Concussions and their devastating consequences affect athletes in all sports and at all levels. However, while sport-related concussions have ignited a national conversation and public debate about this serious brain injury, the majority of attention has focused on male athletes. Critical issues surrounding the impact of concussion on female athletes have been largely ignored. Through the personal stories and experiences of coaches, athletes and their families, as well as in-depth interviews with nationally recognized scholars and medical experts, this documentary examines the causes underlying concussion and offers practical solutions to help prevent and treat sports-related concussion injuries in female athletes.
In collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport, Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) has produced a ground-breaking, one-hour documentary on the untold story of female athletes and concussion.
You can watch the full length documentary for free by clicking this web link.
Last week I attended the first-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion. The program was impressive and invited speakers in included NHL referee and players, coaches, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, brain physiologists, sport scientists, coach educators, helmet engineers and manufacturers, biomechanists, researchers, clinical psychologists, athletic trainers, sports medicine and family practice doctors, and representatives from the International Ice Hockey Federation, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada.
The New York Times wrote two pieces on the summit which are informative (click here and here).
Here are a few of the important messages that everyone should know about concussions.
- A concussion is a traumatic brain injury and should be treated and taken seriously. The CDC has a host of wonderful and free materials about concussions that can be accessed here, including specific information about sports concussions.
- Mouth guards do NOT protect athletes from concussions. Helmets protect from linear focal point hits, but don’t protect from concussions (which primarily are sustained from rotational and linear forces) as well as we think they do.
- All sport stakeholders should be educated about the signs and symptoms associated with concussions. Concussions in children and youth is a serious issue because the brain is still developing and therefore more vulnerable to lasting concussive side effects (15% of children do not fully recover from concussions).
- If an athlete is suspected of having a concussion, he/she should NOT Return To Play (RTP) in that game or that day. Period. “When in Doubt, Sit Them Out!
- The decision for Return To Play should only be given by a trained medical professional, not by coaches, parents or placed in the hands of the athlete. RTP is a medical decision. Both physical and cognitive rest are needed following a concussion. Even when an athlete is asymptomatic, the brain is still recovering. Returning to play too early places the athlete at greater risk for another concussion, potentially long lasting side effects, and increases the likelihood of a full recovery.
- A concussed brain is a metabolic crisis which creates a “chemical soup” that bathes the brain. Metabolic recovery of the brain Lags behind 30-45 days symptomatic resolution. What this means is that even when an athlete shows no signs of concussion and is physically recovered, the brain is still healing.
- Multiple brain injuries, like repetitive concussions, places the individual at greater risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)–an emerging disorder that was frightening to hear about. For more about CTE and the work of Dr. Ann McKee and colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine click here,
- A cultural and behavioral shift needs to occur in hockey to help reduce the incidence of concussions and protect athletes. The belief that brutal hits and fights are entertaining, especially in professional hockey, creates an environment in which illegal should-to- head hits are tolerated, not penalized, and fights are allowed to continue (18% of concussions happen during fights). This belief in turn trickles down to the youth level, where such behaviors are learned, valued, and taught. Evidence that behavior around illegal and dangerous behaviors can be changed as the Hockey Education Program in Minnesota has shown with the implementation of the Fair Play Point system.
October 19-20 The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN will be hosting the first-ever Ice Hockey Summit: Action on Concussion.
The prevalence and consequences of concussion at all levels of ice hockey are concerning. Reduction of concussion risk, as well as improved concussion diagnosis and management require a collaborative effort from medicine, psychology, sport science, coaching, engineering, officiating, manufacturing, and community partners. This quality scientific program focuses on education and generates an evidence-based action plan designed to make a difference. For the rationale on why this summit is important and needed click here.
For more information, to register, or to view the brochure which contains the full line-up of top experts on concussions from multiple disciplines, or visit the website.
This conference comes none to soon as the growing concern over concussions in the NFL and college football mount. A recent story about a former University of Pennsylvania football player, highlights the need for this conference and other educational efforts. In the story it was reported that, “A study of the brain tissue of Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football captain who committed suicide in April, reportedly revealed the beginning stages of a degenerative disease that is believed to be caused by repeated head trauma.”
To read a previous blog post on the NFL and concussions which contains many excellent links to data-based information, click here.
Given the upcoming Tucker Center Distinguished Lecture on social media and women’s sports I’m helping plan, I’ve had social media on the brain. Here a few interesting tidbits I thought to share:
1. Did You Know 4.0 (video on YouTube produced in conjunction with the Third Annual Media Convergence Forum). This is a very cool piece (thanks to ASC!).
2. Blogs about social media and women’ sport on the NEW Tucker Center blog. The first is an intro piece written by TC staff about social media and why it matters to women’s sports, followed by Dave Zirin’s piece on Double Standards.
3. Marie Hardin, contributing panelist for the TC Distinguished Lecture posted a Sports, Media & Society blog today about the topic. Look for her guest TC blog in the next day!
LATE ADDITION: Speaking of brains, a just colleague sent an interesting piece over the NASSS listserv from GQ. The story is on the NFL, brain trauma, concussions and cover up. As my colleague explained it, “Good insight as well on the commodification of athletes and institutional denials of medical conditions.”
update: ESPN.com ran a story this week on the higher incidence of dementia in NFL players compared to the general population.
Update October 13, 2009: Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, wrote a piece for The New Yorker titled, Offensive Play: How different are dogfighting and football? Great read.