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Panel Examines Ethics of Concussions in Contact Athletics

By Betsy Simon, ISU Communications

It’s still OK to encourage youth to get involved in football and other contact sports where concussions occur, a group of panelists participating in a student-led discussion at Indiana State University determined. At the same time, the panelists at the Tuesday evening event concluded it is essential to teach players proper techniques in order to minimize the dangers of concussions.

Panelists were Mike Sanford, Indiana State’s head football coach; Kendall Walker, an Indiana State linebacker who suffered a severe concussion last season; Chris Barrett, Terre Haute North Vigo High School head football coach and parent of a player; and Dr. Thomas E. Klootwyk, an orthopedic surgeon for the Indianapolis Colts-Methodist Sports Medicine Team.

Sanford said the Indiana State athletics department has a concussion policy based on the most recent research that says players are not allowed back in the game until four days after they have stopped experiencing symptoms of a concussion. Players are also screened at a pre-season baseline testing to measure cognitive function pre-concussion.

“Bottom line, we have a policy and I completely trust our athletic trainers and doctors to inform me when a player is well enough to return to the field,” he said. “I’ve been coaching 37 years and there’s been an evolutionary process on how concussions are treated. Sports medicine has changed and developed. I want a healthy team on the field that is able to compete, but when these guys love the game, that’s where the decision comes. Sometimes, more than outside pressure, I think it’s more about players not wanting to admit problems they’re experience because of a concussion, so we need to work on getting them to report problems. It’s about the kids.”

The panel discussion evolved from a PBS documentary on concussions, something Walker experienced for the first last season when he sidelined for five weeks due to complications because of the injury.

“I was a little frightened after it happened,” Walker said. “I’ve been through a lot of hard hits but things cleared up. When I got the concussion though, it was the first time that problems didn’t clear up and I stayed foggy for awhile, and Coach Sanford was supportive of me through it, and he and the trainers listened to me and kept me off the field.”

Klootwyk said it is the job of coaches and trainers to stay up-to-date on the latest concussion research and “return players to the field as soon as they can safely.”

“I don’t have a problem saying, ‘Not today,’ to a player,” he said. “The problem is, unlike with a sprained ankle, where it’s easy to see a player limping, with a concussion sometimes the players don’t report their symptoms. Coaches and trainers need to watch more because better monitoring and assessing of players will help. We don’t know the long-term damage of concussions yet, but in the short-term we need to prevent catastrophic events and be better at pulling guys out of the game if there are problems.”

It will also be beneficial to teach players good techniques on the field from an early age, Sanford said.

“A critical thing is having proper equipment for youth players and teaching proper tackling techniques,” he said. “I think a lot of people who are in coaching care about the kids and their ethics are generally in the right place when it comes to concussions in sports.”

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Sports Lawyers Association Conference to Touch on Concussions

The Sports Lawyers Association’s 39th Annual Conference will be held May 16-18 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Not surprisingly, concussions and the legal impact of head trauma on professional athletes will be among the topics.

Speaking on the May 16 panel are Dr. Kevin Crutchfield and Tim English.

Dr. Crutchfield is one of the country’s foremost experts on concussions and how they affect the brain. He is the director of the Comprehensive Sports Concussion Program for LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, Md., where he provides care to athletes suffering from concussions. Dr. Crutchfield also serves as an independent neurologist for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, MLB’s Baltimore Orioles and MSL’s D.C. United.

English is the senior staff counsel for the NFL Players Association. For the past 27 years, he has been responsible for handling NLRB matters and other labor law issues for the NFLPA including filing and litigating player grievances involving contract, injury and disciplinary disputes.  English has also been a long-time member of the NFLPA’s health and safety committee.

Moderating the panel will be Richard Berthelsen, former general counsel for the NFLPA..

To learn more about the conference and how to register, visit http://www.sportslaw.org/events/conference.cfm

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UConn’s Arts, Entertainment & Sports Law Society (AESLS) Sponsoring Concussion Program

The “concussion conundrum,” as one writer calls it, is a potential game-changer for the sport of football. Multiple lawsuits from thousands of plaintiffs suing the NFL are garnering more exposure on a daily basis in the courts—none more impacting than the court of public opinion. And that has led to some searing questions. How big is the medical issue? How big is the legal issue, specifically that affecting the NFL. And how will all of this litigation affect the culture of football as we know it today.

On March 8, 2013, these issues will be addressed at a panel discussion at the University of Connecticut School of Law. This discussion—“A Panel Examining the Legal Implications of the NFL Concussion Lawsuits & the Future of Football”—will be moderated by Sports Law Professor Lewis Kurlantzick, and will also include ‘sports attorneys’ Rob Romano, PRESIDENT, ROMANO SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT AGENCY, Paul Anderson, FOUNDER & PUBLISHER, NFL CONCUSSION LITIGATION, and Dan Fitzgerald, FOUNDER & PUBLISHER, CONNECTICUT SPORTS LAW.

Click on the following link to view additional program information: UConn Panel Announcement

NOTE—AESLS at UCONN: Arts, Entertainment and Sports Law Society (AESLS) is an organization of students interested in arts, entertainment and sports law. AESLS’s aim is to facilitate student access to resources and opportunities in these areas within the legal community. During the academic year, AESLS sponsors career panels to provide students the opportunity to see and hear arts, entertainment and sports law practitioners.

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