Category Archives: Football

UW Medicine to Open First-Of-Its-Kind Sports Health and Safety Institute with Major Foundational Gift from National Football League

University of Washiongton (UW) Medicine announced yesterday the launch of the Sports Health and Safety Institute to advance research, education and advocacy for the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions.  In addition, this Institute will focus on studying the overwhelming health benefits of sports and how to best make these activities safer and thus healthier.  The establishment of the first-of-its-kind institute is made possible by a foundational donation of $2.5 million by the National Football League (NFL).

The conceptualization for the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute is largely inspired by the personal story of Zackery Lystedt. In 2006, Lystedt, then 13, was returned to play after suffering a head injury in a football game. He was later taken off the field with major head trauma and treated at UW Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center. Advocacy led to the creation of the Zackery Lystedt Law, first passed in Washington and subsequently adopted by all 50 states, which regulates athletes’ return to play after a suspected concussion.

The Institute will be led by Richard G. Ellenbogen, MD, chair of UW Medicine’s Department of Neurological Surgery, and Stanley A. Herring, MD, medical director of Spine, Sports and Orthopedic Health. It will focus first on the issue of concussion by:

  • Advocating for sound policies that advance sports safety;
  • Educating physicians, educators, coaches, parents, athletes and patients about concussion and about the benefits of active youth and how to make sports safer;
  • Researching methods to promote behavioral and cultural change, to assess public health education, and to study the efficacy of sports concussion policies and laws; and
  • Developing strategies to inform and engage the public and the media regarding sports- and recreation-related injuries.

“Though research is underway on the topic across the country, there are many questions that remain unanswered regarding concussions and traumatic brain injury,” Herring said. “The Institute will help tremendously in forging the path and uncovering ways to better engage and educate all interested parties about concussions and discover the best methods to effectively translate learning into behavior change. The NFL’s donation will help make this possible.”

“Our hope is that the research and findings uncovered by the Institute will be used to help shape the rules, regulations and best practices as it relates to safety across all sports,” Ellenbogen said. “It is far too often that athletes have a ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality, so it is our responsibility to ensure the medical staff on the sidelines have the knowledge and resources in place to ensure that no potentially injured athlete returns to the field prematurely.”

Ellenbogen and Herring co-direct the UW Medicine Sports Concussion Program at Harborview Medical Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital, dedicated to the safety of youth athletes. In addition, Ellenbogen co-chairs the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee. Herring, a team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Mariners, also is on the committee.

Keeping athletes, especially young ones, healthy and safe is a high priority at UW Medicine — and it is a challenge. Every year, 35 million children in the United States participate in recreational sports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur every year in the United States, with 173,000 children seen in emergency departments annually for this potentially serious injury.

“Concussion and TBI are complex issues we are deeply concerned about and committed to preventing,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Providing the foundational donation for the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute is one step of many that the NFL is taking to address this important topic and is an extension of our work to improve safety for athletes across all age groups. We are confident that UW Medicine will help to make this progress possible.”

Although the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute will first address concussion, it may come to address other subjects crucial to athletes’ health, such as sudden cardiac arrest. The Institute’s path will depend, in part, on reaching an ambitious $10.5 million fundraising goal.

The Institute will be part of UW Medicine’s pioneering research and patient care. “UW Medicine has already made strides regarding the pathology of concussion and has exceptional strengths in trauma care, orthopedics and rehabilitation — three areas crucial to keeping athletes safe and well,” said Paul G. Ramsey, MD, CEO of UW Medicine. “We’re very pleased to partner with the NFL to make sure we get to the next level in terms of education and advocacy.”

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Court Rules that Youth Football League’s Claim Against Helmet Manufacturer Can Continue

(Editor’s Note: What follows is a brief excerpt and a modification of a full case summary that appeared in the August 2015 Concussion Litigation Alert. For the rest of the article and numerous others, please subscribe at

A federal judge has extended the life of a claim brought by a youth football league, which alleged that a helmet manufacturer violated when it allegedly made knowingly false claims about the ability of its helmets to lessen the risk of concussion.

Specifically, the district judge denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss, finding among other things that the plaintiff’s allegations cross the plausibility threshold for causation, reliance, and cognizable injury.

The defendant sells its helmets at a market price reflective of its claim that they reduce the incidence of concussion in comparison with its own, earlier helmet designs and competitor helmets.

Approximately 150 youth participate in the youth football league every year. It supplies the helmets for these participants.

As mentioned above, the league alleged that the defendant’s marketing claims were knowingly false.

(For the rest of the summary with more details about the parties and claims, please subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter.)

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NFL Partners with CFL on Concussion Testing

The Canadian Football League (CFL) and National Football League (NFL) announced last week they are partnering on implementing additional concussion tests during CFL games and practices this season.

In addition to ongoing education, research and medical response protocols already in place in the CFL, medical staff of various CFL teams started using the King-Devick Test (K-D Test) in training camps this summer and will continue throughout the 2015 season. The K-D Test is an objective remove-from-play sideline concussion screening test, based on eye-movement, that is being utilized in addition to the CFL’s established sideline concussion examination.  The NFL will contribute funding to help determine whether the K-D Test improves the ability to diagnose concussions.

“Collaborations like this one with the NFL are going to provide some useful data to help assess the ongoing advancement of technology and research in support of player safety,” said CFL Vice President of Football Operations Kevin McDonald. “Working together on initiatives such as this ultimately serves a primary objective which is the health and safety of our players.”

“Advancing the science around concussion diagnosis, prognosis and treatment to improve player health and safety is our priority,” says Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, co-chair of the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee. “We engage with the leading international experts and sports leagues to pursue that goal.  We are grateful to the CFL, their teams and players for implementing the King-Devick Test this season to determine whether this protocol improves diagnosis and can make football, and all sports, safer.”

The leagues noted in a press release that Concussions are a complex type of brain injury that is not visible on routine scans of the brain, yet are detectable when important aspects of brain function are measured. The K-D Test is a two-minute test that requires an athlete to read single-digit numbers displayed on cards or on a tablet to test eye movement. After suspected head trauma, the athlete is given the test and that time is compared to his preseason baseline time.  This information as well as a full medical evaluation will help diagnose a concussion and subsequently remove a player from play.

Presently on NFL sidelines, there are approximately 27 medical staff at a stadium on game day, including an unaffiliated neurological consultant (UNC), who collaborates with team physicians to make in-game neurological assessments and who must independently approve a player returning to play following a suspected head injury.  Since 2013, the NFL has required clubs to use electronic tablets with specially designed applications for the diagnosis of concussions. The X2 app, which includes a step-by-step checklist of protocols for assessing players suspected of head injury, as well as all players’ concussion baseline tests, is now an established component of the in-game concussion diagnosis and care. This record travels with a player wherever he goes in the league, so that his medical history is close at hand from game-to-game and team-by-team. eyes

The medical staff at NFL games also includes an expert “eye in the sky”—a certified athletic trainer positioned in a stadium box who scans the field and television replays to help identify players with a potential injury who may require attention. Starting this season, the eye in the sky will be authorized to stop the game and call a medical timeout—which will not count against either team’s limit—if needed to provide a player with immediate attention.

This research collaboration is the latest in a number of research projects underway in Canadian football – both at the professional and collegiate levels.  It is the latest step the NFL has taken “to help scientists and doctors find breakthroughs that will benefit all athletees.”

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