Football not the only sport with high risk of concussions


SMYRNA, Tenn. (WKRN) – During football season, we hear about concussions all the time. At the high school level, all the way up to the NFL, players are being hit with the invisible injury.

Other youth sports are high risk, too, such as cheerleading.

Spirits were high at last year’s UCA National Cheerleading Championships in Orlando. The Stewarts Creek High School JV team won state last year, but one cheerleader was on the sideline.

She couldn’t cheer because of a serious injury she suffered during practice.“I was out for three months from cheer. I couldn’t do any physical activity,” Anna Smith told News 2.

“We had to do a front flip off the stunt and I ended up landing on my head,” Smith said. “I got a concussion and three compression fractures in my vertebrae.”

To many, that sounds like more like a football injury, but not to concussion experts.

Dr. Colleen Vanderkolk, a neurologist at Saint Thomas West, emphasizes in headaches and epilepsy.

“And the highest ones that we see, of course football is No. one, but then you also have hockey, we have cheerleading, soccer is actually very high in concussion, and gymnastics,” Vanderkolk said.She said sports other than football are also high risk for concussion.

Doctors say when it comes to concussions, early identification is key.

“The symptoms that you look out for is any headache, nausea, feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness, just feeling off. Those types of symptoms you have to look out for,” Dr. Vanderkolk told News 2.

Mot concussion patients recover in about 3 or 4 weeks.

Smith has since recovered from her injuries and is back to doing what she loves. Now she knows the risk better than anyone.

The Stewarts Creek JV co-ed team is competing for state again this weekend at the state championships in Murfreesboro.

Source:Caloway, Nick. “Football Not the Only Sport with High Risk of Concussions.” WKRNcom. N.p., 13 Nov. 2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Working Together to Prevent Injuries in Youth Sports

victoria2We’ve all been there: getting hit or knocked down during a game and saying “I’m fine!” instead of taking a seat on the bench and determining whether or not we are really injured. No player wants to let the team down or feel weak for admitting that he or she is hurt and in need of a break, but this mentality can actually hurt a player even more down the line. According to, a youth sports injury that results in a visit to the emergency room occurs once every 25 seconds. This adds up to about 3,397 children in the hospital every single day. Safe to say, youth sports injuries are not uncommon and need to be taken seriously. That number would be even higher if more players were willing to admit their pain and take the necessary steps to find out how to heal it, but this would at least prevent further damage or repeated injuries of the same kind from happening. 54 percent of athletes said they have played injured, and 42 percent of athletes have admitted to “hiding or down-playing an injury during a game so they could keep playing”, according to This practice of hiding injuries needs to be curbed so that children stop repeatedly playing on an injury, and putting themselves in even more danger.

At the beginning of the season, players need to be told by the coach to come forward and be honest if they are feeling less than okay and ground rules should be set to agree on how the team will approach injuries. It also becomes the parents’ responsibility to report to the coaches in the event that their child has admitted to feeling pain, or has been diagnosed by a doctor and given specific instructions about how to treat an injury. Similarly, the coach needs to be open with the parent and inform them that their child has been injured during a practice or a game so that the parent can take the necessary steps to keep their child healthy and safe. Considering that 62 percent of organized sports-related injuries occur during practices, according to, it is clear that many injuries occur when the parent is not around to witness them, making communication necessary.

bundleWhile the responsibility does lie on the player, we cannot always trust that children will take an injury as seriously as they should or that they will be open with both their coach and parent and admit to one. According to, less than half of coaches are certified and know how to prevent and recognize sports injuries, while 53 percent have said they’ve felt “pressure from a parent or player to put an athlete back in the game” after an injury. To make the playing field a safer place, coaches need to be certified or, at the very least, aware of the health issues of their players, just as parents need to focus on their children’s health rather than their goal count.

What all of this comes down to is communication. The gaps between players and parents, players and coaches, and parents and coaches leave room for more harm. A player who tells his parents that his ankle hurt during the last practice and gets a note from the doctor that he should skip gym class should not be playing in their soccer game the next day. The player might not want to tell their coach about this for fear of being benched, but the parent should recognize the importance of resting for their child’s safety and keep the coach informed. Similarly, if a player was complaining of dizziness during practice and had to sit out, the coach should report this to the parent so that they can go to a doctor or keep an eye out for their child. If a coach or a parent doesn’t know there is something wrong with the child, then they have no way of fixing the problem. Where communication stops is where injuries can go from bad to worse. The more aware that parents and coaches are about a player’s injuries, the more help and support they can give. When players, parents, and coaches work together, athletes are kept safer and the team becomes stronger as a whole.


Letter of the Week: Protect kids from heat stroke this summer


With summer upon us, I remind everyone that children should never be left alone in a car — not even for a minute.

When the temperature exceeds 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a car can be 130. This can lead to health consequences within minutes.

According to Safe Kids Worldwide, heat stroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children. Some tips that may aid in heat-stroke prevention:

▪ Establish a routine check of your back seat every time you leave the car to make sure no one is left behind.

▪ Place personal belongings in the back seat for an additional reason to check the back seat.

▪ Because some parents go straight to work and might inadvertently leave a child in the car, set a cellphone alarm to the same time each day to remind yourself to drop off your child at day care or school.

Most important, call 911 if you see children unattended in a car. One call could save a life.

Source: Nguyen, Loan. “Letter of the Week: Protect Kids from Heat Stroke This Summer.” Kansascity. N.p., 14 June 2015. Web. 14 June 2015.


Poor sportsmanship making a play in youth athletics


Tonight, ABC 33/40 is showing you video of the fight between Jemison and Helena high schools.

Dr. Dan Bowman is a sports psychologist. Bowman says he’s not surprised by what he saw in this video of a bench clearing brawl.
He believes trash talking in youth sports has gotten worse and it starts online.

“There’s a lot of trash talking that goes on around this area, particularly in baseball. They’ll get on each other’s Twitter accounts, look up each other’s girlfriends. They’re trying to provoke each other. This one clearly got out of control,” said Bowman.

Bowman is seeing a new psychology in today’s youth sports. In many cases, sportsmanship has fallen by the wayside. “It’s kind of win at all costs. ‘It’s just a sport’ and ‘be a gentleman’ and those things are not being stressed. Character are being emphasized less than winning and win at whatever we can even if it’s just getting in the other player’s head. I think kids are increasingly shooting below the belt verbally and messing with each other.”

As a result of this brawl, Helena High School’s baseball program was place on probation and given a $1,000 fine by the Alabama High School Athletic Association. Several players were suspended and the school received a fine for a player who was ejected. Chilton County Schools superintendent Tommy Glasscock said Jemison High School’s program will also receive fines. 

“We have to get the message out not only to our players but to the parents. We have to let them know that this is not going to be tolerated on the field,” said Glasscock.

Glasscock says Jemison and Chilton County schools will be participating in a professional development plan with the Alabama State High School Athletics Association.

Ultimately, Dr. Bowman says there are stakeholders who need to show young players what it means to be a good sport.

Source: Burch, Edward. “Poor Sportsmanship Making a Play in Youth Athletics.” – ABC 33/40. N.p., 04 May 2015. Web. 04 May 2015.

Keeping track of your asthma


Last week’s high pollution levels received widespread media coverage because of the health risks posed to many vulnerable people across the UK, including those with respiratory conditions such as asthma.

Though pollution levels have since decreased, I wanted to alert those of your readers with asthma made worse by pollution that it can take as long as two weeks for airways to return to normal after being exposed to an asthma trigger.

Therefore they should remain vigilant with their asthma by continuing to take their medicines as prescribed and keeping track of their symptoms. The best way to do this is by using a written asthma action plan – a step by step guide they can fill in with their GP or asthma nurse to help them stay on top of their condition.

Despite the fact that people are four times less likely to need hospital treatment for their asthma when they have a written asthma action plan, only 30% of people with asthma do and this needs to change. Your readers can download one from where they can also take the Asthma UK Risk Test.

Source: Boycott, Kay. “Keeping Track of Your Asthma.” Lancashire Telegraph. N.p., 25 Mar. 2015. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.



High-school football players and their parents know that adolescent athletes who sustain a concussion need professional attention and time to recover before returning to the field. Now, a new bill being considered by the Assembly would require any student who suffers a concussion to be evaluated by a doctor or other healthcare provider and get written clearance before they can go back to school.

In addition, A-4207 would make the team in each district that deals with students with disabilities responsible for enforcing any limits on a student’s activities that were determined by the healthcare provider.

Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt (D-Burlington and Camden) said she introduced the measure after a student’s parents brought to her attention that some districts didn’t have a plan to help children with concussions return to the classroom.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter sort of approach,” she said. “So we need individuals within the school system to be working with the parents and the physicians to set the right type of process and timeframe for our young people to go back into the classroom.”

To understand why such a careful approach to recovery is necessary, it helps to understand concussions and adolescent brain development.

