Will Simulating the Effects of a Concussion Help Athletes Report Them?


Engineering and biomedical researchers at the University of Arizona are building an app to show athletes the immediate and delayed side effects of a concussion using Google Cardboard.

The free virtual reality experience aims to inspire NCAA football players and other student athletes to report real incidents instead of just playing through a suspected concussion.

Sports-related concussions have recently sparked a national debate, multiple lawsuits and new protocols in the NCAA and NFL. Many players with a concussion keep playing (often because they feel fine or feel pressured to continue), which can put other players at risk because of delayed reaction times and put themselves at risk of re-injury.

The creators of this new app believe that if these players were given just 10 minutes with it, it might change their behavior and attitude toward head injury.

Ricardo Valerdi, associate professor of systems engineering at the University of Arizona, is building the app along with Hirsch Handmaker and Jonathan Lifshitz for the NCAA Mind Matters Challenge and will present the prototype this winter. This challenge is part of a $30 million joint initiative with the U.S. Department of Defense to change attitudes and behaviors about concussions among student athletes and soldiers.

The app has been designed as an educational tool for athletic training programs. It puts users on a virtual athletic field and shows them the immediate and delayed side effects of concussion, such as blurred or double vision. Using the Google Cardboard open-source virtual reality platform, it will be compatible with any smartphone, with a coach offering advice on identifying symptoms and reporting possible concussion symptoms. Ricardo Valerdi describes the virtual reality experience:

You’re a soccer goalie. You see the field in your headset, hear the crowd on your headphones. You just got hit, but exhibit no side effects that are obvious to your coach or trainer. Then, an avatar coach enters your field of vision and says, ‘You have just experienced a concussion. This is what it feels like.’ Suddenly, your vision gets blurred; you experience double vision.

Source: Hutchings, Emma. “Will Simulating the Effects of a Concussion Help Athletes Report Them?” PSFK. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

H.S. Football Death Prompts Urge for Injury Awareness


At Taylor Haugen’s first game of the 2008 season, the Niceville (Fla.) Eagles were playing their rival. The sophomore wide receiver reached up to catch a pass and was pummeled from the front and back. He tried to join the huddle on the next play, but his coach saw him struggling and called him off the field.

“He lost consciousness in the ambulance and never regained it,” said his mother, Kathy Haugen, her voice trailing off.

Taylor had suffered a massive liver rupture. Their son had died playing the sport he loved.

The Haugens were forced to relive their family tragedy as they heard about the death of Warren Hills (N.J.) Regional quarterback Evan Murray after a game Friday. The Morris County Medical Examiner’s office said Monday that Murray’s death was caused by a massive abdominal hemorrhage and that he had an enlarged spleen. Teammates said he took a helmet to the stomach earlier in the game before he went down and later collapsed on the sideline.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to their family and team in their loss. It reaffirms our facts that abdominal injuries are more common than people suspect,” said Brian Haugen, Taylor’s father. “My thoughts went immediately out to the parents because I can’t wrap my head around what they’re going through.”

The Haugens are on a mission to warn others. They don’t want parents to prevent their children from playing sports, just to equip them. They have formed the Taylor Haugen Foundation and Youth Equipment for Sports Safety (YESS) to raise awareness of abdominal injuries.

The Haugens think these are the “third wave” of injuries brought to the public’s consciousness: after heatstroke and concussions have been acknowledged and treated as serious problems, now abdominal injuries in sports should be considered.

“I believe the issue is here, looking at the way tackling is going,” said retired NFL kicker Matt Stover, an investor in a product the Haugens support called EvoShield, a molded shirt that helps provide protection. “The types of tackles are getting lower, in avoiding hits to the players’ head, players are dropping down. It’s less at the shoulders now.”

Running backs and wide receivers in college and the NFL are wearing rib protectors, back plates and other equipment that used to be reserved for quarterbacks to help absorb hits. Those added pieces are less common in high school and youth football.

“What defensive coaches in the NFL call the ‘strike zone’ or the ‘hit zone’ has been reduced. It’s like a baseball strike zone from the shoulders to the knees. There’s a lot more contact in that area,” said Terry O’Neill, a former NFL executive who founded Practice Like Pros, a program that brings coaching techniques used in college and the NFL to high schools.

Kathy Haugen says she gets calls “all the time” hearing about athletes’ abdominal injuries, including in lacrosse or rugby, and acknowledges the lack of available data on high school athletes’ abdominal injuries.

“Some doctors may report a liver laceration, and some not,” said John Todorovich, department chair for health, leisure and exercise science at the University of West Florida. “The trouble is in getting data, seeking out and figuring out a protocol. When does (the injury) become a reporting issue? For a bruise? For a visit to the ER?”

Safety is at the forefront of the Haugens’ minds. The couple said they paid $150 for Taylor’s cleats. They question why they didn’t know they could’ve also gotten a shirt, too, to help protect Taylor down to his waistline.

“I’d just like to see every secondary school athlete in contact sports protected,” Kathy Haugen said. “That would be a great thing to happen.”

Source: Meldrum Denholm, Kristine. “H.S. Football Death Prompts Urge for Injury Awareness – Athletic Business.” Athletic Business. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Background checks the norm for youth sports leagues like East Lake Little League in Palm Harbor


TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. – Like many youth sports organizations, East Lake Little League in Palm Harbor takes background checks very seriously.

Coaches and volunteers go through a series of checks in a national date base for both criminal background and sexual offenses.

Nicole Wall ensures those checks get done for the league.

“So there’s a two-fold system in place to make sure that we catch as many questionable activities as possible,” she said.

Little League international uses First Advantage to handle background checks. But there are many similar paid services.

“The goal is just to ensure that everyone that interacts with our children at the little league fields is in a position to be a responsible and respectable adult,” said Wall.

We still don’t know what kind of background check if any was done for Tru Elite Athletes and Mentors, a non-profit founded by John Capel, an Olympic track star and former University of Florida football player.

Two of the program’s coaches, Carlos Cleveland and Derrick Atkins, are facing charges for possession and manufacturing cocaine.

And records shows Atkins has served prison time before.

“It’s always a concern that somebody slips through the cracks or found a way to circumvent the system. That’s why working at the league that I do, it’s important that we know each other, that we communicate those concerns and we work through the system that we have in place,” said Wall.

The motto of Tru Elite is, “Our goal is to better our kids in every aspect of life.”

We have yet to hear back from messages left for the organization’s leadership.

Source: Waxler, Erik. “Background Checks the Norm for Youth Sports Leagues like East Lake Little League in Palm Harbor.” WFTS. N.p., 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.

Concussions in high school football are not uncommon


While the life-threatening brain injury that Templeton High School football player Isaac Lindsey suffered on the playing field less than two weeks ago shocked the community, serious head injuries are not rare in high school football.

About half of the estimated 1.1 million kids who played high school football in the 2014-15 season were injured, with 25 percent of those injuries being concussions, according to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study.

Head injuries on the field can also turn deadly, although rarely.

Five high school players died last year, all of them from head injuries sustained during practice or games, according to the National Survey of Catastrophic Football Injuries compiled annually at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Concussion is always serious,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, a leading national expert on sports-related brain injuries and medical director of UNC’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

“The most important thing is for the kids to be educated to know what a concussion is, how to recognize it, and to know that if they play with one, they are risking death,” he said Monday.

A concussion happens from a blow to the head or body or from a fall that shakes the brain so that it bangs against the inside of the skull. The person may or may not lose consciousness. With proper rest, a single concussion won’t cause permanent damage.

But suffering a second concussion or head injury before the first one has healed can cause permanent disability or death, warns the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

That may be what occurred with Lindsey. The family has declined to be interviewed, but in describing her son’s injury on Facebook, Jenny Lindsey wrote “we believe that Isaac simply played through what he thought was a mere headache or minor injury.”

It’s not unusual for football players to say nothing when they’ve been injured. A 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 32 percent of high school football players didn’t report concussion symptoms.

Cantu said he’s seen this at every level of play, from kids to pros.

“They don’t want to lose their place on the team, or piss off their coach, or be considered wimpy by their team,” he said. “They don’t understand the symptoms, the dangers and the consequences” of continuing to play with a head injury.

Cantu is no stranger to the issue. A clinical professor in the department of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine, Cantu is co-director of its CTE Center, the leading research center analyzing the brains of deceased NFL players. He also is senior adviser to the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee.

He is author of the book “Concussions and Our Kids,” published in 2012.

Continuing to play injured puts a football player at risk for second impact syndrome, which happens when a player gets a second concussion before completely recovering from a previous one. Cantu says regulation of blood flow in the brain is disrupted, causing more blood to flow in than out. Acute brain swelling occurs, which can have fatal or disabling consequences.

The player may come off the field and collapse after what may have seemed to be an unremarkable play, Cantu said.

“The last impact that causes the collapse is often trivial,” he said. The previous concussion may have happened before the game or earlier in the play.

“It can happen in the same game,” he said. “There are cases of individuals not being symptomatic before the game.”

Players may feel a sense of confusion, ringing ears, dizziness, headache, vision problems or other symptoms with that first concussion.

Concerns about concussion and second impact syndrome in youth football led the Centers for Disease Control to launch the Heads Up program a decade ago, which initially focused on helping healthcare providers diagnose and treat concussion before shifting attention to coaches, players and their families.

Even the name promotes the best way for players to avoid brutal head-to-head contact by looking ahead instead of down during play.

“Kids have to learn not to use the head when blocking or tackling,” said Cantu. “Use your shoulder, back people up with your arm, use a bear hug. This is easier said than done, but it can be learned.”

Youth sports coaches need to limit the number of full-contact practices, just as professional teams have done, Cantu said. In the NFL, players have no full-contact practices in the offseason and set limits of 14 full-contact practices out of 18 weeks during the season — “less than one per week,” Cantu noted. “High schools often can have full-contact practices two or three times a week.”

Learning safe and effective tackling and blocking techniques can be taught using dummies and other training methods, he said.

“Football is a sport that will never be safe,” Cantu said, “but it can be made safer.”

Symptoms of a concussion

  • Prolonged headache
  • Vision disturbances
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Impaired balance
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Ringing ears
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loss of smell or taste

If any of these occur after a blow to the head, a health-care professional should be consulted as soon as possible.

Source: Lavelle, Janet. “Concussions in High School Football Are Not Uncommon.” Sanluisobispo. N.p., 29 Sept. 2015. Web. 29 Sept. 2015.

Protect athletes from concussions

With the arrival of the fall sports season, parents, players and coaches must be aware of the potential for concussions.

A concussion often results from a blow, fall or other injury to the head and can lead to confusion, difficulty remembering or learning new information, headache, nausea, irritability and sleep disturbances. Your child may not remember the injury or may not feel it is serious at first, so parents and coaches must have a heightened awareness. While sports such as football, rugby, soccer, and basketball are commonly associated with a higher risk of concussion, any activity that can result in an injury to the head can result in a concussion.

Coaches, if your player has any of the above symptoms, even a headache after playing, this could be a concussion. Immediately remove them from play and have them evaluated by a trained medical professional who is proficient in the diagnosis and management of concussion. Parents, become familiar with your local school’s policy on baseline testing, re-administration of testing, management of potentially concussed athletes, and post-concussion return-to-play procedures. Protect your child’s brain! For further information visit http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/pdf/Facts_about_Concussion_TBI-a.pdf or visit the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) website at www.biausa.org.

Source: “Protect Athletes from Concussions.” Indianapolis Star. N.p., 26 Sept. 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2015.

Concussions: steps must be taken before athletes can return to activity


GREENVILLE, NC (WNCT)- According to the Center for Disease Control, over a million concussions happen every year.

ECU’s sports medicine team takes certain steps before they diagnose a concussion, and even more before the athlete can return to activity.

Concussions can happen anytime, during any sport, and at any level. They are considered an injury to the brain. Concussions can be caused by a number of things including a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body. There are certain things required after someone is hit.

Head athletic trainer with ECU football, Jake Moore, says, “if we suspect a concussions occurred we immediately remove the player from participation.”

At ECU, the sports medicine staff has a list of things they do in order to diagnose a concussion. First they administer a sideline assessment. Then the athlete goes through a series of tests. The first one, measures memory comprehension and reaction time. The second test assess balance.

“There’s four tests with the bio-sway two stable surface tests, one with the eyes open and one with the eyes closed,” Moore said.

The teams physician will then analyze the results and determine if the athlete does in fact have a concussion. If the athlete does have a concussion trainers advise them to rest their bodies and their brains.

Moore said, “a concussion is an injury to the brain, so I tell the guys here if you injure your hamstring you’re not going to continue to run on it or your going to make it worse so, when you have an injury to the brain you have to rest it.”

Once an athlete is symptom free, they start physical activity again.

“We gradually return them back to exercise, we start light, and progress as they tolerate, making sure that they maintain symptom free,” Moore said.

Trainers say no concussion is the same, and the recovery process is different for everyone.

J.H. Rose’s athletic trainer, Ben Morgan, says high school athletes have similar concussion procedures when compared to college athletics.

Source: Stephenson, Zora. “Concussions: Steps Must Be Taken before Athletes Can Return to Activity.” WNCT. N.p., 25 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.

Asthma does not have to be a sports-stopper for kids

You might remember a time when kids with asthma were discouraged from playing sports and told to take it easy. That’s no longer the case. Being active, working out and playing sports not only help kids with asthma stay fit, maintain a healthy weight and have fun, but also can strengthen their breathing muscles and help the lungs work better.

For these reasons, your doctor may recommend exercise as part of your child’s asthma treatment plan. If you have doubts about whether sports and asthma mix, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that asthma affects more than 20 percent of elite athletes and one in every six Olympic athletes.

Two important things that kids who have asthma should know about sports participation are their asthma must be under control in order for them to play sports properly and when it is well controlled, they can – and should – be active and play sports just like anyone else.

Of course, some sports are less likely than others to pose problems for people with asthma. Swimming, leisurely biking and walking are less likely to trigger asthma flare-ups, as are sports that require short bursts of activity like baseball, football, gymnastics and shorter track and field events.

Endurance sports, like long-distance running and cycling, and sports like soccer and basketball, which require extended energy output, may be more challenging. This is especially true for cold-weather sports like cross-country skiing or ice hockey. But that doesn’t mean kids can’t participate in these sports if they truly enjoy them. In fact, many athletes with asthma have found that, with proper training and medication, they can participate in any sport they choose.

To keep asthma under control, it’s important that kids take their medicine as prescribed.

Your child should carry quick-relief medicine (also called rescue or fast-acting medicine) at all times, even during workouts, in case of a flare-up.

It’s also a good idea to keep triggers in mind. Depending on their triggers, kids with asthma may want to skip outdoor workouts when pollen or mold counts are high, wear a scarf or ski mask when training outside during the winter, breathe through the nose instead of the mouth while exercising and make sure they always have time for a careful warm-up and cool-down.

These recommendations should be included in the asthma action plan you create with your child’s doctor.

Also, make sure that the coach knows about your child’s asthma and the asthma action plan. Most important, your child and the coach need to understand when it’s time for your child to take a break from a practice or game so that flare-ups can be managed before they become emergencies.

Source: “Tyler Morning Telegraph – Asthma Does Not Have to Be a Sports-stopper for Kids.” TylerPaper.com. N.p., 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Subtle symptoms key to concussion diagnosis

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Concussions are certainly not just an issue for professional athletes.

For high school student-athletes, coaches, and parents, awareness is at an all-time high for head injuries. WCNC sat down with sports medicine expert Dr. Kevin Burroughs to give parents a glimpse at some of the not-so-obvious symptoms associated with concussions.

Dr. Burroughs told WCNC that perhaps the rarest symptoms found with concussions is a total loss of consciousness.

“Yeah, now that might make the ESPN highlight reel, but the loss of consciousness is fairly rare. Most of the time we are looking for more subtle clues as to whether or not there is a concussion,” said Dr. Burroughs.

Dr. Burroughs says there are several physical symptoms parents should watch for, including balance issues, dizziness, headaches, and nausea, all of which are considered obvious to trainers and coaches on the sideline. But it’s the invisible symptoms that can provide the key to determining if an athlete has suffered a concussion.

“Emotional issues can occur on the sideline, and I’ve had some players come over and start crying on the sideline uncontrollably. They can’t explain it, they don’t know why it’s happening,” said Burroughs. “On the other hand, concentration difficulties may not show up on Friday night. If they’re having a great difficulty focusing in school or reading, that’s when they’ll maybe say, ‘Oh, I’ve had a concussion,'” Burroughs told WCNC.

Source: “Subtle Symptoms Key to Concussion Diagnosis.” WCNC. N.p., 23 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Sept. 2015.

Most young athletes with possible concussion continue to play, study says


Nearly 70 percent of young athletes with a possible concussion continued playing in a game or practice, according to a federal report released Tuesday at Garfield High School to alert people of the dangers of brain injuries.

And 40 percent of the 800 high school athletes interviewed said their coaches were unaware that they had a possible injury, potentially putting them at risk for even more harm since young brains are still developing, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While more people have become aware in recent years of the potential for serious and long-term effects of head injuries, “we have a long way to go,” said Grant T. Baldwin, director of the CDC’s Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention.

The CDC report, “Concussion at Play: Opportunities to Reshape the Culture Around Concussion,” summarizes the current research on concussions, and on awareness and behaviors among athletes, coaches, parents, school professionals and health care providers.

The report outlines several strategies to improve safety. Coaches need to change the way they talk about the injuries so they don’t make athletes feel pressure to keep playing. Schools should encourage the reporting of concussions, and physicians and trainers need to be clear on how long a student is sidelined, according to the findings.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, who co-founded the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, called for changes to make sure people take seriously an injury that he said was dismissed in his younger days as someone getting “his bell rung.” Even after publicity about concussion-related brain injuries among thousands of NFL players, too many parents, students and coaches continue to ignore the seriousness of brain trauma, Pascrell said.

“I can’t say this enough: Every concussion is brain damage,” Pascrell said. “There’s no such thing as a simple concussion.”

Pascrell stood on the football field at Garfield High School with Baldwin, school officials and several high school athletes wearing their purple team jerseys.

Traumatic brain injuries affect nearly 2.5 million Americans annually, and there are 5.3 million people living with long-term disabilities due to brain injuries, costing the U.S. $60 billion a year, according to the CDC.

In 2012, more than 325,000 children and teens were found to have suffered a traumatic brain injury, according to emergency department records and school trainers’ reports, Baldwin said, adding that it was a “huge undercount” because since many aren’t diagnosed.

Wojciech Piwowarczyk, a Garfield High School senior, sustained a head injury last year and sat out two weeks after he reported being dizzy and off balance until the school’s athletic trainer cleared him. “I was disappointed. I had no choice,” he said. But he said other team members had a shot to play in his place and he returned completely healed.

Garfield “took a really aggressive approach,” and is one of the few districts that requires middle school students to undergo baseline testing to determine verbal and visual memory, brain processing speed and reaction time, said Mike Alfonso, director of athletics for the Garfield School District. The computerized test, known as Immediate Post Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, or ImPACT, is typically administered in high school. If an injury occurs, the students can then be tested to compare earlier reaction time. The test alone does not diagnose a concussion.

Source: Layton, Mary Jo. “Most Young Athletes with Possible Concussion Continue to Play, Study Says.” NorthJersey.com. N.p., 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

Illinois concussion protocol making a difference on sidelines


Over the past year both Illinois lawmakers and athletic officials have made a push to revamp the way concussions are handled in youth and high school football.

Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation that made medical clearance for athletes mandatory following a brain injury.

The Illinois High School Association also implemented its ‘Play Smart. Play Hard.’ campaign, which pushes coaches and trainers to be more aware and responsible when it comes to noticing the signs and symptoms of concussions and taking immediate action on the sidelines.

Most small schools only have one trainer for upwards of 40-50 players which makes this a difficult task, but now the coaches are to be lending a hand.

Quincy Medical Group helps provide trainers to many schools in the Tri-States, and they’ve noticed a difference.

“The coaches respect us and they know that we know what we’re doing and that we’re knowledgeable about these kinds of things,” said Brianne Guymon, a certified trainer with QMG who spends her Friday’s on the local sidelines. “With the awareness there, we have to make sure everybody’s on the same page and trying to take care of their kids as much as we are.”

Guymon says players also need to recognize their own symptoms and not hide a possible head injury to stay in the game.

“A lot of times they don’t even realize that they have something more going on until later especially with adrenaline on a football field,” said Guymon. “Sometimes we have kids come into our clinic on Monday and they may not remember taking a big hit but they’re dizzy, have a headache, and symptoms that won’t go away.”

Guymon says these situations make it much more important and helpful when coaches keep an eye on players with possible symptoms.

Source: Austin, Dylan. “Illinois Concussion Protocol Making a Difference on Sidelines.” – WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio. N.p., 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2015.