Posted: November 30, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Football, Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports, youth sports death
By JASON SCOTT
Two youth football players — one a high school student from Kansas and the other in Ohio who was just 9 years old — died this week during football activities.
Luke Schemm, a 17-year old player at Wallace County High in Sharon Springs, Kan. Collapsed on the sideline after scoring on a two-point conversion play. He was airlifted to a Denver hospital, where he was declared brain dead. He was taken off life support late yesterday.
Referees reportedly didn’t see Schemm take contact to his head or neck. But David Schemm, Luke’s father, said that Luke had suffered brain trauma, which caused swelling and shut off blood flow.
Schemm was a standout athlete at Wallace County High. He started for four years on the school’s football team, played on a state championship basketball team, and a state ranked high jumper. He had plans to attend Kansas State University in the fall.
Wyatt Barber, the 9-year-old player, collapsed during a routine practice session. A preliminary autopsy revealed that he died of a heart issue.
Barber’s team was having a non-contact practice session when he fell to the ground.
“During the process of stopping and taking a break, the young man collapsed,” Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood told WSAZ. “They started doing CPR on him immediately and contacted 911. When we got there, they were working on Wyatt and trying to get him revived, diligently trying.”
Barber was rushed to the emergency room, but was pronounced dead a short time later.
“To have a death like that is just a terrible thing to see happen,” Wood said. “We are a family here and we’re very closely connected in our community.”
Source: Scott, Jason. “Two More Deaths in Youth Football – Athletic Business.” Athletic Business. N.p., 15 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 28, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: Concussions, player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By VICKI HALL
BANFF, Alta. — Canada’s Sports Minister Carla Qualtrough says Rowan’s Law – a concussion bill named after a 17-year-old who died in Ottawa after being injured during a high school rugby game – is a step in the right direction.
Ontario MPP Lisa MacLeod tabled the bill in the Ontario legislature on Wednesday with rare all-party support. Second reading is scheduled for Dec. 10.
“I am keenly aware of the concerns being voiced across our sport system about our athletes’ health regarding the impact of concussions,” Qualtrough said in a news release Friday. “I share the desire for a responsible, coordinated approach to the treatment of concussions in order to ensure the safety of every athlete.”
Qualtrough’s comments come on the heels of a four-part Postmedia series that detailed Canada’s haphazard approach to concussion management. In this country, rules vary wildly from province to province or city to city — even in the same sport.
Source: Hall, VickI. “‘Concussions Are a Serious Issue throughout Our Sport System:’ Federal Government Throws Support behind Rowan’s Law.” National Post Concussions Are a Serious Issue throughout Our Sport System Federal Government Throws Support behind RowansLaw Comments. N.p., 28 Nov. 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 27, 2015 Filed under: Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By EMILY SWEENEY
James Loftus found himself in a difficult spot when his son Henry asked if he could play Ultimate Frisbee this fall. There was one problem: Henry was already signed up to play soccer on a travel team, and James had volunteered to be the assistant coach.
“He played soccer since he was in kindergarten,” said Loftus, who lives in Newton. “He enjoys it but never seemed to be passionate about it. This year he asked, ‘Can I play Frisbee instead?’ ”
Loftus and his wife looked around for an Ultimate Frisbee league and found one in Lexington. Henry joined, Loftus gracefully stepped down from his soccer coaching position, and since then, 13-year-old Henry has become hooked on his new sport, so much so that he even joined an Ultimate Frisbee club at his middle school.
Why does Henry like Ultimate?
“He says ‘we don’t have refs and there’s a lot more running around,’ ” Loftus explained.
Ask any parent: Kids have more athletic opportunities to choose from today than ever. Soccer. Lacrosse. Swimming. Flag football. Gymnastics. On any given weekend you can find preschoolers at T-ball practice, learning yoga poses, playing ice hockey, even participating in Spartan Race obstacle courses.
But with more options come more questions for parents. When are kids ready to play organized sports? How do you find a quality youth program that they’ll enjoy? Is it all right to specialize in one sport? When is it OK to let kids quit?
Active kids do better in life, according to a recent report by the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. Physical activity is linked to academic achievement, and sports can have a positive impact on young people’s self-esteem, goal-setting, and leadership skills.
Yet national participation in youth sports has actually declined in recent years, the report says, as organized opportunities have shifted toward those with the most talent, financial resources, or commitment. (Read: parents/guardians who can chauffeur them to practices, games, and tournaments.)
Just 40 percent of children ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in 2013, down from 44.5 percent in 2008, according to the report, which cited statistics from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
Football has seen the steepest decline, but participation has also fallen in baseball, softball, soccer, and basketball. Meanwhile, more kids are playing racquetball, ice hockey, lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee, and squash.
So, what’s a family to do?
First of all, parents should be smart consumers, said Ann Marie Gallo, a professor of physical education at Salem State University. She gave a recent talk on youth sports in Lexington, where she is founder and longtime director of Summer’s Edge Day Camp.
Before signing up, parents should make sure the sport suits their child’s needs and abilities. “I think the first priority should be teaching children how to move,” she said.
Recreation centers and YMCAs often offer a variety of sports and activities for young children, such as yoga and climbing walls. Gallo also recommends Ultimate Frisbee as “a nice introductory sport.”
Before signing their child up for a team, Gallo advises parents to “go down to a park and watch and see” what goes on at a typical practice.
What to look for? Gallo recommends activities that keep children involved and engaged. Is a ball provided to every child or pair of children, so that everyone can gain experience? Or is a pack of kids chasing after one single ball? She said young children can benefit from small games (two vs. two or three vs. three) on smaller fields.