Traumatic injuries to the brain upset normal brain activities, and it can take days or weeks for the brain to stabilize, according to Dr. Stephen G. Rice, a sports medicine doctor. Only 10 percent of those with concussions lose consciousness, but they experience a wide range of other symptoms, from confusion to difficulty concentrating and remembering to anxiety and depression.

All of these effects can be more difficult for children and in particular adolescents, according to Dr. Denise K. Aloisio, a pediatrician with Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

“It’s a time of tremendous brain reorganization,” she said. “For all of you who have teenagers and have yelled at them at some point or another: ‘Have you lost your mind?’ … They really have, about half of it,” Aloisio said.

Aloisio is referring to the fact that during adolescence about half of the brain’s synapses are “pruned.”

At the same time, the part of the brain that controls emotional response grows more quickly than the part that handles planning.

“We talk about making bad decisions. I doubt they’re even making the decision — they just do,” she said.

The combination of a concussion and the unsettled state of development of teenagers’ brains means these injuries can disrupt development.

“If you don’t have the appropriate time to rest and don’t have the appropriate accommodations, it really can interfere with” optimizing and strengthening the connections in the brain, Aloisio said.

Rice noted that the daily tasks of attending school can “take energy that the brain needs to save, to repair itself,” said Rice, who directs the concussion center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, where he also trains doctors to become sports-medicine specialists.

He noted that the understanding of this medical science has advanced rapidly in recent years, which is reflected in rapidly changing views on recovery from concussions in sports and, now, in the classroom.

Rice, whose been practicing sports medicine for 40 years, recalled a time in football when after “the first concussion, you’re out a week, the second concussion you’re out two weeks.”

Today, medicine is taking an individualized, carefully planned “return to play” guidelines for athletes. This approach led to the adoption of legislation in every state for student-athletes. The same process is currently playing out nationally for “return to learn” guidelines.

Rice said the law would lead to different members of a medical team, which may include psychologists and physical therapists, working in conjunction with a school team that includes principals, teachers, and guidance counselors.

Joanna Boyd of the Brain Injury Alliance New Jersey said the concussion bill is a significant step for the state in assisting young people in their recovery from concussions.

Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex) said she would like to see pediatricians spreading more information about concussions to all parents, since many children may experience concussions without their parents’ knowledge. Rice responded that headlines about the National Football League have started to raise awareness of the issue — as has the early retirement of San Francisco 49er Chris Borland.

“It’s definitely affecting how everyone is approaching injury and life,” Rice said.

Assemblywoman Elizabeth Maher Muoio (D-Hunterdon and Mercer) added that she had first-hand experience with a well-prepared district, after her 13-year-old son sustained a concussion. The school carefully monitored his progress before allowing him to engage in physical activities at school. “I’m 100 percent in favor of this bill,” she said.

The Assembly Women and Children Committee advanced the bill in a unanimous, bipartisan vote yesterday. The committee also voted for a bill that would extend the state mandate for children up to age 16 to wear helmets while bicycling, roller skating and skateboarding to cover 17-year-olds.

The mandate was extended to ice-skating, which raised concerns from Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-Monmouth). She is wary of any additional burdens for ice rinks, which already are expensive to operate. She also said she isn’t aware that there’s an existing problem with ice-skating concussions, but would research the issue further.

Rutgers University team physician Dr. Robert Monaco also expressed concern about adding helmets to figure skating, which would significantly alter the sport.

On the helmet bill, Rice added that there’s no evidence that helmets prevent concussions, although they are effective in preventing skull fractures.

Casagrande took the opportunity during the committee hearing on the concussion bill to ask Rice whether it was appropriate for young people to play football.

He said that preadolescents taught the proper techniques don’t face as much risk because they don’t have the weight or speed to generate dangerous force. But it’s a separate question for teenagers and adults.

“I think the whole sport of football is under an enormous challenge,” Rice said.

“So many of the professional athletes realize 30 years down the road that they just don’t have the brain they once had,” Rice said. “We don’t know the answer for football and I think parents are voting with their own intelligence whether it’s appropriate for their child or not.”

Source: Kitchenman, Andrew. “Healthcare.” Concussion Bill Would Keep Kids Out of Class Until They Get Doctor’s Permission. N.p., 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.

Practice The Golden Rule In Youth Sports


Chances are you and your kids have witnessed good sportsmanship: football players meeting at mid-field to shake hands, soccer players trading jerseys after the game, or hockey players lining up for post-game high fives.

And when we think of “sportsmanship”, we oftentimes think of these moments and the idea that we should respect our opponents, whether we win or lose.  And it’s often the life lesson we hope our kids gain from playing youth sports.

But how do you teach your kids to respect opponents?   One of the best ways might be the idea of “The Golden Rule”: treat others the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is easy to remember but may be a bit harder to teach and follow.  Try these helpful tips to start the conversation with your kids about The Golden Rule and respecting their opponents.

Develop a Top 10 List

Sit down with your youth athlete and create a Top 10 List of characteristics that are part of The Golden Rule in youth sports.  Words could include things like “play by the rules”, “be kind/nice”, etc.  Then make a poster and hang it on the fridge at home or post it up in the locker room or gym at school.  The poster serves as an important reminder to practice these efforts every day.

Reward Desired Behavior

Kids respond positively to praise – and then continuously seek more of that praise.  Your athletes are more likely to repeat behaviors that respect opponents when they are recognized and rewarded for those behaviors.  Helmet stickers, a Golden T-Shirt Award (given weekly), or a Gold Cap Award are just a few of the ways that you can ‘call out’ players who demonstrate respect for an opponent during a game.  Also, don’t forget to use the words and principles of good sportsmanship when you praise kids for their behavior. For example:

“You showed a lot of kindness toward the player on the other team when he fell and hurt himself.  That was very thoughtful of you.”

Positive Teachable Moments

It happens.  Your child refuses to shake an opponent’s hand after a loss.  Or she commits a dirty foul.  Your goal is not to shame or lecture, but to really help your youth athlete learn and grow.   Help guide them through the incident so that they can begin to use their own judgment skills to see the error of their ways.  Start by asking why they behaved the way they did and acknowledge their feelings (“it does stink to lose!”). Then, talk about how their actions made their opponent feel and recognize when they understand this (“I’m glad you understand how they might feel.”).

Also, plan a “do-over” when possible, giving your athlete the opportunity to apologize and practice what they learned.  Don’t forget to give praise when their do-over is done, highlighting that they practiced good sportsmanship.

Demonstrate Sportsmanship

We can’t ask our kids to practice The Golden Rule if they don’t see us doing it in the stands or when we’re at home talking about the game.  As a fan, show the same respect for opponents that you hope to see from your children:  shake the hands of the parents of the opposing team after the game; congratulate players and parents alike with a “good game”; show empathy and compassion for opponents; and praise players and coaches playing by the rules, especially when the rules are not in their favor (“That was really a classy move when Number 10 raised his hand to admit he had tipped the ball out.”)

Teaching good sportsmanship starts with helping youth athletes understand why and how to respect their opponents.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is for kids to see the importance of The Golden Rule in sports, and how those lessons can translate into life outside the game.

The Liberty Mutual Insurance Play Positive™ program, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, promotes good sportsmanship in youth sports so that our kids can have the fun and positive experience they deserve.  We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support doing the right thing on and off the field.

Source: “Practice The Golden Rule In Youth Sports.” USA Hockey National. N.p., 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.

New products, technology aimed at concussion prevention


When Marques Ogden transitioned from the playing field to the sidelines, he was able to take his NFL knowledge and use it in his everyday life.

Drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars out of Howard University in 2003, the offensive lineman spent four years across four NFL teams and retired in 2007. But as Ogden moved into coaching, he didn’t leave the game and the game didn’t leave him.

“I’ve had multiple head injuries,” said Ogden, “Most of the stuff happened when I didn’t have anything on my head – no helmet. Just OTAs, one-on-one pass rush, things of that nature.

“I actually have some things that I’m going through now where I have memory loss, short term,” he added. “But as I get older, I sometimes see it becoming worse.”

So when Mike Juels, founder of GameBreaker Helmets, contacted Ogden about an opportunity with the company, Ogden took a look at the product and jumped on board as Vice President of Operations for the Eastern Seaboard.

The GameBreaker Helmet is a shoft-shell helmet made out of EV rubber foam and is used in non-contact sports where incidental or accidental contact from athletes could occur – flag football, volleyball, soccer, women’s lacrosse and others.

“I want this product to help people not have the same problems I’ve had my whole life,” Ogden said.

The helmets are widely used in Texas and California, which according to Ogden is much thanks to Snoop Dogg, or Snoop Lion now.

“Snoop Dogg was actually in L.A. and his sons have a flag football team,” Ogden recalled the story his boss had told him. “So he contacted my boss and said ‘hey I want to get some helmets for my sons flag football team but on top of that I want to buy some helmets for inner city kids in L.A. that can’t afford it.’ Once everybody started seeing those kids wearing the helmets, at that point it became swag.”

