The news this weekend around health and safety issues in football:
* The New York Post’s Steve Serby wrote about how Giants trainer Ronnie Barnes is intent on identifying concussions as fast as possible.
“At the Giants we do baseline MRI and DTI — Diffusion Tensor Imaging — which looks at the brain on a molecular level,” Barnes said. “We’re doing that not only to follow what’s really happening to our players over a long period of time, but also to compare it if they get a concussion. So all the rookies go to Weill-Cornell Medical Center and they get this baseline, and then, when they are concussed, this is repeated. Our players also see an independent neurologist, and we depend on Teena Shetty at Cornell, on her opinion, with respect to concussion. So, not only does a player have to return to baseline, but Dr. Schetty, who evaluates them the next day after the concussion, has to really approve their return. And if she says no, it means no. The neuropsychological baseline is interpreted by a neuropsychologist. And that neuropsychologist looks at the results of this computer-driven test, and he calls me and says, ‘This player has not returned to baseline.’ He also calls the independent neurologist and says, ‘This player has not returned to baseline.’ Which means he can’t return.”
* However, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported on how Steelers players in particular are tuning out the warning of concussion symptoms, which is making it tougher on the trainers.
Former Steelers running back Willie Parker said it’s a similar mentality today as he played from 2004-09. “For me, it was the team first,” said Parker, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent and fought to beat out a future Hall of Famer (Jerome Bettis) and a notable free agent signee (Duce Staley). “That’s how I looked at it. You don’t want to let your brother next to you down.” Will that mentality change? ”Not if you have any fight in you,” said Parker, who broke a leg toward the end of the 2007 season and never was the same. “You have to have fight in you, hunger in you and that dog in you. If you get a concussion, why would you tell? Why would you say something?”
* Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about how concussion worries are changing the way all sports are being played.
The response has been so swift and widespread, the lawsuits so plentiful, that many fear the issue could soon pose a threat to some sports’ continuing to exist. “I do worry that the intense focus — and, in some cases, overreaction — regarding the presumed risks could threaten the existence of some sports,” said Jeffrey Kutcher, a Michigan neurologist who advises the NFL, NHL, and NBA on concussion issues.
* The Louisville Courier-Journal wrote on the concussion research being done at Indiana University. The news site also wrote about what Kentucky is doing to identify and help concussion victims in youth sports.
* And the Houston Chronicle published a Q&A with Dr. Ken Podell, the co-director of the Methodist Concussion Center.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor