Once again, thank you for contributing to and caring about my efforts to spread concussion awareness, education, and prevention throughout Miami-Dade County and Florida. Countywide Concussion Care has made great progress in recent months. All of the Miami-Dade County public high school football players, over two thousand in total, have had a base line ImPACT test for the fall football season! The goal of protecting the student athletes of Miami-Dade County is now a reality. This would not have happened without the $35,000+ in donations that the supporters of Countywide Concussion Care have provided.
The following sports, for both JV and Varsity teams, will be tested for the 2011-2012 athletic seasons: football, girls volleyball, soccer, wrestling, baseball, softball, water polo, and lacrosse. Thirty-five high schools for football and thirty-seven high schools for girls volleyball have already been tested for the fall sports season. The other sports will be tested when the winter and spring athletic seasons draw nearer. On the county level, my goals are to spread ImPACT testing to as many sports as possible and to sustain ImPACT testing for years to come. I will also continue to speak about concussion awareness and to encourage private schools to use their resources to provide ImPACT testing to their students.
Though the attempt to pass the Youth Athlete Concussion Bill through the Florida Legislature did not end successfully, the effort to protect the student-athletes of Florida is undeterred. A renewed effort is underway to create a strategy to have the bill pass in the next Session. About half the states in the U.S. have passed similar legislation in the past two years. We are working with organizations such as the National Football League, the Florida Brain Injury Association and the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) to ensure that this important bill passes. The guidelines detailed in the bill will greatly increase the level of safety in Florida youth athletics. Good news – the FHSAA has agreed to implement the guidelines that would have been in the bill, even though the bill didn’t pass. This will not only protect Florida high school athletes, but will give momentum to the effort to pass the bill that will establish the guidelines for all Florida youth athletes.
Not only has Countywide Concussion Care continued to make progress on both county and statewide levels, but there is now also a Countywide Concussion Care website! It includes Countywide Concussion Care updates, news coverage, and many other great features, with more to come! Recent articles in The Miami Herald and The New Times that I am featured in will be posted to the website by the end of the week. The website is called www.countywideconcussioncare.com.
I strongly encourage you to check it out and give me feedback! Once again, thank you very much for supporting my efforts to protect the student athletes of Miami-Dade County and Florida. Hopefully, I will soon have more progress to report!
High school senior Michael Espinel, a defensive player for Belen Jesuit Preparatory’s football team, has suffered three concussions in two seasons.
In November 2009, Belen was practicing for the state championship semi-finals. Michael received a blow to the head during a drill, momentarily numbing half of his body.
“I felt like I was in a dark room, with a light shining in my face. My head hurt so badly,” said Espinel, then a sophomore.
He returned to the practice field anyway, and five minutes later he collapsed, unconscious.
Two pivotal new measures being rolled out in South Florida are intended to prevent scenarios like that.
The Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA), which governs high school sports throughout the state, is implementing new guidelines to keep athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion from returning to the field without a doctor’s OK.
In addition, high school students who play on interscholastic teams in Miami-Dade and Broward counties will take a baseline cognitive test in the pre-season to determine the extent of a concussion and monitor their recovery should they suffer a head injury.
Both changes are aimed at keeping injured players off the field until fully recovered, helping to prevent the cumulative effects of multiple concussions.
“Injuries on the brain, especially the ones that go untreated at a young age, have a much greater impact on society than we’ve been previously willing to admit,” said Dr. Kester Nedd, director of Neurological Rehabilitation at the University of Miami’s Sports Medicine Center.
“Beyond headaches and dizziness, any traumatic brain injury can potentially affect personality and interpersonal relationships.”
One such long-term consequence is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease, according to Dr. Ann McKee, head neuropathologist of a brain bank at the Bedford Veterans Administration Medical Center in Massachusetts.
“Multiple injuries on top of previously untreated injuries – that’s where the danger builds up,” McKee said.
Assessing a concussion’s severity and determining proper treatment can be difficult. When a kid takes a bump to the head, finer cognitive functions such as memory are usually the first to go and the last to come back, Nedd said.
The test being phased in for Miami-Dade high school athletes — called Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) — takes 30 minutes and is administered online. Test takers perform a series of tasks that measure cognitive functions such as memory recall, attention span, non-verbal problem solving and reaction time.
Once an athlete is suspected of suffering a concussion, an ImPACT retest is administered, and scores are compared. Along with a neurological exam, the results can aid a doctor in determining whether an athlete is fit to return to the playing field.
Nedd and his colleague Dr. Gillian Hotz, who run The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Concussion Clinic at the University of Miami, have been pushing for years to have high school athletes tested.
The cost to individual schools — estimated at $600 annually — had stood in the way, but David Goldstein, an incoming junior at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, helped change that.
Goldstein, a soccer player, suffered his third concussion in four years in January 2010 in a head-to-head collision during district finals. He stayed in the game – and spent the next three months with incapacitating headaches and a loss of balance.
“After the hit, I finished the game and practiced the next day. Even me, who had had two concussions already, I wasn’t properly educated. I thought maybe I had a cold. It wasn’t until I collapsed from pain after practice the next day that I realized something was wrong,” Goldstein said.
After seeing several doctors and being told he could never again play soccer, Goldstein was referred to Hotz and Nedd. They put him on the road to rehabilitation after discovering that he had suffered inner ear damage.
They also introduced him to ImPACT testing, which Goldstein brought to the attention of the athletic director at his school, Claude Grubair.
Ransom adopted ImPACT testing for its athletes, and Goldstein decided to bring baseline testing to Miami-Dade public schools. He founded the Countywide Concussion Care project, which has raised $35,000.
The money has gone to the KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami’s Sports Medicine Center, where Hotz has purchased tests in bulk for schools to administer.
Hotz and Nedd will also be responsible for clearing all athletes to play post-injury.
“I will not clear a kid over the Internet; they’ll have to come in. ImPACT will help, but we need to see them,” said Hotz.
All Miami-Dade high school athletes eligible to play spring football were tested in May, and testing is being expanded to volleyball players, soccer, wrestling, basketball, softball and lacrosse. About 2,800 students have been tested so far.
“We eventually want to expand to other sports, but crunch time right now is focused on contact sports,” said Cheryl Golden, instructional supervisor for Miami-Dade Schools.
Broward County schools are implementing mandatory ImPACT testing for high school football players countywide next year.
“This was an automatic call for me with concussions and return to play being such a hot button issue,” said Damian Huttenhoff, director of Athletics and Activities for Broward schools.
A University of Pittsburgh grant is paying for a year’s worth of tests, and injured athletes will be followed by doctors at Nova Southeastern University. Once the grant runs out, the county will pay for ImPACT.
With an estimated 15,000 athletes in Broward, Huttenhoff said, the county can’t yet guarantee that testing will be available to athletes in all contact sports, but “the ultimate goal is to have 100 percent tested.”
In addition to requiring that players with suspected head injuries be taken off the field immediately and not returned without medical clearance, the FHSAA is requiring that all coaches receive additional concussion management and recognition training.
“We need smarter parents, coaches and athletes,” said Valerie Breen, director of the Brain Injury Association of Florida. “Long-term change is going to require a change in the sports culture.”
For its part, Belen, a private school, began baseline testing of its football players this summer. For some time, the school has offered all previously concussed players helmets designed to protect against concussive hits.
Once he is cleared by Dr. Nedd, Espinel plans to finish out the season with his team. But he’s decided against trying to play college ball.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/08/16/v-fullstory/2356508/schools-implement-new-rules-to.html#ixzz1VJWvCja7
Back in January, Florida was ahead of the curve on an important national issue. Yes, you read that right.
That’s when a bill designed to protect youth athletes from concussion passed the Florida House. The new law would require kids who had suffered a suspect head injury to be taken out of play pending clearance from a medical professional. The bill had a sympathetic ambassador in a local high school student– Ransom Everglade’s David Goldstein– who had been crippled for months by headaches stemming from multiple concussions. Goldstein had even successfully led fund-raisers to pay for pricey concussion tests for every public school in the county.
So who can argue with a bill that makes young students safe from serious injury or death?Meet state senator Dennis Jones, Republican from Treasure Island.
Jones is a working chiropractor. He insisted on amending the bill, when it hit the senate floor, to include chiropractors among the listed “medical professionals”. The House refused to vote on the amended bill, and it died on the House floor.
Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), who introduced the bill, says she is “disappointed that this important piece of legislation failed due to the political in-fighting between medical doctors and other medical professionals. We now have one more year where children may be told to ‘walk it off’ and go back to play, putting their health at risk,” she adds. “This is unacceptable.”
“No bill is better than a bad bill,” Jones tells Riptide unapologetically. “As chiropractors, we’ve been treating head injuries since 1931. The symptoms of a concussion are not that difficult to diagnose.”
After working with colleagues in Village Voice Media in a national investigation of concussions in youth sports– which will be published in papers across the chain this week– it’s impossible not to dispute that last claim. Throughout the country, the treatment of head trauma in young athletes has been defined by ignorance.
In New Jersey, high school football player Ryne Dougherty died after being sent out to play despite having apparently not recovered from a previous concussion. His family’s lawyer claims that a school trainer ignored a medical test in which Dougherty complained of “fogginess” and struggled with simple memory and cognitive functions.
The same sort of tragic stories– where student athletes played through head trauma, making themselves more vulnerable to catastrophic damage– have played out in most every city in America. No matter what Sen. Jones claims, the understanding of concussions is still an evolving science.
What’s clear is the peril isn’t limited to professional athletes who have arguably struck a Faustian bargain with the risk.
Florida is now lagging behind 28 states that have passed youth concussion bills. Sen. Flores promises to file the failed bill again in the next legislature.
We’ll see if Jones kills it again because it doesn’t pay proper respect to chiropractors.
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