And look for coaches who act like mentors and teachers.
Gallo recalled a time when she was watching her godchild play in a basketball game and the coach yelled at her team: “You’re playing like this is recreational basketball!”
The comment made little sense to Gallo. “She’s 12,” she said. “It’s supposed to be fun.”
Gallo cautions against specializing in one sport too early. Training year-round in one sport puts young athletes at risk for chronic overuse injuries, she said.
“More is not always better,” she said. “You risk burnout if you start too early.”
Kids quit sports for a variety of reasons: boredom, fatigue, the coach yells too much, the family can’t afford it. Gallo recommends that parents check in with young children and ask them: “Are you enjoying this? Do you like this?”
When talking sports with your young athlete, instead of asking “Did you win?” shift to more open-ended questions like: “How did you play today?” That question will spark conversations about the child’s experience, she said, which is far more important than the numbers on the scoreboard.
Burnout doesn’t seem like much of a problem for the kids playing Ultimate Frisbee in Lexington. Since the town’s Recreation and Community Programs Department partnered with the Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance to offer youth Ultimate Frisbee in 2011, the sport has continued to grow in popularity. This year, additional age groups were offered.
Dean Ranzo, who has been playing Ultimate since 1981, coaches the under-10 division, which includes kids as young as 7. He describes it as “an awesome” sport that combines “athleticism, good attitude, and fun.”
Ultimate Frisbee is the game of choice for Gillian Epstein’s children. Her 13-year-old son has been playing for a few years, and this year her 9-year-old daughter signed up as well.
“I appreciate that Ultimate is relaxed, all-inclusive, and very positive,” she said in an e-mail. “We were thrilled that the program agreed to take younger ages this summer, and my daughter loves it — it was the only team sport she was willing to consider.”
Loftus, the erstwhile soccer coach from Newton, admits to knowing little about Ultimate before his son adopted the sport.
“But it looks like fun,” he said, “and he really seems to enjoy it.”
Source: Sweeney, Emily. “How to Navigate Today’s Wide World of Youth Sports – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. N.p., 27 Nov. 2015. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 26, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: Concussions, player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By VICKI HALL
In a special, four-part series, Postmedia News explores the issue of youth concussions: from the pressure felt by athletes to “power through” and take one for the team, to the need to balance safety against fear, to the patchwork of policies across the country that leaves young athletes at risk.
CALGARY — Concussion, the blockbuster movie of the holiday season, is billed as one man’s ‘David and Goliath’ fight against the NFL.
CALGARY — A mother’s intuition told Kelley Korbin her daughter was hiding the truth about the concussions she suffered as an up-and-coming skier on the B.C. moguls team.
But with her eyes trained on the next competition, Sophie McGregor refused to consider hanging up her boots to protect her brain.
“She was making light of it,” Korbin says from West Vancouver. “She didn’t have any big falls. She just had a few little hits of her head on the snow. By that point, it didn’t take much.”
Despite incapacitating headaches and persistent nausea, McGregor kept skiing over bumpy mogul fields. All the while, her mother gently probed and incessantly worried about a bright, bubbly girl who suddenly seemed anything but.
“I said I was fine, but I was forgetting entire days and living with serious headaches,” says McGregor, who admits to self-medicating with up to eight extra-strength Tylenols a day to manage the pain. “I definitely shouldn’t have been skiing, in retrospect. But at the time, I was like, ‘I can just power through this.’ My coach was being super-cautious and kept asking me how I was doing. But I just kept on lying.”
Dr. Bennet Omalu, played by Will Smith, is the Nigerian neuropathologist who discovers chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in football players. His discovery, and his fight to raise awareness, pitted him against the most powerful professional sports organization in the world.
The brains Omalu examines explains so many things. Like why Steelers great Mike Webster ended up sleeping in bus stations, blowing all his money after he retired — forgetting he ever had money — and using a taser to zap himself to sleep. Why Vikings linebacker Fred McNeill — so smart he began law school during his last NFL season — started to lose his memory in his early 40s and eventually would be fired from multiple jobs. Why Chicago Bears Pro Bowler Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest rather than in the head when he killed himself at 50, leaving a note that said: “I think something is seriously damaged in my brain. Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.”
The potential reaction to the film scares Dr. Pierre Fremont, chair of the Canadian Concussion Collaborative, an umbrella organization that includes the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Paediatric Society.
“I fear it’s going to create another huge wave of fear,” says Fremont, past-president of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine. “People who have kids playing football might think, ‘My kid plays football and had two concussions in three years that were properly managed, so he’s going to die after going crazy in 20 years.’”
He worries panicked moms and dads will pull their kids out of sports such as hockey, football and soccer to save them from the ravages of CTE — and that this, in turn, will lead to a generation of inactive, overweight children.
When concussions are properly managed, Fremont says, there is usually no cause for long-term concern. CTE is a late complication of multiple improperly managed concussions.
But given a 2014 poll released by the collaborative suggests 59 per cent of sports organizations in the country don’t have a concussion protocol in place, fear is understandable.
Fremont sees the film as a warning to Canada, a message that it’s on the clock to ensure every sports organization in the country — from AAA Midget hockey in Quebec to the local skiing club offering lessons on a bunny hill in Edmonton — has a mandatory concussion protocol that is reviewed annually. This needs to be done quickly and it needs to be done correctly, he says, learning from other jurisdictions like the U.S.
Without that, he worries not only about the kids who continue to play sports, but about those who won’t.
“We need to do something about concussions before fear destroys sport participation in kids,” he says. “Only a minority of kids will be excited about golf or swimming laps in the pool. They want to play on sports teams; they want to compete against other kids. We want kids to be active instead of gaming or getting fat. It’s so important for their health, so they don’t develop chronic disease.”
No one would ever send their child on to a football field or hockey rink without a helmet. A concussion protocol — or a detailed plan outlining the steps to safely return to school or sport — is every bit as essential.
Studies show concussions are three to six times more likely to be detected in an environment with a protocol in place, Fremont says. Further, an estimated 80 to 90 per cent of concussions resolve totally within seven to 10 days — or sometimes longer, in the case of children and teenagers — so long as the brain is given proper time to rest, according to the 2012 Zurich Consensus Statement on Concussions.
Without protocols in place, concussions are more likely to be missed.
“We’re missing a huge amount of minor concussions that most of the time will, by luck, resolve without consequences,” Fremont says. “But a few of those are those kids who will get a second hit that will constitute a very bad episode of concussion that could have been prevented by early detection. That’s what needs to change.”
A mandatory concussion protocol was among the 49 recommendations of a coroner’s inquest into the death of Rowan Stringer, a 17-year-old Ottawa girl who died after back-to-back concussions sustained while playing high school rugby in 2013.
A youth concussion bill prompted by that inquest was introduced Wednesday in Ontario’s provincial parliament. The bill calls for a committee to develop an action plan based on those recommendations. They have one year to report. In Quebec, a working group on sports-related concussions was struck in early 2014. Although the group has submitted a report to the Minister of Sports, Education and Leisure, recommendations have yet to be made public. In B.C., Moira Stilwell introduced a private member’s bill in 2011 calling for youth concussion legislation, but it died on the table. She hopes to introduce a similar bill again.
Federally, Sport Canada has formed a working group on concussions and head injuries, with representatives from federal, provincial and territorial governments. Asked about a deadline for a report, a spokesperson said “this information will be made available in due time.”
Sport Canada also is working with the provinces and national sport organizations to create educational tools such as seminars and workshops for coaches, trainers, administrators and parents.
“The harmonization of educational initiatives and management protocol tools are the top priorities,” spokesman Roger Maalouf wrote in a statement to Postmedia. “Education and community-level awareness are vital to prevent injury on the playing field.”
Further, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has asked Sport Minister Carla Qualtrough to work with her health counterparts on a national strategy to raise awareness for parents, coaches and athletes on concussion treatment.
In the meantime, sports organizations across the country are governed by a patchwork of policies — or none at all. In 2014, the Canadian Concussion Collaborative released a poll of 44 national and provincial organizations that represent concussion-prone sports. Of those surveyed, just 41 per cent had concussion management protocols in place. Rules vary wildly from province to province or city to city — even in the same sport.
The Saskatchewan Soccer Association, for example, introduced a detailed concussion policy in 2013. One province over, the Manitoba Soccer Association said in October that it is still hammering one out. In B.C., the provincial association says it’s finalizing a formal concussion protocol but warns, even when it’s adopted, enforcement will trickle down to youth districts and, ultimately, coaches, parents and officials. There’s just no way for an organization based in Vancouver to police concussion management in soccer leagues from Fort St. John to Cranbrook to Tofino.
“It’s trying to work with our membership to create something they can then monitor,” said spokesman Peter Lonergan. “With the province being so big, that is our challenge. We’d be lying if we said we could be at every game, every weekend.”
At the national level:
• Hockey Canada has a comprehensive concussion policy — available digitally — that details a six-step protocol for players with a suspected concussion. The policy calls for at least one official on each team to take an online player-safety course that teaches, among other things, the rules for handling possible head, neck or spinal-cord injuries. The policy is national in scope, but day-to-day enforcement lies with the provincial branches and local minor hockey associations. “If everybody respects the rules, it’s a really safe game to play,” says Todd Jackson, senior manager of safety and insurance for Hockey Canada.
• Snowboard Canada’s concussion policy goes a step further, requiring all athletes 15 and older to undergo baseline neurological testing before the start of training every season.
• Curling Canada is in the process of developing a concussion protocol that is slated for presentation at the association’s AGM next summer. Brad Gushue, the 2006 Olympic gold medallist, cracked his head on the ice in the fourth end of a game last month. He went to hospital, received seven stitches, and returned to action in the seventh end. The next day, he woke up with concussion-like symptoms.
• When asked if it has a concussion policy, the Canadian Lacrosse Association said in a written statement it is in the process of reviewing concussion protocols given recent research on the topic. It refused to specify whether a current policy exists.
• Rugby Canada follows the “Recognize and Remove” policy launched by World Rugby in January 2014. “If there’s a suspicion of a concussion, the player is removed and we ask questions later,” says Dustin Hopkins, manager of national development for Rugby Canada. “It’s not a matter of trying to make a diagnosis around the field.” Medical clearance is required for a player to return to action.
• Ringette Canada hopes to have a concussion policy — complete with a return-to-play protocol — approved at the next face-to-face meeting of the board in January. In the meantime, the national federation is encouraging coaches to take an online course and follow the concussion protocol found on the Parachute Canada website. “It’s not like we’re just sitting here going, ‘Our policy is not in place at this point,’” says Natasha Johnston, executive director of Ringette Canada. “We recognize the importance of the issue.”
The United States is far ahead of Canada when it comes to concussion protocols. All 50 states have enacted concussion laws outlining the steps that must be taken when a young athlete suffers a head injury. The legislation protects the respective governments from massive lawsuits — common south of the border — should a young athlete die from repeated concussions.
But is legislation the way to go? Should Canada be following the American lead?
Proponents of Rowan’s Law say such legislation will protect all young athletes by forcing sports federations, leagues and teams to enact formal concussion protocols that educate participants and mandate the steps to return to play.
But Fremont isn’t so sure. In terms of protecting children, he says the results are muddy at best. No one is policing sports teams to ensure athletes and parents are educated about the dangers of concussions. No one is inspecting the files to ensure every concussed participant presents a doctor’s note before returning to game action.
“In every state, the literature is starting to show that it’s very nice to have that (law) — it’s been useful to increase the awareness by coaches — but not so much athletes and parents,” Fremont says. “The bottom line is they have no way to implement it. Before we too rapidly decide to implement similar laws in Canada, we should at least ask the question, carefully look at the literature from the American experience, and decide if we want to duplicate or innovate.”
Fremont, for one, prefers a distinctly Canadian approach.
Provincial education ministries could enact policies to cover concussions suffered at school. Currently, Ontario is the only province in the country to have such a law in place. Enacted in 2015 following the death of Rowan Stringer, it applies only to students injured while playing for a school team.
National sports organizations could introduce similar rules and require all their members to follow them. The respective governments could make approved concussion management protocols a condition of funding.
All sides agree: Education is essential to prevent another tragedy.
“It’s time to go back to the earliest level of sport, grassroots, where daddy is the coach on Saturday morning,” Fremont says. “That’s where it starts.”
The main goal of every concussion policy should be to educate kids, parents, coaches and teachers about the signs, symptoms and potential severity of concussions and leave the decision-making to physicians, preferably those with training in traumatic brain injury,” says Dr. Michael Ellis, medical director of Winnipeg’s Pan Am Concussion Centre.
In Manitoba, Ellis is a vocal advocate of standardized concussion protocols in and out of school to protect young athletes across the province, regardless of what sport they play.
“I don’t think parents or coaches should ever feel like they have to be doctors,” he says. “Parents, teachers, coaches — this is not a responsibility that should be put on their shoulders. The only thing they should be expected to do is if they worry about or suspect a concussion, they have to pull the trigger on getting the kid out of the game, and hopefully the concussion protocol will take care of the rest.”
Without firm policies in place, emotions can override reason. Just as youth often choose to keep playing, coaches can feel conflicted when their star player goes down in a big game. Parents can urge their children to play through an injury for a chance at a championship or individual glory.
“I’ve had parents come in to the clinic who have confidence in what we tell them and ensure that their child takes all the necessary steps to return to their sport safely,” says Siobhan Karam, a physiotherapist at Toronto’s Sports Medicine Specialists clinic who has experience in concussion therapy.
“But I’ve also treated athletes with complex and repeat concussions, with very visible symptoms, and their parents will insist that their child is just fine. Even the worst concussions possible, and it’s the kid’s seventh concussion, and the parent is like, ‘Oh no, he’s fine.’ And the kid is about to throw up, and his eye function is completely off.”
To protect kids and teenagers, Ellis says, any concussion protocol must include mandatory medical clearance before young athletes can return to sport.
Until Canada comes to a point where all sports have concussion protocols in place, Dr. Charles Tator advises parents to be cautious.
“There are still lots of positives to be taken from team sport,” says Tator, a neurosurgeon at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre of Toronto Western Hospital. “I’m not in favour of parents withdrawing, but I do encourage parents to be very vigilant. You can’t drop off your kid and leave, and you can’t allow the coach to preach violence and aggression. That is up to the parents to prevent. Parents have to be vocal, they have to be there, they have to be watchful, and they have to realize their kids’ safety is in the hands of the coach.”
As much as Fremont would hate to see parents pull their kids out of contact sports after watching the movie Concussion, he says they should walk away from any league without a protocol in place.
“They should ask, ‘Did you establish a good understanding of concussion within your organization? Can I trust if my kid has a concussion that it will be detected early and managed properly? Do you have a protocol?,” he says.
“If they don’t, parents should not have their kids involved in an environment with a high risk of concussion and no plan. Kids should not play contact football on a football team that does not have a concussion management protocol. It makes no sense.”
Source: Hall, Vicki. “Head Shots: Concussion Policy Needed to Protect Kids Who Play Sports – and Those Who Are Afraid to.” National Post Head Shots Concussion Policy Needed to Protect Kids Who Play Sports and Those Who Are Afraidto Comments. N.p., 26 Nov. 2015. Web. 26 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 25, 2015 Filed under: Football, Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By KELLY MCEVERS
We know more than ever about concussions, the permanent brain damage of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and the other physical risks of football.
Yet so far this year, at least 19 students have died playing football, according to the University of North Carolina’s National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.
Cam’ron Matthews played safety on the Alto, Texas, varsity football team. The 16-year-old died after a game in October.
Laurie Gould Photography
Though participation is slowly declining, football is still the country’s most popular high school sport. Over a million high schoolers played last season.
Researchers at UNC have been tracking football-related deaths since the 1960s. Director Kristen Kucera describes two main tallies: deaths caused directly by football, like a broken spine or brain trauma, and those that are indirect like heat stroke or sudden cardiac arrest that occurred during a game or practice.
The good news is that there are fewer fatalities than there used to be. Back in the 1960s, around 30 or 40 players died each year. Then came a steep decline thanks to new safety measures: a standardized helmet that must be certified for use in a game; a rule banning headfirst tackling; and improvements in athletic medical care.
But instead of dropping to nil, the number of football-related fatalities leveled off in the 1990s. Since then, a persistent average of about four or five football players have died each year as a direct result of playing their sport, along with an average of 10 or so indirect fatalities.
When asked why the numbers have leveled off instead of reaching zero, Kucera hesitates. “That’s a great question,” she says. “That’s what we’re working really hard to figure out.”
One player who died this year was Cam’ron Matthews, a 16-year-old from Alto, Texas.
On a Friday night in November, one month after Matthews died, the Alto Yellowjackets bounded out of their black-and-yellow inflated tent through an artificial cloud of mist and onto the field. There was no trace of sadness. They were focused on winning.
Alto is a small town of about 1,200, and on Friday nights it feels like everyone comes to watch the boys play. Some parents like Misty Collins get there early to stake out a spot on the metal bleachers. Collins was there Oct. 16, when Matthews told the coach he felt dizzy, then collapsed on the sideline.
“We just all prayed,” she remembered. “We prayed that he was going to be OK, but the good Lord took an angel that was down here on Earth.”
That’s how people who knew Matthews talk about him. The 6-foot safety was one of the team’s captains. He was the only junior elected.
“He’s our number one, that was his jersey number,” Collins said. “He was an awesome student, and very polite, and anything that came out of his mouth was ‘Yes, ma’am’ and ‘No, ma’am.’ He was an awesome guy.”
After he collapsed, medics took Matthews to a hospital in East Texas, where he died the next day.
Doctors told the family he likely died from a burst brain aneurysm, though they’re still waiting for an autopsy to confirm that.
A fatal aneurysm could be related to football or other vigorous activity, according toRobert Cantu, a neurosurgeon in Concord, Mass., who specializes in football injuries. That activity could cause an aneurysm, which is a weak area in the wall of an artery, to burst, which in turn could cause dizziness, collapse and death. Aneurysms can run in families, but are “very uncommon” in 16-year-olds, Cantu says.
Matthews’ friend and teammate Keenan Johnson said it’s been hard to get back in the groove. But instead of falling apart, he says, the team has pulled together.
The Alto Yellowjackets take the field on Nov. 13, a month after Matthews died.
“It hurts that he’s not here,” Johnson says. “He’s one of my closest friends, and we worked out all summer. But we dedicate it to him. We’re trying to win the state championship for him, be number one for him.”
In the playoff game in November, the Yellowjackets faced a longtime rival – the Groveton Indians. And Matthews was on the sidelines, in a way. His number 1 jersey was perched on a wooden hanger. His sister Paige sat in the bleachers at the 50-yard line. The team won 63 to 14.
Parents rushed onto the field to thank head coach Paul Gould. Gould says he’s proud of how the players are handling their teammate’s death.
“I think they’re doing probably about as good as possible, but this is something they’re going to deal with for the rest of their lives,” he says.
Gould knows parents are concerned about injuries associated with football, especially concussions. This year the governing body for high school sports in Texas says it will start counting concussions for the first time.
This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics made new recommendations about safety and urged players to consider “whether the benefits of playing outweigh the risks of possible injury.” The AAP is urging the expansion of non-tackle leagues like flag football and calling for athletic trainers to be present during practices and games. Only 37 percent of high school nationwide have a full time athletic trainer on staff.
Two University of Minnesota professors have gone even further, calling for theelimination of tackle football programs from public schools altogether.
“Everybody wants their kids to be safe. Everybody wants their kids to be OK, and I understand that,” Gould says. “We try to make sure we coach kids to hit the correct way. You try to make your kids as safe as possible, because that’s our job.”
After Matthews died, Gould says not a single parent pulled their kid from the team. He hopes what happened doesn’t fuel negative ideas about the game.
“I can say this: What football teaches kids for the rest of their life, in my opinion, is priceless,” Gould says. “I mean, it teaches you to deal with things. This situation is definitely teaching our kids to deal with things as they move forward.”
Mississippi defensive back Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins tackled Vanderbilt fullback Brad Gaines on Oct. 28, 1989. The tackle paralyzed Mullins from the neck down. He died two years later.
But players who have been involved in a fatal play say the experience will haunt them forever.
Back in 1989, Brad Gaines was a star running back at Vanderbilt University. Then came October 28, a date Gaines will never forget. It was a must-win game at Ole Miss in Oxford.
Vanderbilt received the opening kickoff and drove down the field. On third and goal at the 12-yard line, Gaines and the Commodores lined up for a play designed to pass the ball to Gaines.
The ball snapped and his quarterback threw the pass. An Ole Miss linebacker was close on Gaines’s tail.
“As soon as the ball reaches me, reaches my hands …bang!” Gaines remembers. “Just a fantastic hit from the back, and breaks up the pass, and [the linebacker] just makes a great play.”
Gaines headed back to the sideline, then noticed the linebacker hadn’t yet gotten back up. At first, Gaines thought this was another of football’s routine injuries. A sprained ankle, maybe. But five minutes went by. Ten minutes. The linebacker was still lying on the field, surrounded by trainers and medical staff. Maybe a broken arm, Gaines thought.
Finally Gaines realized it was something more serious when a helicopter ambulance arrived to take the linebacker to Memphis, about 70 miles away.
Later he learned the linebacker’s name — Chucky Mullins — and his injury: Mullins had broken his spine and could not move any of his limbs.
“I had the doctor tell me sometime later that when they got him stabilized, when they got him into surgery… his neck looked as if you dropped a grenade down his shirt.”
Gaines was horrified.
“The only thing I knew was you strapped up your cleats before practice, you went out and played and it was fun. I didn’t know that there was this other part to this game,” says Gaines, now 48 and living in Nashville, where he works in health care.
“In an instant, he goes from being a world-class athlete in the best conference in America, and now he’s laying on his back, and he’ll never move again. He will not be able to brush his teeth. He will not be able to wash his hair. He will never be able to feed himself. And I just felt like I was the cause of that.”
Against the advice of his coach and a psychologist, Gaines decided to visit Mullins in the hospital. He was scared to death, petrified, he says, and not prepared for what he saw when he walked in: a much skinnier Mullins, with “cords, tubes, things hanging out of him.”
Mullins’s guardian was there, and told Gaines that Mullins had something he wanted to tell him.
Gaines leaned over to hear Mullins whisper through his tracheal tube: “It’s not your fault.”
“And oh my goodness,” Gaines remembers. “It’s tough saying it now, but I tell you, it was a total selfless act on his part. I don’t know if I could have done that.”
Gaines and Mullins remained friends for the following year and half, until Mullins died of complications in 1991. Every year still, he drives to Mullins’s grave on October 28, the anniversary of the game, and on Christmas.
Today, Gaines regularly receives phone calls from players like him — players, often teenagers, who make a routine play or tackle that ends with an opponent’s death. Gaines is one of few people they can turn to who actually understands what they’re going through, and he’s happy to help.
“What I learned from Chucky Mullins was that selfless nature. It’s not about me. It’s not about Brad Gaines. I can help people. So if somebody calls me and asks me that’s going through something like this, or needs some advice, or counsel, then that’s my duty.”
Gaines thinks the game is safer today, thanks to things like better concussion protocol and the new kickoff positions that mean fewer kickoff returns. But he still calls himself a football purist. He says he couldn’t tell his 11-year-old son not to play football.
“I know that it’s not the game’s fault. I know that. And I know that there are going to be injuries,” Gaines says. “But when you love the game, you accept that. You accept that there could be consequences like this.”
Source: McEvers, Kelly. “Deaths Persist In Youth And Student Football Despite Safety Efforts.” NPR. NPR, 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 25, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Dehydration, Football, Heat Stroke, Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: Concussions, player safety, Safety Tag, youth football, Youth Sports
By DR DAVID GEIER
Tyrell Cameron. Ben Hamm. Evan Murray. Kenney Bui. Rod Williams. Cam’ron Matthews. Andre Smith. Luke Schemm.
These are all young athletes who have died this season playing high school football.
Deaths in a sport can be classified as either direct or indirect fatalities. Direct fatalities are those that result from football itself, such as a player suffering a broken neck tackling an opponent. Indirect deaths result from exertion while playing. Examples include heat stroke and cardiac deaths.
From available media reports, it appears that most of the young athletes listed above died from events directly caused by football. They died from brain injuries, cervical spine injuries or a lacerated spleen.
If these reports are accurate, then at least six of the deaths this fall are directly related to high school football. Add these to the eight deaths in 2013 and five in 2014, and this three-year period marks the highest total since 1986-1988, according to Jason Lisk of The Big Lead.
Whether or not this recent spike in fatalities is part of a trend or just an aberration remains to be seen.
Dr. Frederick Mueller, the former director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, explained to me that in the 1960s and early 1970s, 25 to 30 athletes died each year as a result of head and neck injuries. In 1976, football banned spear tackling, which involved leading with the head or helmet. That change helped to dramatically cut fatalities in the sport.
According to data from the NCCSIR, 26 high school football players suffered deaths directly related to the sport between 2003 and 2012, or about three per year. Nineteen direct fatalities have occurred from 2013 through the end of the 2015 season, which appears to be a significant increase. It’s possible, however, that increased media coverage and the proliferation of social media has helped to publicize deaths we might never have heard about in the past.
While it’s hard to conclude that deaths in high school football are becoming more common, it is clear that we aren’t making much headway in preventing them either.
Part of the problem could be the evolution of the sport at the high school level and the athletes who play it. Kids start playing competitively at a much younger age, so the high school game is played at a higher level than ever. Plus the athletes are bigger, faster and stronger and deliver hits with more force than they did decades ago.
More worrisome, though, are the deaths indirectly related to football. There were 62 indirect fatalities between 2008 and 2014, according to NCCSIR data. Most deaths from heat stroke, sickling in athletes with sickle cell trait and heart issues can be prevented with rapid and appropriate medical response in the first few minutes. Yet these deaths seem to be rising.
I don’t present these statistics to scare anyone. The simple fact is that kids die playing football.
You might look at that number — six deaths directly caused by football this year — and think that it isn’t many when 1.1 million kids play high school football. Or you might be a parent who decides it is far too high.
We need more research on high school football deaths and new strategies to prevent them. Would creating more protective helmets make a difference? Would teaching proper tackling techniques help? Yes, we need those efforts and much, much more. But the last 40 years have shown us that we aren’t making much progress.
Football is more popular than ever, and kids want to play. Parents will have to decide if six deaths a year is an acceptable risk for their children.
Dr. David Geier is an orthopaedic surgeon in Charleston. For more information about football injuries and other sports medicine topics, go to drdavidgeier.com.
Source: Geier, David. “Are Deaths Increasing in High School Football?” Post and Courier. N.p., 25 Nov. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 23, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Football, Player Safety | Tags: Concussions, football, player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By: MATT WALL
Luke Falk lay staring onto the field, unable to move or stand up after his head slammed onto the field. Paramedics rushed on and carted the quarterback off on a stretcher.
The Washington State quarterback suffered a serious looking head injury, but gave the crowd a thumbs up before exiting the field.
Saturday was not a good day in the sport of college football for head injuries, especially to quarterbacks. In fact, it’s been happening a lot this season.
Oklahoma starter Baker Mayfield suffered an apparent head injury against TCU in the second quarter Saturday. TCU linebacker Ty Summers was flagged for targeting and later ejected for the hit. Mayfield did not return.
