Editor’s Note. This is one in a series of articles posted on The Sport Digest blog in recent weeks. The Digest will continue to publicize this major health issue that affects not only professional athletes such as Dave Duerson but athletes at every level of competition, including those so-called weekend warriors. In the near future the Digest will run another article discussing the King-Devick test and its usefulness in making initial diagnoses of concussions minutes after the contact event occurs.
Most sports enthusiasts are aware of the February 2011 suicide of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson and his wish to have his brain examined by scientists for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In early May, Duerson’s fears were confirmed by forensic scientists at Boston University who revealed that he did indeed suffer from a “moderately advanced” case of CTE. A degenerative brain disease, CTE is often associated with repeated blows to the head or multiple concussions. Contact sports such as football, boxing, and ice hockey are frequently cited as the primary culprits of this cruel and deadly disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 135,000 sports-related brain injuries occur each year; the majority of these injuries are concussions. It seems that everyone in the sporting industry is concerned about concussions and the lasting negative effect on the athlete. Yet most of the concern has been limited to locker room chatter and arm-chair quarterback rants. It begs the question: who is going to take a stand on this critical issue of concussions in sports? The following is a partial list of champions in the recent fight to educate athletes and coaches about the dangers of concussions.
5 – The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has developed a free, elective course designed to educate coaches on the prevention and management of sports-related concussions as well as information regarding return to play.
4 – The governing body for public schools in Texas, the University Interscholastic League (UIL), approved stricter regulations for concussion management effective with the 2011-2012 school year. Specifically, athletes who receive a head injury or are knocked unconscious during practice or competition will not be allowed to return to play during that same day, regardless of severity. Physicians will be required to clear any athlete diagnosed with a concussion prior to return to play.
3 – The Texas Legislature has raised the bar even further with the approval of House Bill 2038 which requires Texas public schools to: (1) appoint a concussion oversight team which will be required to establish a protocol for concussions, (2) prohibit an athlete from participating in interscholastic activity until the parent and student have signed an acknowledgement form stating that they have received written information and policies concerning concussions, and (3) immediate removal, from practice or competition, of any athlete believed to have sustained a concussion during the activity. HB 2038 is expected to be approved by the Senate and will take effect with the 2011-2012 school year.
2 – NCAA studies have revealed that a staggering 20% of concussions occur due to injuries sustained during kick-offs; thus, the wedge block will be banned during kick-offs beginning with the 2011 season.
1 – The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) endorsed the Protecting Student Athletes from Concussion Act of 2010.
It’s time to knock out concussions; become a champion in the fight to educate coaches and athletes about this sports-related medical issue.
An avid sports enthusiast, Dr. Kayla Peak is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. Chase Palmore is a graduate student in Kinesiology at Tarleton State University and is set to begin his football coaching career with the 2011 season. He is an advocate for concussion awareness and sports safety.