Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Center Gets Proactive, Aims to Reduce Youth Concussion Risks

The Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center (JCCC), a collaboration with Thomas Jefferson University, Rothman Institute, and Wills Eye Hospital, has partnered with the Brandywine Youth Club (BYC) in an effort to raise awareness and educate young athletes on the dangers of concussion, according to a Pennsylvania Website (www.chaddsfordlive.com)

The JCCC will provide free education and ImPACT baseline testing to all 3000 of BYC’s athletes. The partnership is designed to promote comprehensive, proactive concussion care and education to the student/athlete, parent, coach and community, according to the site.

“While coaching this year, I made it mandatory for my girls’ soccer team players and parents to become aware of concussion and the impact it could have on them,” Linda Mazzoli, JCCC director, BYC soccer coach, and mother of three BYC athletes, said in a press release. “We provided educational opportunities and access to ImPACT testing prior to them starting the season. It was then that I realized that not only my team, but all of the children and parents should have access to this level of education and awareness.”

Dave Wrzesniewski, the player/parent representative for BYC said the club and its board appreciate the opportunity to partner with the JCCC.

“The program at Jefferson offers a comprehensive approach to the education, prevention and treatment of concussions,” he said. “BYC is focused on ensuring the safety of all of our athletes, especially when it comes to concussions. We’d like to thank the JCCC for this opportunity and their generous support.”

As part of the agreement, the JCCC will provide the following for the BYC community:

  • Basic education for parents and athletes of all levels, including concussion recognition, signs and symptoms, concussion avoidance and what to do when you suspect concussion.
  • Advanced education for coaches that will focus on coach accountability of understanding concussions, but also their role in removing athletes and returning athletes to play.
  • Baseline Screening Program for all athletes.
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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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Concussion Rules Take Hold for Pennsylvania Fall Sports Coaches and Student-Athletes

This fall, Pennsylvania state law requires all high school coaches pass tests related to concussion management.

The reasons for the new law are plentiful, according to the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Take Ethan Blum, a rising lacrosse star at Carlisle High School, for example. During his 9th Grade season last spring, Blum played in nearly every junior varsity game and was one of its top scorers.  He even earned some varsity time on Carlisle’s PIAA District III Championship squad.

But, he did miss two games during his first year of high school sports as an early season hit to his head resulted in a concussion.lax2013

For Blum, who excels in the classroom, it was difficult taking time off just as his high school career was starting. But, following protocol directed by state law, he did. And it didn’t take long for him to return to action when his brain was ready.

For Blum, his journey to recovery started when a coach recognized the signs that he may have experienced a concussion.  Immediately he was sent to an athletic trainer, and not long after that a physician.

“I had to completely shut down my brain to recover,” Blum said.  “That meant no lacrosse, no school, no tv, and no video games.”

William C. Welch, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Neurosurgical Society, says Blum’s story is classic when it comes to how concussions happen in sports, and he’s glad the state law that was followed helped in the recovery process.

“There’s a greater awareness of concussions today than there were years ago,” says Dr. Welch, a practicing neurosurgeon at the University of Pennsylvania.  “State law has raised the awareness level, and when someone has their ‘bell rung’ there seems to be more caution.”

Dr. Welch says that a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that can be caused by a blow to the head or body or possibly even a fall.  Essentially what happens is that the impact jars the brain inside the skull.

“Most people associate a big hit with a concussion, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Bruce MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED), which lobbied in favor of the new law.  “Soccer players ‘heading’ the ball have been known to develop concussions. All it really takes is the brain shaking around inside a person’s head.”

Symptoms can vary, and may not be the same from patient to patient. But in general, there are some common signs that coaches are trained to investigate during a practice or game. These include problems thinking or remembering, headaches or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and an athlete feeling tired. Outside a practice or game, the student-athlete may see changes in their sleep patterns or have a change in their emotions. Parent-coach communications is important in the latter symptoms.

The state law has several parts. The most important section of the law is likely the mandatory online training course that each coach must complete every year.  The course, titled “Concussion in Sports – What You Need To Know” and provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations, walks a coach through the science behind concussions and trains them to recognize the symptoms.  Coaches are taught “when in doubt, sit them out.”

But the state law goes beyond just education. The law also provides guidance on the steps that must be taken for a student-athlete to return to competition.  In a nutshell, the coach is not permitted to return a player to participation until the athlete is evaluated and cleared for return in writing by an appropriate medical professional. Specifically, the medical professional must be a licensed physician, certified health care professional, or psychologist trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.

Coaches who do not comply face harsh penalties.  A first violation requires suspension for the rest of the season.  Second violation adds a suspension for the next season, while a third violation is a permanent suspension from coaching.

In Blum’s case, before returning to his sport, he was required to pass progressive sport-specific challenges such as running to see how his brain would react.  He passed the challenges, and after about 10 days out of play was cleared to participate again.

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