Good morning. Governor Scott, Senator Flores, President Shalala, Dean Goldschmidt, distinguished guests — Thank you very much for coming to this ceremony and supporting concussion awareness. My name is David Goldstein, and I am a twelfth grader at Ransom Everglades High School. Over the past two and a half years, I have been on quite a journey. It started with a frightful collision on a soccer field, has consisted of many struggles and obstacles, and is culminating in a truly special event here today to celebrate Florida’s new concussion law. I stand here before you to share what I went through and the work that I have done.
I suffered three concussions playing soccer in a span of four years. My most recent concussion, which occurred in January, 2010, resulted in three and a half months of relentless pain. I was sensitive to light and sound, my balance was distorted, I was depressed, and my head hurt so badly that I had to sleep in the nurse’s office most days in order to get through school. Hopelessness engulfed me, for every doctor I visited told me that my torment could not be alleviated, that all I could do was wait and that I should never play soccer again.
After months of searching for help, my family found Dr. Gillian Hotz and Dr. Kester Nedd at University of Miami Sports Medicine Clinic. They applied their concussion treatment expertise to my injury, and turned my life around. After living through months of agony, I reached recovery thanks to Dr. Nedd and Dr. Hotz. I cannot thank them enough for helping me to be symptom-free and able to be myself again. I am incredibly excited to begin my senior year of soccer as Ransom Everglades’ team Captain next month.
Having fully recovered, I looked back on my experience and made a decision: I wanted to do everything possible to protect youth athletes from suffering the way I did. Since that decision, I have promoted concussion awareness. The first step was to spread the ImPact baseline concussion test to Miami-Dade’s high school sports teams. I am proud that Miami-Dade County is the first county in the United States to implement the test in all of its public high schools. I would like to thank Ransom Everglades for its support of my efforts to achieve county wide concussion care.
My efforts on the local scale led to my involvement in the effort to pass youth concussion legislation at the state level. Our first attempt to secure this legislation was unsuccessful, and I received a rude awakening to the reality of politics. However, Senator Flores spearheaded a second effort to pass this essential legislation, and our persistence paid off when the legislation passed unanimously in both houses of the Legislature in this year’s session. All the letters to the Senators and Representatives, the trips to Tallahassee to meet with key legislators and my appearances before the House and Senate Committees of reference had paid off.
Senator Flores and Representative Renuart deserve praise for the tireless work they put into passing this legislation and for their commitment to Florida’s youth athletes. I would also like to thank Nelson Diaz and Lindy Kennedy for their guidance and persistence that made success possible.
The efforts of our team already have transformed the way that Floridians think about concussions. Floridians now have a greater understanding of the serious dangers of concussions. The NFL has played a substantial role in the promotion of concussion education, for it has spread its initiative to protect athletes from concussions to the youth athletes of Florida and the rest of the country. The guidelines that the Florida High School Athletic Association has created under the umbrella of the legislation will guide coaches, trainers, referees, and others in the rules for removal from play and return to play. The result of all of this progress is that I have realized a major step towards my goal – there is a reduced danger that Florida’s youth athletes will suffer what I suffered from my concussions.
I would also like to mention the research being done at the KiDZ Neuroscience Center at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. This research strives to shed further light on the consequences of impacts to the head on the brain. I truly appreciate the interest that Marc Buoniconti has taken in my work and the serious issue of concussions.
I will now direct my conclusion towards Governor Scott. Governor, your support of this bill has been immensely appreciated. It means a lot not just because it demonstrates your concern for the well-being of the youth athletes of our state, but also because you are here today during a time when so many issues are fighting for your attention. Thank you once again for your commitment to spreading concussion awareness, and thank you, to all who are here today, for sharing this special day with me.
Recognizing the contributions of UM’s concussion experts and a high school soccer player lucky enough to be one of their patients, Governor Rick Scott visited The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis last week to officially sign into law a bill designed to safeguard Florida’s youth athletes from the potentially devastating consequences of brain injuries suffered on the playing field.
Spearheaded by a state task force led by Gillian Hotz, Ph.D., research professor of neurological surgery and director of UM’s Concussion Program, and sponsored by state Senator Anitere Flores of Miami, the law bars young athletes who endure concussions from returning to practice or play until they are cleared by a physician. It also requires parents to sign informed consent forms acknowledging they are aware of the risks of concussion.
“Too many times we hear stories of our athletes being told, ‘Hey, you just got a bump on the head. Shake it off, and get back in the game because we really need you,’’’ Flores said. “Unfortunately, years down the line, we see the issues.”
Hotz, director of the KIDZ Neuroscience Center, helped build UM’s Concussion Program into a national model for concussion management, research, training and education. She said school-age athletes too often suffer long-term cognitive, physical and psychological impairments by returning to play too soon after a bump or blow to the head, or after multiple concussions. “Concussion is a national epidemic,” she said.
Both she and Flores credited David Goldstein and his parents, Cheryl and Adam, for the celebratory October 12 bill-signing ceremony proudly attended by UM President Donna E. Shalala, Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Miami Project founder Barth A. Green, M.D., professor and chair of neurological surgery, and a host of dignitaries. Now a high school senior and captain of the soccer team at Miami’s Ransom Everglades School, David suffered his third concussion in four years in January 2010, just as Hotz launched the state task force to push for passage of the concussion bill.
After nearly four months of relentless pain, sensitivity to light and deep despair over being told no one could allay his symptoms and he’d never play soccer again, David and his parents found Hotz and Kester Nedd, D.O., voluntary associate professor of neurology and Medical Director of the Concussion Program at UM’s Sports Medicine Clinic. “They applied their concussion expertise to my injury and turned my life around,” David said. “I cannot thank Dr. Hotz and Dr. Nedd enough for helping me be symptom-free and able to be myself again.”
Determined to help other students avoid the torment he endured, David launched a concussion awareness and fundraising campaign at Ransom to ensure all Miami-Dade County public high school athletes undergo a baseline ImPACT test, a computerized neurocognitive evaluation that can be used to assess post-injury cognitive function. Today, Miami-Dade is the first county in the nation to provide the test to all high-schoolers who play contact sports.
He also spent countless hours pushing for passage of the concussion bill, receiving “a rude awakening” when it was defeated last year. But on Friday, his persistence paid off as he watched Governor Scott sign the legislation.
As Miami Project President Marc Buoniconti quipped in expressing his admiration for David, “Watch out for this kid, Governor. … He may have your job soon.”
President Shalala joked that she’d gladly give her job to David, and told the audience that Lee Kaplan, M.D., Chief of the Division of Sports Medicine and Medical Director and Head Team Physician of UM Athletics, and his team rightfully have more power at UM than she does. “If they say you can’t play, if they say you have to come in and see them … no one can overrule them,” she said.
Dean Goldschmidt expressed his gratitude to Hotz and other concussion researchers and bill advocates for ensuring that coaches, athletic trainers, parents and students will take head injuries seriously. “I applaud all of those who are contributing to this extremely important mission,” he said.
Thanking Hotz, Green, and all of UM for its “admirable” work, