Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back from a long hiatus

Concussions have become so common in the news that it became a futile task to list or comment on concussion-related articles. However, I am now finding oddities, errors, and completely incorrect statements among the daily abundance of these articles. Thus, Concussion Watch is re-born: It seems that the topic of concussions has found life in the NASCAR industry, as they describe their new policy in this article from the Florida Times-Union:
NASCAR ... added a concussion policy since Earnhardt Jr.’s crash. Steel and Foam Energy Reduction barriers soften the blows with walls, drivers are required to wear a head and neck restraint, seats have improved to prevent drivers from hitting their heads against roll bars and the steering wheel and helmets have evolved to better dissipate impacts.

The concussion policy is called ImPACT — Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing — and requires drivers to be sent to the track hospital after any substantial impact with the wall. If a doctor there suspects a concussion, the driver must be transported to a local hospital. From there, the driver isn’t allowed to return until cleared by a neurosurgeon with at least five years of experience with sports-related head injuries.

Clarification: ImPACT is a neurocognitive test, and not a NASCAR Policy.

And from today's New York Times:

Long a favorite pitchman as Nascar’s most popular driver, Earnhardt offers a weighty plug to his fellow drivers these days: do not ignore or hide the troubling symptoms of a concussion, and take an Impact evaluation to aid in recovery.

“This test can pinpoint where in the brain you’re struggling, what kind of injury you have, what kind of things you can do to rehab and to recover,” he said. “It helped me a lot. There was a lot of good information I learned throughout that whole process.

Clarification: Neurocognitive tests like ImPACT cannot identify the presence of brain trauma, localize (or pinpoint) specific brain regions, or dictate treatment or rehabilitation strategies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two Perspectives: Part Two

An upcoming article in Sports Illustrated talks about the culture in the NFL about fines for helmet-to-helmet hits.

NFL players were required to watch a film:
In the meeting rooms of all 32 teams last week, players saw a four-minute video produced by the league and narrated by NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson, who is in charge of discipline. The video showed nine big hits. Six were plays that involved helmet-on-helmet contact or defenders launching themselves at defenseless receivers, the kind of plays that will result in discipline from the league office. The other three—including a decleating shot across the middle by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis on Jets tight end Dustin Keller—were examples of hits that were within the rules because players did not launch themselves or strike their targets in the head or neck.

It's probably inaccurate to say all the players heard the entire presentation. Many of them were too busy catcalling the video—and the message.

With respect to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which has been linked to repetitive head trauma:
"I can say confidently that this is a distinctive disorder that you don't develop in the general population," McKee said. "In fact, I have never seen this disease in any person who doesn't have the kind of repetitive head trauma that football players would have."

These thoughts were not shared by all:
The Players Association was angry about what seemed to be an attempt to make the game safer. "The skirts need to be taken off in the NFL offices," said union president Kevin Mawae on ESPN Radio.

One retired player stated:
Watching in the NBC viewing room in New York City, studio analyst Rodney Harrison, known as much for his vicious hits as for his overall strong play at safety, said after one of them, "Thank God I'm retired."

Two Perspectives: Part One

Interesting articles in the recent press:

First, we have an essay by Carl Ehrlich, former Harvard football captain, on the suicide of his friend and opponent, Owen Thomas, from Penn.

Carl clearly shows his knowledge of the situation:
Concussions and other brain trauma on the football field do not cause someone to commit suicide. What they do cause are metabolic alterations that can lead to depression and contribute to changes in a person’s outlook and decision-making — with the most disastrous and undoubtedly complicated cases perhaps ending in suicide.

And also, the effects of hear trauma:
To be around recently concussed football players is to know that this is serious brain damage. Their eyes seem glassy. They have trouble retaining short-term information. They appear tired and glum.

Having played football for the past 10 years, I’ve seen what a compilation of brain traumas can do to a person.

However, he feels the focus should be in identifying depression:
This should be the jumping-off point for changing the culture around depression and sports. If concussions can lead to depression and depression can lead to suicide, then even old-school football needs to be as vigilant in identifying and treating depression as it is with concussions.

We must create an environment where a football player — or any athlete — can walk into a training room and tell someone that something is wrong and that, no, this injury doesn’t just need ice or a rubdown.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Today's Tri-fecta

Living in the Philadelphia area, I sill receive the Inquirer. Surprise, surprise to see the following articles in one Sports page:

1) Ian Laperriere is out for the year with post-concussion syndrome:
Laperriere, 36, has been dealing with post-concussion symptoms since last season... "I thought the summer would take care of it," Laperriere said. "I had some headaches here and there. But I would always find reasons - like, well, it's probably because I was dehydrated or because I worked out too hard today or I'm tired....It was always a reason. But I had to come down to [the fact that] it wasn't all those reasons."

2) Chris Nowinski's work on steps to protect kids from the effects of repetitive concussion:
"The NFL has made enormous changes," Nowinski said. "The biggest things they've done have been with youth policy and the example they're trying to set, the fact they've done public service announcements, the educational posters they'd put up, telling players to not go back in [after suffering a concussion], report it. That's been amazing."

...Nowinski isn't looking to ban contact sports. He only wants restrictions on the contact.

"One hundred percent, tomorrow, if you stop kids from getting hit in the head over and over"

3). New legislation in Pennsylvania on concussion management for kids:
The Pennsylvania House on Tuesday passed the Safety In Youth Sports Act, which calls for Pennsylvania high school or junior high school athletes who suffer a concussion or brain injury to be cleared by a medical professional trained in concussion management before returning to the sport.

...the legislation would require athletes and their parents or guardians to sign a concussion and head-injury information sheet before participating in a sport. It also would require coaches to complete a concussion certification course.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Wrong Dangers?

Lisa Belkin, NY Times columnist, debates whether parents are focusing on thee wrong dangers, in her article Keeping Kids Safe from the Wrong Dangers:
we seem all the more determined yet befuddled when it comes to the safety of our children. For instance, the five things most likely to cause injury to children up to age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are: car accidents, homicide (usually at the hands of someone they know), child abuse, suicide or drowning. And what are the five things that parents are most worried about (according to surveys by the Mayo Clinic)? Kidnapping, school snipers, terrorists, dangerous strangers and drugs.

Since I agree that driving is the most dangerous activity we expose our kids to, I essentially agree with the following:
“The least safe thing you can do with your child, statistically, is drive them somewhere,” said Lenore Skenazy" ...yet every time we put them in the car we don’t think, ‘Oh God, maybe I should take public transportation instead, because if something happened to my kid on the way to the orthodontist I could never forgive myself.’ ”

However, I cannot agree with the following logic:
... last week’s link between teenage football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy... So far, there is only one case... you can’t really make a recommendation based on one case. So it’s up to a young player’s parents to decide.

It isn't one case, it is several. Tau proteins do not magically enter the brains of 18-year-old athletes, and they do not magically enter the brains of former NFL players. Rather, they represent a reaction to repetitive, unnatural forces to the head.

Do you think former NFL player Matt Bowen is worrying about the wrong dangers?
I can deal with (the headaches) now, but 10 years, 20 years down the road? That's when I can tell you if it was worth it.

Was it really worth it? Back when I was still playing football, I would say yes. Sharing a locker room with players such as Brett Favre, Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner is special.

But now, as a husband and father who has headaches at the age of 35, I can't give you an answer. I'm too scared.

Shouldn't parents be concerned that their kids may not be able to be parents themselves?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Concussion Policy vs. Procedure

Isn't it great that the NFL has a new concussion policy that requires independent medical evaluation prior to returning a player to play after sustaining a concussion?
"Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptotic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant."

Perhaps the Philadelphia Eagles trainers and coaches did not receive this memo, or stay awake at mandatory training sessions. After seeing Stewart Bradley and Kevin Kolb sustain concussions and return to play in the same game, you have to wonder.

At least the Philly sports writers recognize the dangers in having a head coach completely ignorant of sports-concussion symptoms:
"They were fine," coach Andy Reid said after the game. "All the questions that they answered and the things they did with the docs registered well. As it went on, they weren't feeling well so we took them out."

If either of them had taken a hit after returning to the game despite concussions, the Eagles' coaches and medical staff could be answering some much tougher questions today than whether Michael Vick will start at quarterback next week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Quote of the day, concussion edition

Sometimes, the stories make themselves (cite)

"One of the doctors asked me to say the months backwards. I can't do that on a regular day."

--Carmelo Anthony, on what happened back in the locker room after he suffered a concussion during the Nuggets comeback win against the Thunder Wednesday night. Anthony returned to the game after having to leave due to the head trauma.

Monday, February 1, 2010

GMs say the darndest things!

In a recent article in the Toronto Star, The GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs took a stab at explaining the dangers of contact sports for youth athletes
At some level, if a player is going to move up the ladder and continue to play, it's contact hockey. This is a contact sport. You play a contact sport. There's going to be injuries. It's that simple. Now, if you don't want your son or daughter to get hurt, there are lots of wonderful options. Have them swim or have them golf. He might throw out his back, but he's never gonna get a concussion.
Unfortunately, he doesn't show the sense and class of Justin Rizek, the 13-year-old quoted in the same article, who decided to hang up his skates after his 3rd concussion
"I was going against the boards and a guy hit me from behind. I came back to the bench and threw up everywhere.... After that, I decided to hang my skates up and not play any more."

Now that Congress is planning a forum looking at concussions in the NCAA and youth sports (cite), perhaps there will be some protections or educational programs put into place to help protect kids like Justin...

In related news, ESPN missed an excellent opportunity to educate kids about the dangers of concussion after Shawn White's crash in warm-ups. Even though he passed medical tests and was cleared to compete, it sure looked like he sustained a concussion... a few words on the need for medical clearance, oversight, or neurological testing?

Meanwhile, the list of athletes willing to donate their brains to postmortem concussion research continues to grow (cite)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sarcasm is the sincerest form of flattery?

I suppose I could post something every day, as there are now 10+ concussion headlines daily.

However, you know that mainstream America has adopted a concept when it receives attention in The Onion:
NEW YORK—NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced a stricter league concussion policy at a press conference Sunday, finalizing a provision that would automatically charge a fine of $10,000 to any player who suffers a concussion. "Concussions have become a serious problem in the lives of current and former NFL players, and the only way to nip this thing in the bud is to make the players accountable," Goodell said. "Ten thousand dollars for the first concussion, $30,000 for the second, and $70,000 for the third. Hopefully these fines will make our players think twice before they have their brains jostled against the insides of their skulls." Goodell later added that the league is also considering harsher punishments for more serious injury-related behavior, saying that players who sever their spinal cords would face indefinite suspension and, in most cases, be stripped of their pensions.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

And the lawsuits begin?

.Interesting tidings in the NFL, with the resignation of Drs. Casson and Viano as co-chairs on the mild TBI committee. Now, teams will now be required to seek advice from "independent neurologists" (identified by the teams?) prior to approving a player to return after a concussion.

Interestingly, not all players are buying into the recent education and focus on concussion... while the Steelers have been pioneers in the effort to understand and manage concussions, some of their players are less convinced:
I can see some players or some teammates kind of questioning like, 'Well, it's just a concussion. I've played with concussions before. I would go out there and play.' So, it's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room (Hines Ward)

"We would have liked for him to play. If he had the opportunity, he should have played for us, but he didn't. And we didn't get the job done."(Santonio Holmes)
Perhaps the NFL is anticipating the long-term financial effects of litigation that may be coming down the pike?

Case-in-point: LaSalle University settled a lawsuit for $7.5 million to provide long-term support for a football player who sustained a 2nd catastrophic concussion in the absence of a proper concussion management program. LaSalle had since cancelled its football program...

Monday, October 26, 2009

"tough" even in dementia

In advance of a congressional hearing on the impact of football on the brain, the NFL has backed off of claims that the dementia findings in retired NFL players are unreliable.

In a new round of "he-said/she-said" the NFL is pointing at the Union, who is pointing at... well, it is not clear:
But the outside data on which he primarily based this conclusion was not only mishandled — the wrong numbers were taken from one published study, grossly overstating worldwide dementia rates — but the analysis also included several faulty assumptions, experts said in later interviews. Correcting for these errors indicated rates of dementia among N.F.L. retirees about four to five times the expected rate.

“This was a preliminary effort at the request of the union to understand the facts,” said Ell, adding that he was acting as a lawyer for the union. “I understand now that it was flawed. I believe the union wants the true facts to come out and welcomes inquiries into this area.”

Meanwhile, the now-demented ex-football players are sticking to the "tough guy" creed.
Rayfield Wright's caregiver, Jeannette DeVader, said that Wright had all the signs of early-onset dementia — including short-term memory loss and frequently getting lost — but that he would not see a neurologist, let alone apply to the 88 Plan. Wright confirmed that he did not want what he called the stigma: “Players don’t want to look at themselves that way. The truth is, you really don’t want to know.”

The wife of one player experiencing early-onset dementia, who asked not to be identified, said she would not apply for the 88 Plan while her husband was coherent enough to understand it.

“He would be devastated,” she said. “They were so proud as players. They’re not going to admit any weakness now, and I’m not going to break his heart by doing it for him.”

I didn't anticipate minimization of symptoms this late in the game...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

the perils of youth...

A number of years ago, I became involved in an ongoing research project with a colleague (pardon the shameless plug) looking at the effects of concussion on youth athletes. We found evidence of long-term effects of concussion on cognitive functioning in small sample, and then validated and extended these effects in a much larger sample. Essentially, we concluded:
seem to be subtle yet significant prolonged neuropsychological effects in youth athletes with a history of two or more previous concussions.

Cut to 2009, and a recent case reported in today's NY Times reveals that the long-term effects of concussions on the brains of professional athletes extends to the brains of high school and college athletes who never played professionally.
“I’ve looked at more than 1,000 brains, and I’ve never seen this in any individual living a normal life — it’s only through head trauma,” said Dr. Ann McKee, an associate professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine and co-director of its Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. “The fact that we are seeing this disease, and it had a devastating effect on their lives, now in a 42-year-old who never played in the N.F.L. indicates that it’s a more pervasive problem than we recognize. What are we doing with our kids? Are we doing enough to protect against their developing this awful condition?”

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Long Term Effects

A new study "commissioned by the NFL" found that Alzheimer’s or other similar memory-related diseases occur at a greater rate in NFL players than the general public:
...have been diagnosed in the league’s former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.

While this is a good first step for the NFL to recognize the relationship between repetitive concussions and long-term changes in the brain, they are not quite ready to accept these findings:
An N.F.L. spokesman, Greg Aiello, said in an e-mail message that the study did not formally diagnose dementia, that it was subject to shortcomings of telephone surveys and that “there are thousands of retired players who do not have memory problems.”

“Memory disorders affect many people who never played football or other sports,” Mr. Aiello said. “We are trying to understand it as it relates to our retired players.”

So, if I understand Aiello's logic: there are many people who get in car accidents and do not have head injuries, and there are many people who have head injuries from activities other than car accidents... therefore, car accidents and head injuries may not be related?

I hope this relationship gets cleared up before we start seeing Collegiate athletes experiencing brain changes as well. Anyone who saw Florida QB Tim Tebow sustain a concussion and then vomit on the sidelines has to wonder when the NFL and NCAA will realize that these severe concussions will have a cumulative effect. Fortunately, it appears that he is receiving proper treatment, including:
...daily testing and we continue to monitor the resolution of his symptoms.... "I talked to him for a minute," (Coach) Meyer said. "This isn't like a turf toe or a shoulder, this is a concussion."... According to Meyer, Tebow is not allowed to read or watch television "until later in the week -- maybe Thursday."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Concussions in Baseball

One does not typically think of baseball as an at-risk sport, save for the occasional collision in the outfield or on the base path. However, there has been significant attention in USA Today, the NY Times, The Washington Post, ESPN News, and online news providers, (both recent and older articles) regarding concussions in baseball:
David Wright is hit in the head by a pitch (ESPN video)

Hikiro Kuroda is hit by a line drive in the head (NBC article, YouTube video)

Scott Rolen is hit in the head by a pitch (Tornoto Star article)

(from 2005) Carlos Beltran and Mike Cameron collide in the outfield (NY Mets article with video link)

Interestingly, there is a new batting helmet designed to prevent concussions in baseball (NY Times Article), but players do not necessarily like the look/feel:
“No, I am absolutely not wearing that,” Mets right fielder Jeff Francoeur said with a laugh after seeing a prototype, as if he were being asked to put a pumpkin on his head. “I could care less what they say, I’m not wearing it. There’s got to be a way to have a more protective helmet without all that padding. It’s brutal. We’re going to look like a bunch of clowns out there.”

Before making any judgments, it's not like we all wear crash helmets when we drive...

Back from another hiatus...

Not sure why I take such long breaks at times, but I am back from my self-imposed break. I do not get many e-mails about this blog, but do occasionally receive suggestions for posts.

Recent comments pointed to a YouTube clip on the use of mouthguards to prevent concussions, as well as recognition of the benefits of mouthguards at the recent Concussion Summit meeting.

With respect to that recent meeting, the 3rd Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sports was published, with the disclaimer (I paraphrase):
Readers are encouraged to copy and distribute freely the Zurich Consensus Statement… (it) is not subject to any copyright restriction. The authors request, however, that the Zurich Consensus Statement be distributed in full and complete format.

So, I provide a link to the pdf file of the 3rd Consensus Statement.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Concussions in the NBA

Interesting article out of Sacramento today about an increase in concussions in the NBA. They even interviewed David Hovda:
When I hear that a player has had four of them or five or six, I honestly always double that number. They have usually also had some before or in practice or in pickup games.

In an odd twist, they make several references in the article to mouthpieces, but nothing by way of substance:
He doesn't always actually wear the mouthpiece.

Unlike football, though, there are no potential equipment advances or rule changes to help counter head injuries in basketball. There are mouthpieces to act as something of a shock absorber and advice to be careful. That's about it.

No changes. No concerns about what four concussions could mean in the future. Just a mouthpiece.

Hopefully, Gerard Wallace, quoted in the article as having sustained multiple concussions, won't end up with CTE...
"I just want to sit on the porch, watch my kids play sports, grow old, fat, gray-headed, big-bellied... however you want to call it. It's one of those things that I never worry about. You can never worry about that."

Monday, January 26, 2009

News Flash: Wrestling is Dangerous (and fake)

(disclaimer: I am not a wrestling fan. Really, I am not!) In what can be referred to as an "interesting twist" or "ironic outcome," WWE CEO Vince McMahon sustained a concussion during a stunt:
Some thought Orton made a mistake when he really kicked McMahon. But he didn't, in fact both Vince and Stephanie were happy with the way in turned out. We all know it is storyline, so Vince knew it was coming.

In fact, Vince asked for the kick to the head by Orton. That is right, Vince came up with the idea. See for a long time now, Vince has said he wants wrestling to be more realistic.

Not much detail about the actual concussion, but I thought it was a worthy topic to break my hiatus, especially in light of the fact that the WWE now requires baseline assessments for all wrestlers:
...all WWE talent undergo tests of brain function, including memory, processing speed, and reaction time. An initial analysis is conducted for new WWE talent to gather baseline results before they participate in any in-ring activity for WWE, and then thereafter as circumstances warrant if head trauma is suspected.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Conflicting reports

From retired professionals, we hear haunting quotes from Kieth Primeau:
"They just don't know the long-term ramifications of head injuries," Primeau said from his home in the Philadelphia area. "I know I'll never be 100 per cent again. I know that time doesn't heal this. In my case, it's inevitable. I don't live in fear of the future, but I recognize the damage I've done to my brain. I force myself to get up every morning, force myself to deal with everyday life. When you can't do that, it means you've succumbed. And I'm not prepared to do that."(cite)
and from Al Toon:
For years after Toon retired because of post-concussion syndrome, he still felt the scary effects: headaches, nausea, dizziness, you name it. He said that for a while he couldn't even sit in an office conference room for a half-hour meeting, because focusing for too long hurt too much. "For a couple of years it was pretty difficult, because there really wasn't very much I could besides own a building and collect a check," Toon said in a telephone interview this week. "To do anything that would require research and mental exercising proved to be very difficult." (cite)

Then you read of 15 year olds with a history of 5 concussions who are sidelined, parents of teens pulling them from competition after 5 concussions, and other college athletes who have the sense to retire before they end up permanently disabled... you even have pleas from kids such as:
...frustration because, even at the highest levels of hockey, they don't seem to understand the severity of head injuries."Unless someone gets severely injured or paralyzed, no one in the NHL's going to get the point," she says. "And that's what frustrates me."

Contrast that with professional athletes such as Ike Hilliard, who appear to be ignoring conventional wisdom and denying concussion symptoms:
The St. Petersburg Times reported that Hilliard was suffering from the lingering effects of a concussion he sustained in Tampa Bay's game vs. Seattle on Oct. 19. According to the report, Hilliard, who underwent spinal fusion surgery as a rookie in 1997, still was suffering from headaches and likely would miss Sunday's game vs. Minnesota and possibly more.(cite)

But Hilliard denies the following quotes refer to concussions
"I've been dealing with something on and off for the last five years, but now it's constant,'' Hilliard told the Times. "Obviously, after the hit, it's something I've got to get control of."

"Everybody is entitled to write what they want to write, but I'm not having any issues with my concussion," said Hilliard. "I'm dealing with issues just like everybody in this locker room. It is just wear and tear from the season.

"Seriously, the quotes are word for word. It says nothing about a concussion. I said I was dealing with some other stuff. It is wear and tear from the season. I did not say the word ‘concussion' at all."

However, the most surprising "non-concussion" diagnosis comes from a player and coach:
(Frank) Gore took a hit Monday night and said he had his neck positioned in the wrong way and strained it. He told reporters yesterday that he was having bad headaches and thought he might have suffered a concussion, but Singletary must have set him straight because later in the day he went back to the media and said he didn't mean that. (cite)

Coash stated:
"Frank Gore is a football player. He does not know what a concussion is," Singletary said. "It may feel like a concussion. I talked to Fergie (trainer Jeff Ferguson) who is one of the finest trainers in the country."

"In all honesty, I don't want to go there. To me, he's going to play." Asked when that determination would be made, Singletary said, "Today. He's gonna play. As far as I know, he's gonna play."

If a player says he has a concussion, and he has been reading and hearing all about concussion testing and management, shouldn't the coach listen?

Friday, October 31, 2008

NHL Update

With new stories focusing on NHL player being hit from behind, as well as being hit in the head, news released at the National Academy of Neuropsychology Conference comes at a good time.

The NHL and the NHL Players Association had yet to release or otherwise present data from their multi-year concussion management program. However, data was presented on October 21st in New York. Incidence statistics:
Seven hundred and fifty-nine National Hockey League players have been diagnosed with concussions since 1997, or an average of about 76 players per season and 31 concussions per 1,000 hockey games.(cite)

Utility of cognitive testing:
Thirty percent of NHL players diagnosed with concussions have normal physical readings but abnormal neuropsychological testing scores

Games missed due to concussion:
While frequency of concussions didn't change much from the 2005-06 season to 2006-07, games missed due to concussion, the number of games players missed because of concussions and related problems jumped 41 percent

Other data presented at the conference, but not included in the ESPN article include history of concussion:
There were no differences on baseline neuropsychological test scores as a function of self-reported history of concussion

Symptom reporting:
30% of a sub-sample of 300 players reported no concussion-related symptoms but had neuropsychological test scores that fell below normal ranges. An additional 11% had normal neutopsychological test scores but reported symptoms related to concussion.

This is interesting data, and I hope that we will see more details in a publication soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sobering realities

The High School football player who sustained two concussions 3 weeks apart has died (cite)

As adults/parents, we know that hiding the symptoms is dangerous, and we cannot rely on young kids to know or report their symptoms. Unfortunately, the burden is on us to monitor symptoms of their kids, even when the sport is not a "collision sport."

