Monthly Archives: January 2013

Virginia Tech to Expand Helmet Ratings Beyond Football to Hockey, Baseball, Softball, and Lacrosse

The Virginia Tech University Research Center, which has made its name in the sports industry by rating football helmets for “their ability to lessen the likelihood of a concussion resulting from a violent head impact,” is expanding its scope to include helmets worn by hockey, baseball, softball, and lacrosse athletes.

Ratings on hockey helmets are expected in fall 2013, followed by youth football in 2015, and then baseball, softball, and lacrosse in 2016. During that time, all ratings for adult and youth football helmets will continually be updated and released to the public.

The new research is being funded by Virginia Tech, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (http://www.ictas.vt.edu/) at Virginia Tech.

Stefan Duma, a professor of biomedical engineering and department head of the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences, did offer a caveat.

“It is important to note that no helmet can prevent all concussions. The most effective strategies to reduce concussions in sports involve modifying league rules and player technique to limit exposure to head impacts,” said Duma.

“Beyond this, head impacts are a given in sport. Our research focuses on identifying helmets that reduce concussion risk so that athletes can make informed decisions based on independent data when purchasing equipment, which in turn, incentivizes helmet manufacturers to design helmets that better reduce head acceleration.”

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Reiss Talks about Concussions and Pro Wrestling, and the WWE’s Wellness Policy

Professional wrestling is one of those sports (using the term loosely here) that typically flies under the radar of national consciousness when it comes to the risk of concussion. But that’s not because severe head injuries don’t happen in and outside the ring.

Dr. David Reiss, a noted expert on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other medical and psychological aspects of sports concussions, was recently interviewed on the professional wrestling site called Kayfabe Kickout (www.kayfabekickout.com) about concussions in the sport.

The first question he was asked on the topic centered on just how important is it “for professional wrestling promotions to be properly educated on the long term effects of concussions and other serious brain injuries, that are the direct result of high risk spots in the ring; IE: chair shots, risky maneuvers, etc.?”

Said Reiss: “Only recently has there been medical recognition (and recognition in the media) of the severity of the long-term consequences of even minor concussions, as well as serious head injuries. Very convincing data both from sports (mostly football) and from the military indicates that multiple ‘minor’ injuries, even being subjected to concussive forces without the person necessarily identifying themselves as having been injured, can lead to very significant consequences over time including memory problems, cognitive impairment, depression and impulsivity. Not only is there a cumulative effect of minor incidents, but it seems that if there is not sufficient recovery time between incidents, the long term effects can be worse.

“This is a very serious issue that impacts multiple sports, and is especially significant in professional wrestling where concussive forces are experienced in the ‘normal’ working of a match, as well as by taking ‘chair shots’ or when a risky maneuver is not clean. There needs to be attention to reducing risks; knowing when to take an athlete out of action, and for how long; and what treatment approaches are available (neurological and psychological).”

He was also asked about the WWE’s Wellness Policy?

Speaking In “general” terms, he said that “simply having a wellness policy is a positive move. However, in all professional (and school) sports, the ‘management’ – be it a corporation or a college – has conflicting interests regarding protecting their investment in athletes versus protecting their ‘product,’ protecting their particular ‘brand’ and satisfying the public/media. Unfortunately, in essentially all professional sports, all but those athletes at the very top of the pyramid are rather expendable, replaceable by literally hundreds of other individuals with fairly equivalent skills.

“From a purely ‘business’ point of view, this decreases the motivation of the management to have the long-term health of the athlete as the primary motivation. I would like to see wellness programs in all sports directed by medically-informed personnel who are working purely in the best long-term interest of the athlete, independent form other pressures – including pressures from athletes themselves (and at times family members), who may not recognize that the short term risks are not justified by the potential long-term consequences.

In my opinion, this should involve clinical decisions, decisions regarding when an athlete should be removed from competition and also developing a fair and effective enforcement policy (regarding dangerous behaviors, drug use, etc.)  There is no one ‘correct’ answer or ‘perfect’ wellness program – but an athlete deserves to have experienced professionals making decisions who do not have a conflict of interest.”

For the entire interview, see http://bit.ly/U7PNxO

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Attorney Believes Findings of CTE Symptoms in Living NFL Players Will Impact Litigation

A Philadelphia personal injury lawyer believes that the findings from a pilot study out of the University of California Los Angeles that signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) reside in the brains of living former NFL players “is a major breakthrough for players searching for a means to diagnose CTE while they’re still alive and could be a watershed moment for ex-players suing the league (Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas #120900326) for their concussion-related injuries.”

Attorney Richard P. Console Jr. of Console & Hollawell wrote that “proving the existence of injuries is at the heart of any personal injury claim. Confirming the presence of CTE was only thought possible at autopsy, which was a major hurdle for players to get over in pursuing their claims against the NFL. If this new research is reliable, living ex-players could have an easier path to showing how the league’s alleged negligence contributed to their conditions.”

CTE is a neurodegenerative disease that displays symptoms similar to dementia, including changes in mood, aggressive behavior, memory loss, and depression. Repeated blows to the head cause a buildup of tau proteins in the brain, which leads to the development of the disease. UCLA researchers noted that these proteins constrict brain cells effectively killing them or causing significant alterations. Brain scans conducted on living former players reportedly showed concentrations of tau protein in areas consistent with those found in the brains of deceased NFL players at autopsy. Doctors found evidence of CTE in the brains of several players who committed suicide in recent years, including Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and Falcons safety Ray Easterling.

Console added that more test results are necessary before considering the research reliable in a courtroom setting.

“What you don’t want is evidence or medical testimony that’s easily contested,” he said. “While players may want to jump on this research as a Holy Grail type moment for them, it’s still early in the process. More tests are necessary before we can consider the tests reliable. These early results are certainly encouraging for the players who are suffering, but we need to see more than five tests on five living players.”

The ESPN story reporting on the study’s findings can be found at: http://espn.go.com/espn/otl/story/_/id/8867972/ucla-study-finds-signs-cte-living-former-nfl-players-first-time

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