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Attorney Writes about How Australia’s National Rugby League Launches Assistance for Players Who Sustain Catastrophic Injuries

Thomas Zhong of DLA Piper LLP noted recently in a blog post that the National Rugby League has made some changes relevant to concussion.

“The National Rugby League (NRL) has launched a ‘whole of game’ Foundation that provides support for players who incur catastrophic injuries whilst playing rugby league. The Foundation supports players at all levels from grassroots junior football through to the NRL and will provide assistance for players who suffer severe functional disabilities (e.g. brain or spinal cord injury). The whole of game Foundation will provide funding to cover interim medical and other expenses in addiiton to insurance coverage.SONY DSC

NRL Insurance Scheme

The current $1 million threshold for insurance payouts available to NRL players was implemented in July 2014 and applies to most serious injuries (e.g. paraplegia, quadriplegia, career-ending loss of use of limb and loss of sight). The scheme also incorporates employment salary protetion for a period of two years. For more information on the NRL Insurance Scheme, click here.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

It will be a novel test-case to determine whether players who develop chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative brain disease common in athletes who suffere repetitive brain trauma, concussions and sub-concussions, are able to claim from the Foundation if they are able to prove a causative link to their careers in the NRL. This issue has been strongly litigated in other sporting codes such as the National Football League, who recently settled a class-action lawsuit from former players – allowing for a compensation payment of up to $5 million per player.”

 

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Concussion Management within Division III Collegiate Athletics

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article in Concussion Litigation Reporter–November 2014, written by Chris Hummel, a Clinical Associate Professor and Athletic Trainer in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at Ithaca College. To see the full article, please subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter.)

Sports concussion management has changed greatly in just the last few years, and is almost unrecognizable from where it was even ten years ago.  So many things have changed, from the way concussions are assessed and managed, to how return to play decisions are made.  Over the last five years, many national and international sports organizations have created policies and procedures to address concussion recognition and management.  Every new concussion management policy brings both the potential for improved athlete care and challenges for the sports medicine staff.

Chris Hummel

Chris Hummel

 

Are the current policies and recommendations perfect? No, concussion management needs to grow and evolve as we learn more each and every day. We have yet to be able to create a perfect system as shown recently by the issue at the University of Michigan football game.  Even with unlimited resources, we cannot always see each and every concussion that takes place on the field.  The addition of an athletic trainer in the press box to watch for signs and symptoms of concussion in those on the football field is an outstanding addition, but yet this is not a perfect solution.  The signs and symptoms of a concussion are not always visible and not every institution has the resources for additional personnel.

Multiple variables are now in the field of play when it comes to how to properly recognize and manage a sports concussion.  It can be quite daunting when deciding where to begin with implementing a concussion management program.  There are numerous resources in print and on the web to help but they can also confuse practicing clinicians, coaches, administrators, parents, and athletes.  Consensus statements come out each year that describe what the best minds in concussion management think and believe with regards to concussion management, but these statements from the various groups may not always agree. Which one(s) then do you use to build your program around?  The NCAA has made this somewhat easier in the recommendations and mandates that they have passed along to each member institution.  Yet, as we have seen this fall, even the largest programs with seemingly unlimited resources (financial and personnel) continue to evolve their concussion management program all the while concussion management issues still arise.

When a concussion does occur, every program should start with two foundational pillars:

  • Any athlete experiencing concussion-like symptoms will be treated as though a concussion has taken place and not allowed to return to activity until proper assessment is completed.
  • All concussions will be treated and managed on an individual basis.

Appropriate Concussion Assessment

Prior to the start of their athletic participation, each athlete should complete a comprehensive medical history and pre-participation examination (PPE).  Specific questions need to be asked to identify those athletes with previous history of concussion or those at greater risk of concussion.  The specifics of each athlete’s concussion history should be discussed during the PPE, which will be the conduit to educating your athletes, coaches and parents.

To see the full article, please subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter.

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NATA Zeros in on Concussions with National Action Plan for Sports Safety

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:

http://www.youthsportssafetyalliance.org/docs/National-Action-Plan.pdf

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.

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