As angry as I get at the still stupid treatment of concussions, such as by Mike Leach at Texas Tech, I am so encouraged at the huge growth in public awareness of concussion. Almost every day there is a new story on concussion and some of those are really well done.
Yesterday Matthew Stanmyre of the Newark, New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger began one of the best treatments of concussion I have ever read, a piece on concussion in high school sports, “Kids and Concussions: The effects of head injuries in young athletes.” The article can be found at http://blog.nj.com/hssportsextra/2010/01/kids_and_concussions_-.html What makes Stanmyre’s piece so extraordinary is that he not only got the issues right, he found the right sources to quote and he made that story human with the stories of young athletes who had been impacted by concussion.
One of his sources, Micky Collins, M.D. is one of the top people in the field and may in fact be changing the dynamic of how the medical community diagnoses and treats concussion. Collins had this to say in the Star-Ledger piece:
“The morbidity of this injury is far greater than anyone ever realized,” says Micky Collins, one of the nation’s leading concussion doctors. “I never appreciated how many kids have problems with this until I started seeing 15 to 20 patients a day.”
The Star-Ledger piece brought the urgency of this issue out with this timeline:
• Last year, Montclair High football player Ryne Dougherty died after sustaining his second brain injury in a month.
• Niki Popyer, a 16-year-old former basketball player from Marlboro, sustained 11 concussions over four years, becoming a national face of the dangers of concussion.
• Alexa McCormack, a former West Milford High cheerleader, still has migraine headaches and blurry vision after sustaining three concussions during competition in an 18-month span.
• Former La Salle University football player Preston Plevretes, a Marlboro native, needs 24-hour nursing care and can barely speak after sustaining two concussions in a month’s time four years ago.
And this all from the perspective of just the state of New Jersey. One of the encouraging aspects of what the Star-Ledger reports is that New Jersey has a far higher percentage of athletic trainers than the national average and that the use ImPACT testing (developed by Dr. Collins) is happening at a greater rate than nearly any other state, with 141 schools using the tool.
I am not completely surprised that New Jersey would be ahead of the curve on this issue. New Jersey has for a long time had one of the best state Brain Injury Associations and one of my best friends in the brain injury legal community, Attorney Bruce Stern of Princeton, has been pushing concussion awareness issues as long as I have.
Today’s second part of the Star-Ledger series focuses on concussions in cheerleaders. See http://blog.nj.com/hssportsextra/2010/01/kids_and_concussions_one_of_th.html
This story also comes at a time when concussion is in the news because of Congressional hearings about the potential permanent brain damage that might result. I will be commenting on those Congressional hearings at my Brain Damage Blog, http://waiting.com/blog