Category Archives: College

Knight Commission Addresses Concussion Issue at College Sports Summit

The Knight Commission, a group devoted to the reform of collegiate athletics, reacted “to a presentation from NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline” at a meeting earlier this month by “reasserting its long-held principle that the health and safety of college athletes must be primary concerns of universities.”

Further, The Commission called on Division I leaders “to ensure adequate resources are devoted to this area and for universities to fully participate in the NCAA’s medical data collection for athletes.”

Hainline, who was the featured speaker, updated members on the recently announced agreement between the NCAA and the U.S. Department of Defense to launch a $30 million initiative designed to provide the most comprehensive national data on the effects of concussion. Hainline also outlined new health and safety guidelines and future initiatives “to address cardiac and mental health, athlete drug and alcohol use, and the detrimental health impacts of early specialization in a particular sport.”

“Dr. Hainline’s presentation was eye-opening,” said Commission Co-Chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, “particularly given the breadth of health and safety concerns beyond just concussion.”

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Onyshko v. National Collegiate Athletic Association: A Re-examination of the ‘Inherent Risk’ of Playing Football

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from a summary written by Saleel V. Sabnis of Goldberg Segalla. To see the full summary, please visit Concussion Litigation Reporter)

Reports of sports related concussions and their long term effects on the brain have gained considerable traction in recent years.  The injured plaintiffs in these suits, who in many cases reemerge years after their playing days are over appearing as shells of themselves compared to their youth, have helped galvanize the public response over curtailing the dangers of seemingly “high-risk” sports. Lawsuits in both professional and college sports generally allege some form of institutional negligence (or cover-up) where former athletes allege they were never told of the inherent risks of playing their respective sports.

In these type of lawsuits, the NCAA has generally raised its “rough sport” shield i.e. football is an exercise in getting hit and players know that. In late May, a federal court magistrate judge in Pennsylvania denied this argument and the NCAA’s conjoined contention that it did not owe a duty of care to its collegiate football players to prevent risks inherent in football.  The NCAA had moved to dismiss a lawsuit by lead plaintiff Matthew Onyshko, a former linebacker at the California University of Pennsylvania who played from 1999-2013, by asserting it owed no duty of care to players who claimed that they suffer from progressive brain injuries due to playing college football.

But in a report and recommendation opinion issued on May 28, Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy denied the NCAA’s motion to dismiss Onyshkos’ suit, finding that he had sufficiently pled that the NCAA had more knowledge than players did about the long-term health consequences of traumatic blows to the head and that Plaintiffs, if the assertions were assumed to be true, had pled a proper cause of action by claiming the NCAA increased the risk of injury by failing to disclose crucial information about the severity of head injuries.

This was not a decision on the merits of the case.  No jury convened to make these conclusions; rather, this was the Magistrate’s analysis …

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Study: Understanding the Brain’s Pulse Shows Promise for Managing Concussion

An article published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine— “Detection of Concussion Using Cranial Accelerometry” by Paul S. Auerbach, MD, MS; Jennifer G. Baine, MD; Megan L. Schott, MD; Amy Greenhaw, MA, ATC; Monika G. Acharya; and Wade S. Smith, MD, PhD—has shown that the Jan Medical Nautilus BrainPulse technology has detected a consistent pattern correlated with concussion. This paper provides the first indication that the measurement of brain motion due to pulsatile blood flow can detect physiological changes in the brain correlated with concussion. Out of 84 players enrolled in the Stanford University Medical School Institutional Review Board-approved protocol, BrainPulse detected 10 out of 13 confirmed concussions for a 77% sensitivity; and 79 out of 91 recordings were confirmed to not have a concussion for an 87% specificity.

Paul Lovoi, PhD, founder and CEO of Jan Medical, stated, “While these findings are very encouraging, additional trials will be necessary to establish this technology as an objective measure of concussion, studies that we are currently undertaking.”

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), over 1.7 million children and adults annually suffer a concussion in the U.S., and 20% are sports-related. No physiological measure is available to detect concussion or to monitor concussed subjects to determine recovery status. Evidence suggests that a second concussive event for someone recovering from an initial concussion can lead to permanent brain damage and, in severe cases, death.

The study was conducted at a Northern California high school over the course of one football season involving the majority of both the varsity and junior varsity players. All the players were recorded with the BrainPulse at the beginning of the season prior to any potentially concussive contact. Over the course of the season, SCAT2 (Sports Concussion Assessment Tool) was used to assist in the clinical determination of concussion. “This new discovery holds promise to provide a more objective measure of concussion so as to allow a safer return to play and the protection of our youth in contact sports,” said Wade Smith, MD, PhD, Vice Chair of Neurology at UCSF.

The brain has a normal pulse driven by the cardiac cycle. The impact of this pulse on the skull can in turn be detected and measured. The Nautilus BrainPulse from Jan Medical is designed to measure the normal brain pulse as well as disruptions of the brain pulse. By digitizing the signal patterns from headset-mounted sensors measuring the skull’s motion, and extracting features from them, algorithms can be developed to identify normal and a variety of abnormal brain pulse patterns. The BrainPulse sensors passively measure the skull in recording sessions that take approximately 3 minutes to conduct. The entire device itself is portable and provides analysis immediately once the recording session is complete. Dr. Lovoi added, “We see evidence that our technology can contribute to a wide range neurological deficits.”

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