Today’s news involving health and safety around sports:
* As Virginia Tech football closes its season on Friday, The Newark Star-Ledger reported on how the school’s concussion research team will conclude their project of collecting data from sensors placed in the players’ helmets.
The ambition is nothing less than audacious: To find solutions to a problem that has bedeviled doctors and coaches from the pros to youth leagues, that has left former NFL players crippled and led others, many contend, to take their own lives. In a sense, they are grappling with the very nature of the sport. Its brute force, the pounding, and the sounds of pads and helmets colliding are at the core of football’s appeal. The researchers are now quantifying what those hits mean. They have learned how many blows an average college player absorbs both in games and practices — nearly 1,000 per season. They know now that linemen and linebackers take the most hits, and quarterbacks and running backs take the fiercest. Technology has enabled scientists to bring the laboratory to the field, where they can gather information without disrupting the game.
* Meanwhile, Wired magazine wrote that the NFL should broaden its use of sideline concussions tests.
(Neurologist Steven) Galetta believes the league must employ additional tests, and possibly a battery of them, on the sideline. He recommends the King-Devick test, which the NYU team has tested on MMA fighters and boxers with excellent results. It requires players to read aloud, as quickly as possible, a series of numbers, from left to right, printed on an index card. The test takes a healthy young person 40 seconds to complete. Concussed athletes have great difficulty processing the numbers and can take minutes to finish, if they don’t give up entirely, according to Galetta. The advantage of the King-Devick is that it’s much more straightforward for an inexperienced physician or coach to grade than the SCAT-2, which relies on subjective analysis of symptoms and test results. Many concussed athletes in the team’s trials have passed the SCAT-2 exam but failed the King-Devick Test. “The visual pathways account for about 55 percent of the brain’s pathways,” says Galetta. “Many of the structures for vision are coupled with the structures for cognition. There’s no real visual test on the SCAT-2. Memory and balance is just a part of the nervous system. It leaves a lot of territory untested.”
* The Boston Globe reported on a Massachusetts study in Brain Journal that says 28 percent of high school athletes that suffer concussions return to play too soon.
The sample of athletes studied was small: just 54 athletes, primarily high school football, soccer, and hockey players in the Boston area. But it adds to the body of research on concussions in sports, as coaches and parents wade through the confusion to figure out how best to protect children from injuries that could have lifelong consequences. Specialists say the public and even physicians have a long way to go in understanding how to balance their love of competing with real risk.
* In light of Greg McElroy hiding his concussion for nearly a week, The Newark Star-Ledger wrote about how the concussion culture has been hard to change in the NFL.
* NFL.com wrote about the McElroy issue as well, reporting that he told several players this week before telling the training staff.
* The Northwest Herald in suburban Chicago reported on how concussions are not just an issue with contact sports, focusing on a girls basketball player who suffered too many to continue playing.
* The DigitalJournal.com looked at the concussions risks involved in winter sports.
* The Associated Press reported NFL prospect Matt Barkley won’t play quarterback for USC in the Sun Bowl because of a lingering shoulder injury.
* New York Magazine accused the New York Knicks of purposely withholding the seriousness of guard Raymond Felton’s broken finger.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor