As our summer vacations begin to wind down our thoughts turn to the upcoming school year. Invariably we create a check list to help us from forgetting something important. Pencils – check. Paper – check. Back pack – check.
Concussion Baseline Test – CHECK
Huh? Baseline concussion testing . That was never on the list before. Well it is, or should be on the list now.
A proper concussion management program requires many people filling many roles to be successful. A successful clinic requires many people filling many roles to provide exceptional patient care. I would be unable to do my job without the support that I have.
In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NCAA, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, is undertaking a 3 year $30 million dollar study pertaining to head injuries and concussions. Of note, the NCAA has already agreed to pay $75 million to settle a class action lawsuit over concussion related claims.
NFL Linebacker Chris Borland’s recent decision was a brave one; he walked away from a $3 million contract over the issue of concussions.
Last August, the 24-year old Borland was just starting out as a rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. During his first training camp he suffered a concussion. But he continued to play through the day and through the rookie season. Even so, the issue of concussion kept bothering him and he began researching the data. He found plenty, enough to change his mind about a career in football.
By now, most sports-minded Americans know a lot more about concussions than they did even five years ago. This awareness has led to policy and protocol changes throughout athletic organizations, from youth to professional sports. Concussion awareness has also made its way to the sports-retail market, where new football helmet add-ons claim to reduce head injuries. But do they work?
A recent study of young football players ages five to 15 years old found that proper blocking and tackling techniques along with properly fitted equipment can reduce injuries by 76 percent. It can also reduce by 57 percent, those injuries that keep players out for at least 24 hours.
Last month the Big 12 Conference announced its new policy for concussion diagnosis and management for its member institution’s student-athletes. The policy was developed by team athletic trainers, physicians and medical support staff, and approved by the board of directors.
From now on, all Big 12 member institutions will be required to follow the same concussion diagnosis and management protocol as the NCAA.
With Super Bowl madness winding down, the issue of concussion is coming up. And once again, we’re talking about the NFL.
I’m a great fan of football, and Sunday found me like it did 111.5 million other viewers – sitting in front of the TV watching the match-up between Seattle and New England. There were great plays and it was a great game. But as a physician certified in concussion management, I watched closely as the Patriot’s receiver, Julian Edelman, took a hard hit helmet-to-helmet in the fourth quarter. It was clear he was slow getting back on his feet. My concussion alarm went off. And then, despite the NFL’s big focus on reducing brain injuries, we saw Edelman go back into the game, finishing with the winning touchdown that gave the Patriot’s players a Super Bowl ring.
Kudos to Trinity Christian Academy in Addison Texas. This school serves as a great example of how to strategically handle the aftermath of concussion among young athletes.
You may have heard the recent NPR story on this subject. For those who didn’t, here’s the condensed version.
A Trinity football player suffered a concussion during a game. For weeks after, he complained that his stomach hurt. He was tired all the time and felt pressure in his head. His doctor gave him some wise advice: No school, no football, no friends or electronics as long as these symptoms continue. The player was also told to be in a dark room and literally, “do nothing.”
Concussion awareness has skyrocketed. And as we’re learning, it’s a good thing.
More school athletic departments are making players sit out following head injuries. More parents are seeking immediate medical treatment when their child suffers a head injury. And more lawsuits are targeting sports organizations at all levels – organizations that in the past, downplayed the serious nature of head injuries. And then there’s the media, where the number of concussion-related stories is growing exponentially.