education Discussion on Concussions

If you recall Tom Hearn from Maryland had the opportunity to present information to the Maryland State Board of Education about concussions.  What resulted was a discussion among the board, Hearn was able to get a transcript (link at end) of this discussion and we have highlighted some key points (they begin on page 5).  The time marking represents where on the audio file you can find the information (working on a link for that)

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11:17

Kate Walsh (MdSBE Board Member):  I think the Board’s interest here was to get at testimony before the Board in public comment.   I think these are all great things that you have done, but there were three complaints that were raised that we thought were quite compelling, and we wanted to hear them addressed.  And I don’t hear you really addressing any of them.

So, can we go through this?  What we heard was that there were regulations similar to those adopted by the Massachusetts Department of [Public] Health, have we done that?  Have we adopted regulations that are similar to those?
12:00
Ned Sparks (MdSDE Athletics, Executive Director/MPSSAA Executive Director): No.  Again, those were regulations of the Department of Health in Massachusetts.
Kate Walsh (MdSBE Board Member): So is that something you saying that we would not adopt be under another?
Ned Sparks (MdSDE Athletics, Executive Director/MPSSAA Executive Director):  I don’t know the regulations exactly how they are in Massachusetts but I would think that that would certainly be a combination of the Department of Health and the Education Department regarding that.  [It sounds like, since the Mass DPH regulations were brought to the attention of the State Board in the parent’s May 22, 2012 testimony—five weeks earlier, Mr. Sparks had not yet reviewed the regulations.] Now, again, we had a representative on that group as you can see from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, as a matter of fact two of them.
12:31
Renee Spence (Executive Director, MdSDE Office of Government Affairs):  We work very closely with folks from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  Also, in Maryland, the Governor has put together a traumatic brain injury commission.  There are a lot of folks working on traumatic brain injuries.
12:47
Kate Walsh (MdSBE Board Member):  I just think it would be helpful if we could see why this Massachusetts Department of Public Health were cited as superior to our Continue reading

States Listening

We have stated on here that legislation is only a small step in the way of stemming the concussion issue.  Awareness is the of the highest priority for the general public (and partly for the medical providers) and both Maryland and Indiana reported some good news today.

In Maryland the State Board of Education discussed the information that Parent Advocate Tom Hearn presented in May.  The Baltimore Sun has the report;

Thomas Hearn, a Montgomery County parent whose son received a concussion playing football at Walt Whitman High School, has testified before the state school board and Montgomery County school board, asking members to consider requiring parents to get more training in recognizing the signs of concussions and limiting the number of contact practices. He said the new state law doesn’t go far enough.

High school students can still have contact practices twice a day and five days a week, Hearn said. While there are no reliable statistics on how many of the 115,000 athletes in public schools in the state suffer concussions while playing sports, he suggested that if you extrapolate from the experience of Virginia school systems that have kept careful records, there may be as many as 6,000 a year in Maryland.

Between now and the start of football season in August, you need to consider why you shouldn’t at least adopt the NFL and Ivy League limits for Maryland high school football,” Hearn said in his testimony before the board last month.

In 2011, the NFL limited practices with contact to about one a week. While the NCAA does not have the limits, the Ivy League adopted rules last July that permitted no more than two practices with contact a week.

The limits are intended to reduce the number of concussive hits players experience. Tackles or hits also can produce subconcussive injuries that do not have symptoms but over time have been shown to increase the risk of long-term health issues.

State school board members said they Continue reading

Maryland State Board of Education Meets Tomorrow

Tom Hearn, a parent advocate of Maryland provided initial testimony to the Montgomery County Board of Education earlier this spring.  He had a further opportunity to provide testimony/information to the State Board of Education back on May 22nd.  Due to that testimony (seen below) there has been a discussion item placed on the agenda for tomorrows regularly scheduled meeting.

I must say that Mr. Hearn has been working his tail off and I am very interested to see how his approach is handled, as most states have not involved the BoE.  Mr. Hearn does take up the contact limits in practices; making Maryland and Illinois as the only two states that have been given such a proposal.  Here is the testimony (minus the attachments);

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May 22, 2012
Maryland State Board of Education
Public Comment Testimony of Tom Hearn
Regarding Concussions in High School Football and Other Sports
 
 
Good afternoon, Members of the Maryland State Board or Education and Acting Superintendent Sadusky.  I am Tom Hearn and I am a parent of a student at Walt Whitman High School in Montgomery County, Maryland.
 
I wanted to talk with you about concussions in high school football and other sports.  As discussed further below, I am requesting that the State Board take three actions to improve the safety of Maryland high school sports athletes:
 
1.     Adopt regulations similar to those adopted by the Massachusetts Department of Health for youth sports concussions; in Massachusetts, the Department of Health has gone through extensive notice and comment rulemaking procedures to develop workable policies and procedures to manage the risk to student athletes of sustaining sports concussions.  The result is a set of state-of-the art best practices that are a suitable starting point for the State Board to align with those practices.
 
2.     Impose limits on full contact practices per week in high school football given that the NFL and Ivy League have adopted similar limits in light of emerging medical research; and
 
3.     Reorganize responsibility for sports concussion safety away from the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association, which currently has the lead, to a new department within the Department staffed by a lead public health professional or sports safety professional, such as a certified athletic trainer with experience managing sports health in a large school system, who reports directly to the State Board.
 
Background
 
It may not be highlighted in the job description, but collectively you are the senior safety officers for public high school sports in Maryland, and this may be the most important position that you play.
 
In sports vernacular, collectively you are the Blind Side left tackle for the 15,500 students who play public high school football and the 100,000 or so other high school athletes.
 
No one ever died from a bad academic education, but high school student athletes die Continue reading

Parent Urges School Board to Take a Look

In Maryland, Montgomery County to be specific, the school board is taking – at the minimum – a look at what they can possibly do to help with the safety of the kids they are in charge of.  Lisa Gartner of The Examiner wrote a brief column on it;

Montgomery County school officials are weighing efforts to screen high school athletes for concussions and similar head injuries linked to Alzheimer’s-like disease and suicide.

Superintendent Joshua Starr said Tuesday that his staff is drafting a memo on concussions, while school board member Patricia O’Neill asked for a report on the cost and implementation of baseline screening, which would allow doctors to compare athletes’ brain activity before and after injuries.

“I know our budget doesn’t have an inch to spare,” O’Neill said, “but our students’ health obviously has to be paramount.”

As the board mentioned there is not much money there, so why are they entertaining the thought of using baseline tests?  It is just a tool that is often highly criticized for its results.  I feel that if baselines are needed then deals should be made with local doctors that use the tool and are trained to use the tool.  By deals I mean the baselines be given away or at a significantly high discount, then the doctors are in control.  Perhaps if the schools have outsourced athletic trainers the place of employment of the AT’s can defer or absorb the cost.

The point is that a Walt Whitman HS parent by the name of Continue reading