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The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) made concussions a primary focus at the 4th annual Youth Sports Safety Summit in Washington, DC earlier this week
NATA, which organized the event, worked with other entities to prepare the first-ever “National Action Plan for Sports Safety,” which touches on four major areas—Cardiac Events, Neurologic Injuries, Environmental/Exertional Conditions, and Dietary/Substance-Induced Conditions.
NATA President Jim Thornton, MA, ATC, CES, suggested that events in the aforementioned areas “can be largely prevented, managed and treated if the right protocols are in place, and properly trained medical personnel including athletic trainers are available to provide immediate care. Only 42 percent of U.S. secondary schools have access to athletic trainers.”
The recommendations pertaining to each of those areas can be viewed here:
The emphasis on concussions was evident on the roster of speakers. Among those in the field were: Charles Gfeller, Esq. who addressed risk management for schools and recommended sports safety protocols; Kevin Guskiewicz, PhD, ATC, of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who addressed the changing culture of play; and Chris Nowinski, Sports Legacy Institute, who talked about his experience with and perspective on concussions.
NATA has been active in other ways on the concussion front as well. In December, the association and the NATA Research & Education Foundation announced their participation and partial funding of the Consensus Study of Sports-related Concussions in Youth, which is being conducted by the Institute of Medicine.
The 15-member IOM Committee on Sports-Related Concussion in Youth was recently formed to study concussions in youth, from elementary school through young adulthood, including military personnel and their dependents. The final statement is expected to be issued in December 2013.
“There has been continued public awareness, media attention and medical research dedicated to head-related injuries and the acute and chronic effects from concussion,” says NATA Foundation President Mark Hoffman, PhD, ATC. “NATA and the NATA Foundation are honored to be a part of this esteemed team of experts through our $50,000 sponsorship and our submission of names of secondary school colleagues and researchers who will serve as resources to the working group.” The NATA Foundation is the only non-governmental sponsor of the consensus study.
Tracey Covassin, PhD, ATC, associate professor at Michigan State University and a leading concussion researcher, will serve on the committee and as the voice of the athletic training profession.
The committee will review current literature on concussions, their causes and the relationship of hits to the head during sport, effectiveness of protective devices and equipment, screening and diagnosis, prevention, management and treatment. Specific topics of interest include:
- The short and longer-term effects of single and repetitive concussive and non-concussive head impacts on the brain.
- Risk factors for sports concussion, post-concussive syndrome and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
- The spectrum of cognitive, affective and behavioral changes that can occur as a result of head injuries.
- Physical and biological triggers and threshold for injury.
- Hospital and non-hospital diagnostic tools.
- Biomechanics of head injury and the effects of selected helmet designs.
- The work of public health agencies, professional sports associations and state legislatures to promote awareness of the risks and consequences of concussive injury, return to play decisions and the increased use of neurological tests for diagnostic purposes.
Dates and agendas for future open sessions of the committee will be posted online at http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Children/YouthSportsConcussions.aspx. Visitors to the site are encouraged to click the “Sign Up Now” button on the right hand side of the page to join the project list serv.
Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association (NCPA), an advocacy group comprised of more than 17,000 current and former college athletes, said last week that NCAA football has “chosen to focus on a playoff payday,” instead of “players’ brains.”
Huma said that “the NCAA and conference commissioners are doing nothing to reduce the risk of serious brain trauma that these and other football players face each time they suit up. There are ways to minimize health risks associated with concussions.”
The NCPA Players Council, a steering committee comprised of current and former FBS football players, developed the Concussion Awareness and Reduction Emergency (CARE) Plan to reduce the risk of brain trauma, and provide much needed research and support for former college athletes participating in contact sports.
“Our plan can help protect players’ long-term health,” said Rashard Hall, a member of the NCPA’s Players Council who recently played his final football game for Clemson. “There should be no higher priority for NCAA football.”
The NCPA claimed that “there have been no visible reform efforts since Owen Thomas committed suicide while playing football for Penn in 2010. A postmortem examination revealed that he had CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by repetitive brain trauma. A number of former NFL players who unexpectedly committed suicide were also found to have had CTE.”
The association further maintained that, other than the PAC-12 Conference, “all FBS conferences and the NCAA have ignored the NCPA’s request to discuss the CARE Plan.”
Said Huma: “While we see movement on concussion reform in the NFL and Pop Warner football, NCAA football has been asleep at the wheel. Those who run college football seem to be running from this serious issue.”
The NCPA CARE Plan recommends the following:
1. Reduce contact during practices.
2. Require independent concussion experts to be present during competitions.
3. Freeze the maximum number of regular season games.
4. Long-term monitoring and data collection of former college athletes that have participated in contact sports.
5. Support for former college athletes suffering from degenerative brain conditions associated with participation in college athletics.
6. Warn student-athletes in contact sports about CTE and degenerative brain conditions associated with contact sports as called for by the Sports Legacy Institute.
(In an article that appears in Concussion Litigation Reporter, attorneys Patricia K. Buchanan, J.D., M.B.A. and Donald F. Austin, M.A.T., J.D. of Patterson Buchanan Fobes Leitch & Kalzer, Inc. P.S. offer some suggestions for systematically managing the risks of sports concussions.)
In 2002, an athlete might have experienced a mild concussion in a game, and under National Federation of High School Activities Associations (NFHS) return-to-play guidelines, could return to the game 15 minutes later, so long as the player had been free of symptoms for 15 minutes. That was standard of care then but is now recognized by doctors trained in concussions to be a dangerous practice.
While NFHS changed its guidelines in 2005, many schools undoubtedly have not. Some schools trained coaches regarding sports concussions, but the quality of training varied and not all coaches were trained. Coaches often did what seemed to make sense individually at the time, a dangerous thing to do in a medical emergency. Since 2005, concussion return-to-play guidelines have changed considerably. In order to protect athletes from preventable injuries, and protect schools from litigation, schools need to systematically address sports concussion prevention on a state and district level.
This article offers some suggestions on how to do that based on Washington State’s experience. To begin with, Sports Risk Management experts inform us that athletic injuries are caused by one of, or a combination of, six variables. Schools have some control over five of these variables. Changes in laws and understanding of sports concussions, as well as the public’s increasing awareness of the dangers of such concussions, will likely generate more litigation against schools. Skilled attorneys representing injured athletes will use the five variables over which schools have control to find a way of blaming the school for a particular injury. Likewise, schools that take reasonable precautions to prevent sports injuries can demonstrate that they have systematically taken measures to prevent such injuries, making it more likely that jurors will conclude that the injury was not the schools’ fault.
Subscribers to Concussion Litigation Reporter can read the rest of the article by visiting: http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/concussion-litigation-reporter/concussion-litigation-reporter-august-2012/