New research is suggesting that recovery times be extended to 3-4 weeks following a concussion
...Dr. Lester Mayers in last month's Archives of Neurology. “Nevertheless, given the prevalence of sports head (injuries) and the numbers of young brains at risk, a postconcussion (return-to-play) interval of at least four weeks is imperative.”

The catch phrase: "When in doubt, sit them out."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Cause for Concern

Coaches and trainers are becoming concerned about concussions in youth athletes. Look at the case of a high school athlete who sustained two concussions this season:
James had been cleared from a head injury earlier this season, but the athletic trainer took extra care after the sophomore took another blow to the head in a junior varsity game.

(The Trainer) noticed James vomiting after the hit -- a typical concussion symptom -- but decided to play it safe and recommend James, the team's starting punter the first four weeks, be taken to the emergency room. From there, he was flown by emergency medical helicopter to the Medical Center,where it was determined Datz had sustained a subdural hematoma, a brain injury in which blood gathers in the brain.

James had surgery immediately -- physicians drilled into his head to drain the pressure off his brain -- and was released from the hospital less than a week later.

He has since returned to school for half-days...

Not every student athletes is as lucky. Take the case of Ryan, a 16-year-old High School football player hospitalized following a brain hemorrhage during a recent game:
Ryan had suffered a recent concussion, but was cleared by a doctor to resume playing... he had undergone a CAT scan before being allowed to return to the field.

The hemorrhage, or bleeding on the brain, occurred about three weeks later during a game... when Ryan tackled an opposing player, then abruptly collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage, that required immediate surgery, the statement said.

In a statement... it was "unlikely that Ryne's condition would improve."

Frighteningly, this incident marked at least the third life-threatening injury to a student football player in New Jersey this year.

NFL Week 6

Been busy, but a lot has happened.

Denver WR Brendan Stokley sustained his 10th concussion last week. While you might be thinking "time to retire" he is thinking about not missing the Monday Night game against NE (cite)

Bills QB Trent Edwards sustained a concussion from a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Cardinals in week 6. He is expected to play this week, as the median number of days missed in the NFL following concussion happens to be 6.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

NFL Week 4

In the NFL, Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin is recovering after sustaining a horrific concussion that looked more like a severe brain injury at the time, complete with decerebrate posturing. He fractured his sinus membrane, but vows to:
...take a week off, and then I'm going to come back and give them the dirt. I'm going to give it right back to them.' (cite)

Carolina Panthers Tackle Jordan Gross is out following a concussion sustained in Week 4, in which he lay face down on the turf for several moments (cite)

Rams WR Dane Looker sustained a concussion after a blow to the head, and has been held out of practice. (cite)

Word is getting out...

If you have been following the "mainstream media," you might not have seen anything about concussion research, but the NY Times released an article last week announcing that athletes are donating their brains for research on concussion. I took the first step in contacted Chris Nowinski to see if they could use the brains of concussion researchers as controls.

It is good to see that word is getting out. The New Jersey Brain Injury Association recently announced that they provide funds to cover concussion baseline testing at 100 schools (cite).

Hopefully, better concussion awareness will help prevent tragedies like the death of an 18-year old high school football player.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Long term implications?

When QB Trent Green suffered a "severe" concussion in 2007, his second in two seasons, there was talk of his retirement. After taking extended time off, he is returning to the starting line-up this weekend, with some columnists offering sage advice (DUCK!)

Similarly, after Flyers forward Simon Gagne missed most of last season with following a concussion, he is returning to action after 7 months off.

With researchers identifying long term risks of depression in athletes who have sustained multiple concussions, a recent article reveals that athletes are lining up to donate their brains to researchers for post-mortem analysis.

While it may take years to make a definitive link, athletes at any level (HS, College, Pros) who are playing contact sports need to take notice and recognize the potential for long-term damage.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NFL: Week 2

Brodney Pool: Cleveland Browns Safety: resumed practice after sitting out with a concussion suffered Aug. 18, his 3rd in 4 years. (ref)

Brandon Jackson: Green Bay RB: listed as probable for week 3 due to a mild concussion (ref)

Gerard Alexander; Detroit Lions Safety: sustained a concussion in week 2 (ref)

Ellis Wyms: Minnesota Vikings DT: suffered a concussion in Week 2(ref)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

I took some time away from the blog this summer, but am ready to resume frequent updates, especially for classes I am teaching this semester. On the day before the NFL season kicks off, let's take a look at those players who experienced concussion in the last season and this pre-season:

Derek Anderson: Cleveland Browns QB: missed two games following a concussion, expected to start Week 1 (ref)

Steve Smith: Carolina Panthers WR: missed practice following a concussion. Should play week 2, following a 1-game suspension (ref)

Matt Schaub: Houston Texans QB: missed 5 games last year due to concussion (ref)

Zach Thomas: Dallas Cowboys LB: missed two games last season following a concussion (ref)

DeShawn Wynn: Green Bay Packers: missed tie in training camp due to concussion (ref)

Let's see what happens...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brain swishing around?

Mets Outfielder, Ryan Church, has been battling post-concussion symptoms following two concussions sustained this season, and is again back on the disabled list.

Most striking is his description of concussion symptoms:
"I still have the aches, the pains. When I move my head a little bit, I can feel my brain swishing around a little bit. That's what happens when I have migraines."
The NY Daily News quotes Ryan as saying:
"I am exhausted. I am tired," Church said. "With me not feeling 100% I don't feel I can help out the team. I can't keep on going out there and making it worse. We are taking the right steps now to hopefully correct it."
I have not seen research on co-morbidity of concussions and migraines, but this "brain swishing" definitely a unique symptom!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Baseball is definitely a contact sport

Just ask Cardinals catcher Yader Molina, who was involved in a nasty collision at home plate in which he got turned around and took a charge from Eric Bruntlett facing the wrong direction. Interestingly, catchers are particularly susceptible to concussion, even though they are not always aware of the fact they may have concussion symptoms:
"We did a survey of 260 major- and minor-league catchers and asked them a series of questions," Conte said. "When we asked if they had concussions, most said 'no.' When we asked them after they had been hit by a foul tip if they ever got dizzy or ever blacked out or felt nauseated — basically concussion-type symptoms — about 25 percent said 'yes' to that. ...

"But do we have a serious problem with foul tips and concussions with catchers, the answer seems to be 'no.' In the last seven years, we've only had six catchers go on the disabled list with concussions and only two of them were on longer than 15 days."
Molina spend one night in the hospital and appears to be recovering quickly. Luckily, the team is approaching his return with caution:
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will rejoin the team Tuesday, but it is not yet known how long he will be out due to the concussion he suffered Sunday.

Monday, June 9, 2008

No long term effects?

You might think we have learned a lot about concussion management over the past several years, but sometimes knowledge does not translate into practice.

Case in point: Johan Franzen suffers a subdural hematoma (a collection of blood between the skull and brain) following a hit in a hockey game.
"I had a collection of blood," Franzen said. "It was not in the brain, but between the skull and the brain. It self absorbed between two and three weeks.

"It was a little bit scary. I couldn't do anything because that would have beendangerous. When it's the head, you get kind of scared. I was glad nothing happened because I played with it for a while, so, it's a good thing nothing happened."
So, he missed 6 whole games in the playoffs, returning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against Pittsburgh. The General Manager described the situation as being dictated by headaches:
"He had a bunch of headaches. We thought it was normal, but it persisted and got to be abnormal. Game 1 (against Dallas), he got hit real hard, it looked to me by (Steve) Ott, and he complained of headaches the next morning. We did an MRI, and it showed he had a little bit of subdural hematoma. So we needed that blood to dissipate and it did, and then he played when he did."

"It certainly appeared like the original injury happened during the Colorado series, and then he got hit again and then we did the MRI, and that's when the doctor shut him down until the blood was dissipated," Holland said. "We weren't sure when he'd be able to play. We did an MRI after one week, and after two weeks, the blood was gone, and then they wanted one more week.

Luckily, there was no concussion:
"It's important people know he didn't have a concussion, because once you have a concussion, you're concerned about a history. He didn't have a concussion. He just had basically, in layman's terms, a bit of a bruise on the brain. Now that it's over, it's nothing. It's nothing that's going to affect him long term."
A hit severe enough to cause bleeding within the skull, persistent headaches, and removal from athletic competition. However, no concern about what caused the bleeding to occur, or whether or not it will happen again. No long term effects?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I went to a baseball game and a football game broke out?

Interesting article in today's NY Times about Mets'player Ryan Church, who has sustained two concussions this year, the most recent one 8 days ago. It appears he has been "cleared to play" by the trainers/medical staff, even though he is still experiencing symptoms such as dizziness, lethargy and headaches. Church has played since the concussion, going 1-4 as a pinch-hitter, but the manager and GM appear to have no idea how to manage a concussed player (citing CT and MRI results, which are negative in Mild TBI, and relying solely on subjective reports by the concussed player):
Minaya emphasized that a CT scan of Church the night of his injury showed no damage, and that a magnetic resonance imaging test Tuesday was also negative. Minaya and Manager Willie Randolph said the club had relied principally upon Church’s reports to trainers about how he felt before each game, and sometimes during it, in deciding if he was available to play.

“It’s his call,” Randolph said. He added: “He’s been feeling a little bit groggy, and most of what he feels is that uneasiness with his total, you know, mind. It’s kind of weird because he feels like he’s kind of foggy. He says he can hit, he can do that. But in the outfield, he’s unstable out there.” Randolph added: “When you’re talking about head injuries, I’m pretty lame on that. I don’t even know how to respond to, you know, when we can put him out there.”

Before almost every game, he has told reporters of symptoms. At one point he said, “I’m just sick of feeling like this.”

