Although most people have a general idea of what concussions are, there are still some myths surrounding the injury.
From high school through the pros, Mecklenburg’s experience with football was different than what you see today; concussions were rarely talked about and instead of getting fines for hits to the head, the act was encouraged.
“To play the game at the level that is played in college and [the NFL], you have to have a bit of recklessness in you. You have to have pain tolerance; you have to be somebody that’s not concerned about the future,” Mecklenburg explains.
Stressing a responsibility to educate the public on the risks involved with participating in the sport, the NFL released a groundbreaking new study Thursday revealing the high risk of concussions in youth soccer.
Female athletes face an even greater risk for head injuries than men do.
“Asking a concussed athlete if they can play is like asking a drunk driver if they can drive,” says Lauren Long, cofounder of Concussion Connection, an athlete support group. “If it’s left up to them, they’ll keep playing. That’s why you can’t leave decisions about a player’s health to the player. You need a doctor.”
With youth sports concussion safety laws in place in all 50 states, increased public awareness about concussions, and growing concernabout the long-term effect of repetitive head impacts, the demand for concussion education, not just for parents, coaches, and athletes, but for health care professionals as well is at an all-time high, and promises to go even higher in the coming years.
But who should sports programs – whether school-based or independently run – hire to educate athletes, coaches, and parents about concussions? What kind of training, education and experience should they have?
We decided to ask a number of leading concussion educators. First up is Robb Rehberg, Professor and Coordinator of Athletic Training Clinical Education at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey.
Terry O’Neil unsuccessfully tried to steer the audience in an accurate direction.
The question from the former New Orleans Saints executive to those in the Palisades Ballroom in UCLA’s Carnesale Commons on Tuesday afternoon was, “How many concussions occurred on NFL practice fields last season?”
He began counting down from 400. The lower he went, the louder the audience voiced he was counting in the wrong direction. O’Neil appeased the disbelieving audience, asking about numbers as high as 600 before ending the exchange with a thud.
In addition to the many enduring memories of great performances from this year’s World Cup, a slew of head injuries will linger as well. Brazilian star Neymar is going to miss the rest of the tournament with a broken vertebra, sparking complaints that FIFA has encouraged referees to be more lenient about dangerous play. Yellow and red cards have been handed out at the lowest levels since 1986.
This purported attempt to speed up play may have tragic consequences. Soccer is already one of the most dangerous sports—more dangerous than you might expect, according to a wide variety of data, especially in terms of concussions.
A state law that went into effect July 1, aimed at reducing the number of concussions in children, can prevent students from participating in athletics unless they receive information or complete training.
“An Act Concerning Youth Athletics and Concussions” was introduced by the Committee on Children. It requires the state Board of Education to work with the state’s Public Health Department to develop a “concussion education plan.” Local boards of education would then adopt the plan by using “written materials, online training or videos or in person training,” the bill states.
A lineman who plays in high school, college and the pros may retire with 10,0000 sub-concussive hits, none of which were diagnosed, none of which he is aware of. The aggregate of these hits produce brain damage much more severe than being knocked out three times.
Prominent neurologists and researchers like Robert Cantu, Julian Bailes, Kevin Guskiewicz, Kristen Willeumier and David Hovda report that three or more concussions may lead to exponentially higher rates of Alzheimer’s, ALS, dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy and depression. This is different from other injuries. Brain function provides memory, judgment, and personality — what it means to be a sentient human being. That is why we are forming a new foundation, “Athletes Speak,” with players advocating awareness and prevention.
People often associate concussions in youth sports with football. But the problem goes far beyond America’s most popular sport.
“Better education among parents, coaches and kids is critical,” says Richard So, MD, a pediatrician atCleveland Clinic Children’s. With that in mind, Dr. So and Dr. Genin seek to bust several common myths and misconceptions about youth sports and concussions.