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was out this weekend with a head injury that he suffered three weeks ago.
For Arizona fans, they know this story all too well. Starting quarterback Anu Solomon has sat out three games over the season because of concussion symptoms. Solomon’s two head injuries occurred from the sophomore attempting to slide face first to avoid opposing defenders.
Arizona receiver Samajie Grant sustained a head injury during the opening play in the Territorial Cup on Saturday and sat out for the remainder of the game.
We haven’t even discussed all the professional football players in the NFL who have travelled the same path. To name a couple: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Arizona Cardinals guard Mike Iupati.
Concussions are nothing new in the NFL or in college football. However, this football season has been one of significant injuries to top players.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, has gained national attention over the years due to the numerous former football players who have suffered from the disease.
While increased rules have been implemented to protect player safety, it doesn’t appear to be working.
The current protocol in the NFL of immediate sideline assessment involves a neurologic exam, a graduated exercise challenge and the team physician clearing the player. In the NCAA, however, an initial suspected concussion evaluation involves a symptom assessment, physical and neurological exam, cognitive assessment, balance exam and a clinical assessment.
Maryland quarterback Caleb Rowe sustained a concussion according to SB Nation, removed himself from the came and returned a few minutes later.
According to a 2013 survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 42 percent of major college football trainers have been pressured by coaches to return an athlete to the field after suffering concussions.
That’s a startling number, one that has no business in the sport of college football.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez knows concussions all too well with his quarterback.
“As coaches, we don’t get in the middle of it,” Rodriguez said in his weekly press conference last week. “There are a lot of people who give opinions, which is kind of comical. All of these other people give their opinion on what a player should do about their injury. One: They are not here to give the medical diagnosis and two: 99 percent of them are not qualified to give a medical diagnosis anyways, as I am not. We aren’t the experts.”
Rodriguez is sending the right message: Head coaches are in no way, shape or form experts on any sort of medical diagnosis.
“[Experts] make the determination whether a guy can go in and play,” Rodriguez said. “That is the way it should be. It should not be in the hands of someone’s opinion or anybody else’s, it’s up to the medical experts. They will always have the student-athlete’s welfare on the top of their list.”
If only every coach could have the same opinion.
Source: Wall, Matt. “Column: Head Injuries Continue to Plague Football.” Arizona Daily Wildcat ::. N.p., 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 21, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Player Safety, Youth Sports | Tags: Concussions, player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By ALINA BRADFORD
A concussion is a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by the brain violently bouncing or twisting inside of the skull. These types of injuries can be caused by hits to the head or a sudden whipping back and forth of the neck or body.
Concussions are a common injury. There are about 1.4 million TBI-related deaths, hospitalizations and emergency department visits each year, and 75 to 90 percent of them are concussions or other forms of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are several factors that may increase the risk of a concussion, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Being involved in a motor vehicle collision
- Being involved in a pedestrian or bicycle accident
- Being a soldier involved in combat
- Being a victim of physical abuse
- Falling, especially in young children and older adults
- Participating in a high-risk sport, such as football, hockey, soccer, rugby, boxing or other contact sport; the risk is further increased if there’s a lack of proper safety equipment and supervision
- Having had a previous concussion
Many of the symptoms of a concussion are hard to notice. Common symptoms are headache, loss of memory (the person may not remember recent events or what caused the injury) and confusion. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms of a concussion may also include:
- Dizziness or “seeing stars”
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Delayed response to questions
- Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
- Slurred speech
- Appearing dazed
- Temporary loss of consciousness
- Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
- Ringing in the ears
Symptoms may be apparent immediately or they may be delayed by hours or days after injury. Some symptoms that may take time to appear, according to the Mayo Clinic, are irritability or other personality changes, problems with concentration and memory, sensitivity to light and noise, problems sleeping, depression and sensory problems such as the inability to taste or smell.
Symptoms in children can be different than in adults and even harder to diagnose since it is difficult for young children to express how they feel. Parents and caretakers should look for strange behavior like listlessness, appearing dazed, easily becoming tired, crankiness, unusual clumsiness or unsteady walking, excessive crying or changes in eating or sleeping.
Contrary to popular belief, most concussions do not cause a person to pass out. Many do not seek medical help because of this.
In the United States, 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation-related TBIs occur each year, according to the CDC. A TBI kills brain cells and creates chemical changes in the brain.
Dr. Kory Gill, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and team physician for Texas A&M University Athletics, told Live Science that the most important thing people should know about concussions is that they are not like other sports injuries where it is okay to “play hurt” or “play through the pain.”
“Playing when you have not completely recovered from a concussion is dangerous and could be deadly,” said Gill. “Become familiar with the signs/symptoms of concussions and if you think you or a teammate has a concussion speak up. It’s actually a law (Zackery Lystedt Law) now that players, coaches, staff and parents be educated on concussions pre-participation.”
Zackery Lystedt was a 13-year-old football player in the Seattle, Washington, area who was permanently disabled after sustaining a concussion in 2006. He was prematurely returned to the game, according to the CDC. After the game, Lystedt collapsed on the field. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the left and right sides of his skull to relieve the pressure from his swelling brain. He experienced numerous strokes, seven days on a ventilator and three months in a coma.
After he awoke, Lystedt spent four weeks in a nursing home and two months in a children’s hospital for rehabilitation. It was nine months before he spoke his first word, 13 months before he moved a leg or an arm, and 20 months on a feeding tube, according to the CDC. It would be nearly three years before he would stand, with assistance, on his own two feet. The Washington legislature passed the Lystedt Law in 2009, and other states have passed similar laws to help protect young athletes.
Older athletes need protection too. A recent study found thatprofessional football players who have lost consciousness due to a concussion may have an increased risk of changes in the brain and decline in their memory later in life.
CT scans and blood tests can be used to diagnose concussions. Rest is usually the most common treatment for concussions. The brain shouldn’t be idle for too long, though. “While a short period of rest is important to allow the brain some time to heal, extended rest and sensory reduction (no TV or electronics) actually prolongs symptoms rather than helping,” said Dr. Kenneth Podell, a neuropsychologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. When in doubt, consult with a medical professional.
A single concussion usually recovers well and the person affected usually isn’t bothered with long-term problems. Rarely, if a second concussion occurs before the brain has healed from the first concussion, it can lead to rapid and severe brain swelling and even death. This condition is also called the second impact syndrome and occurs in people under the age of 21.
“It’s critical to protect children from head injuries because their brains are still developing and the tissue isn’t fully formed,” Dr. Joseph Rempson, co-director of the Center for Concussion Care and Physical Rehabilitation at Overlook Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute in Summit, New Jersey, told Live Science. “According to research, the brain continues to evolve until an individual is 20 to 25 years old. If a child injures his or her brain, they may not reach their full developmental potential from a memory or cognitive standpoint.”
Dr. Vani Rao, a neuropsychiatrist and co-author of “The Traumatized Brain: A Family Guide to Understanding Mood, Memory, and Behavior After Brain Injury” (Johns Hopkins Press, 2015), noted that the majority of people who sustain a single concussion recover without any long-lasting consequences. However, multiple concussions can increase risk for developing chronic neuropsychiatric problems such as depression, aggression and cognitive problems.
Source: Bradford, Alina. “Concussions: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 21 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 16, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Lawsuit, Player Safety, Soccer | Tags: lawsuit, player safety, Safety Tag, Youth Sports
By PETER TORNCELLO
Source: Torncello, Peter. “U.S. Soccer Federation Settles Youth Concussion Lawsuit.” The National Law Review. N.p., 16 Nov. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
Posted: November 15, 2015 Filed under: Concussions, Player Safety, Youth Sports
At last, sports-related concussions are getting the attention they deserve.
From new National Football League rules to nationwide laws for young athletes, more is being done to shield players from the too-often-hidden ravages of brain injury. But don’t let the new safeguards you see on Monday Night Football fool you: Athletes in the U.S. suffer up to 3.8 million head injuries each year.
And kids, teens and young adults with still-developing brains are among the most frequently and severely injured.
Here’s what you need to know to help keep them safe:
No. 1: Concussions are more common than you think, and not just in football.
In one year, 400,000 brain injuries happened to high school athletes, and in a recent survey, 20 percent of college athletes said they believed they’d had a concussion in the past year.
Girls aren’t exempt; they have 40 percent more concussions than boys in high school soccer and 240 percent more in basketball.
Concussions also are a risk in ice hockey, lacrosse, field hockey, water polo, synchronized swimming, cheerleading and gymnastics.
Often, they happen at practice.
University of Colorado researchers found that player contact caused 70 percent of boys head injuries and about 50 percent of girls, while heading the ball caused 17 percent and 30 percent respectively.
No. 2: Young brains are especially vulnerable.
Head injuries are dangerous at any age, but there’s extra risk for kids brains, which don’t fully mature until they’re in their 20s.
Areas of the brain that are the last to fully develop are located at the front and sides, the same places where head injuries so often happen. Those areas include regions of the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, involved in higher-level skills like problem-solving, making decisions and understanding other people.
And the young brain itself is more fragile; cells are growing quickly and new connections are forming.
In addition, a young player’s neck muscles aren’t fully developed and can’t absorb an impact as well as an adult’s.
No. 3: All concussions are serious, even if a player doesn’t totally black out.
Concussion is a traumatic brain injury that stretches, tears and damages brain cells and triggers chemical changes in the brain.
Most athletes recover, but the process may take several weeks and must be taken seriously.
A repeat concussion before full recovery boosts risk for brain swelling, permanent brain damage and even death.
Signs of a concussion include confusion, looking dazed, memory problems, slowed speech, clumsy movements, personality changes and, sometimes, loss of consciousness (even for a few seconds).
No. 4: All 50 states have Return to Play rules, but they’re far from perfect.
The best laws include education for coaches, concussion information for parents and young athletes, removal from the game for suspected head injuries and rules that require a doctor’s clearance to return.
But a recent Associated Press review found that many don’t spell out which ages or grades are covered, nor require that community leagues comply.
No. 5: Injured brains need attention even if players resist.
Educating athletes of all ages boosts their willingness to report symptoms, but parents and coaches need to watch carefully, too.
One recent study reported that half of high-school football players said it was OK to play with concussion symptoms.
Players who have had a blow to the head or head-jarring body contact should be removed from the game immediately and should receive medical evaluation before being allowed to play again.
No. 6: Rules to protect kids heads and helmets can help.
Limits on younger athletes that rule out brain-jarring activities like heading the ball in soccer and full-contact football practices reduce concussion risk.
Properly fitting helmets also can help. You’ll find football and ice hockey helmet ratings from Virginia Tech researchers at www.Beam.vt.edu.;type helmets in the search field.
But good headgear isn’t 100 percent concussion-proof. It s also important for kids, teens and young-adult athletes to follow rules for safe play.
Every good coach will teach that.
Source: “Concussions In Youth Sports: What You Should Know – Athletic Business.” Athletic Business. N.p., Nov. 2015. Web. Nov. 2015.