Further, The GM does not understand concussion testing, calling a 30-minute test "time consuming":
The Mets began having players take baseline neuropsychological tests in spring training so that they could be tested against them after an injury; however, Church did not take a test, Minaya said, because of time restrictions.

“My understanding is that it’s a long test,” he said. “If I’m not mistaken, it’s about a half-hour or more.”

Concussion experts commented on the case:
Dr. Mickey Collins: "That’s a situation that could be very dangerous... I haven’t examined this player personally, but if there were a second trauma to a person still experiencing symptoms, the risk could be much higher to a player’s health because he hasn’t healed from the first concussion."

Dr. Robert Cantu: "You’re playing roulette with your patient. You know the chances of him having another concussion are low, but you’re running the risk of exacerbating the symptoms that he does have. Now a person who would be asymptomatic in a week or two can have those symptoms go on for many months."

Perhaps most relevant is the comment of Corey Koskie of the Brewers who sustained a concussion in 2006, experienced prolonged symptoms, and eventually had to retire:
"That’s pretty much the reason I’m here today (retired) — thinking I could play through it... I think he’s nuts. He doesn’t want to get to the point where he’s not going to get better. Tell him to call me. It’s not worth it."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back from Disney: Roller Coaster mania

Took a vacation with the family to Disney World, and went to Epcot, Magic Kingdom, MGM/Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.

Rode lots of great high-speed rides, including Space Mountain, Everest, Tower of Terror, and Rock 'n' Roll Roller Coaster. My 8-year-old, Ben, was so excited about Everest and RnR Roller Coaster, that I decided to look their stats up online and also found many YouTube online videos. (Everest, RnR, ToT)

So, it turns out the RnR Coaster is "one of the most powerful coasters in North America" accelerating 0-57 in 2.7 seconds, generating G-forces of 4.5 to 5 depending on where you are seated (stats from here).

A long time ago, I was inteviewed on the dangers of roller coasters (with respect to head trauma, which there appears to be none), but I was naturally interested in the possible dangers of such a fast acceleration. Fortunately, UPenn researchers had answered this question back in 2002:
They acquired G force data from three of the most popular and powerful roller coasters in the country: the "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" at the Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida; "Speed -- The Ride" at the Nascar Café, in Las Vegas, Nevada; and "Face-Off" at Kings Island, Ohio. Using this data, they calculated peak head accelerations in three directions, assuming the head did not strike a surface. Even considering the worst-case scenario, the researchers found that the largest forces experienced on roller coasters were far below those that are known to cause injury.

I wish I could prove it was my line, but when I was interviewed by the Boston Globe I said "it is more dangerous to drive to the amusement park than to ride the roller coaster" but they didn't include that in the article. However, someone quoting the UPenn study, concluded:
It does not appear that roller coasters produce high enough forces to mechanically deform and injure the brain...

For healthy people who meet the size requirements for the ride, you are probably safer on the average roller coaster than driving to the amusement park,

Monday, May 5, 2008

Playoff Hockey

Last night's Dallas-San Jose game had a hit frighteningly reminiscent of the hit Eric Lindros took from Scott Stevens.. head down, both players moving fast, attacking player hits the opposing player in the head with his shoulder.

One day later, the video is displayed on "", and the spin from the coach is soberingly realistic:
Michalek hit hard. Michalek had his head down tracking a puck, when Morrow crushed him with a shoulder check. Morrow did not hit Michalek’s head, but there was a whiplash effect that could have caused a concussion by jarring the brain against the inside of the skull.

"Obviously, when Milan got hurt at the end of regulation, we played the overtime without him," Wilson said. "A whole game with a short bench, and our guys just kept going."

When asked if he could update Michalek’s health, Wilson replied: "It’s irrelevant. It’s over, so we have to move on."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back from a brief break, finals looming

Not much "new" by way of news, but the semester is coming to a close and one colleage tells me of college students attempting to schedule formal neuropsychological evaluations to be completed before the end of the semester to document learning disabilities.

This got me reading, and this article mentions student grades being affected by concussion:
...who is enrolled in honors courses, is concussed, he suffers from headaches and a lack of concentration. "It feels like you have a haze over you, a fog, kind of," he said, adding that his grade-point average dipped from about a 3.57 to a 2.71 in the fall when he had trouble focusing after his football concussion.

"He's in all really, really intense classes, so concussions have much more effect there than on the field," said his mother...

Luckily, the focus on professional athletes denying concussions has raised awareness at the lower, youth, levels (ref), or so says a prominent sports agent:
Steinberg, who helped organize the summit along with the Sports Concussion Institute, is sponsoring a California program that will institute so-called "baseline testing" in 1,400 high schools, where athletes are given a cognitive exam that can be repeated after injuries to measure brain impairment.
or, as David Hovda so aptly stated:
"I don't know what's so mild about mild traumatic brain injury," said David Hovda, director of the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center.