The helmets have been used for multiple sports including field hockey, water polo and MMA here in the Triangle.

“I got the helmet because the Wake County policy,” said Zachary Jobes, an 8th grader at Lufkin Middle School. “I’m sure everyone doesn’t want to get hurt; I want to be safe. Football’s my passion and I want to be a starter when I get into high school and I’d like to be their star player. I’d like to play all season long.”

The North Carolina High School Association abides by the Gfeller-Waller Concussion Awareness Act which was drafted and implemented to protect the safety of student-athletes across the state. It was signed into law on June 16, 2011 by then-Governor Beverly Perdue.

According to the NCHSAA website, the major areas of focus in the law include education, emergency action and a post-concussion protocol implementation which dictates a player’s clearance to return to play or practice following concussion.

“I’ve seen players in the NFL, you don’t expect it, but it happens when they get injured,” said Jobes.

Jobes wears the soft-shell helmet during football practice when he doesn’t have a regular helmet on and other football players in the area have started to do the same.

Ogden, a Washington D.C. native who now resides in the Triangle and is an offensive and defensive analyst at Campbell University, uses them with his athletes in private workouts and during camps.

“It’s light, yet protective; it’s ventilating, yet offers great support,” Ogden said.


Despite high school policies and newer products, such as GameBreaker Helmets, there is still a lot of room for improvement in concussion prevention and detection.

With the help of the National Football League, who launched a campaign to pass laws protecting kids who get concussions while playing sports, every state has had a law implemented within the last five years to handle youth concussions.

And while the initial law is a step in the right direction, the strength of those laws in some states could increase.

A recent study done by the Associated Press showed that of the 51 youth concussion laws, only 34 say that before a student-athlete returns to action that athlete must have written clearance from a licensed doctor – and only 30 require a form to be signed by both the athlete and the parent or guardian.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with numerous other biotech companies, has dedicated themselves to concussion research in order to better detect, prevent and treat concussions.

In 2013 the UNC football team was one of a handful of college teams using the “HIT System,” a program developed by UNC researchers that uses a series of helmet sensors to communicate with a computer on the sideline.

Jesse Harper, CEO of i1 Biometrics, a Kirkland, Wash.-based sports technology company working with teams at the NCAA and High School level to detect and report dangerous head impacts on the field of play said their company’s technology allows players, coaches and trainers to measure the linear and rotational accelerations from head impacts – accurately and in real time.

“The real danger currently is what players, coaches and trainers don’t know,” said Harper. “Until now, we’ve been relying heavily on video replay to detect when a concussion happens, and that isn’t an accurate system because of a variety of reasons.”

According to David Snyder, Chief Science Officer for i1 Biometrics, concussions occur in sporting activities when the head is subjected to sudden high magnitude acceleration due to an impact. Such impacts may occur as a result of accidental or intentional collisions between athletes, or between an athlete and an inanimate object, e.g., a ball, goal post, fence, or the ground. This acceleration takes two important forms: linear and rotational.

“Most sporting impacts include components of both linear and rotational acceleration, which makes the situation more complicated,” said Harper. “Measurement systems incorporated into helmets have proven less accurate at measuring the acceleration of the head itself as compared to helmet -¬- connected measurement systems, such as mouth guards. In fact, recent tests show that helmets may be at least 25 percent less accurate in the measurement of sudden high impact acceleration due to an impact.”

i1 Biometrics is currently using a product they developed called the Vector MouthGuard at the NCAA and high school levels that not only protects a player’s teeth but uses microscopic electronics to detect impacts to the athlete’s skull. Members of the University of Kansas football team will wear the mouth guard in practices and games in 2015, as the latest major NCAA football program to adopt the technology.

The mouth guard is attached to the upper jaw and wirelessly relays information from the mouthpiece to a computer program that can run on a tablet or smartphone.

The device measures skull movement and the acceleration and deceleration of the brain during impact and sends alerts each time the player is hit, the force in which he or she was hit and the location of the injury.

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding this issue,” Harper said. “However, we’re working with teams and student-athletes at the high school level to implement this technology, which can also help with teachable moments to help with proper technique.”

As those questions are answered, products like GameBreaker Helmets and the Vector will continue to surface all with the goal of protecting and preventing as early as the youth level.

Source: Summers, Erin. “New Products, Technology Aimed at Concussion Prevention ::” N.p., 03 Feb. 2015. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.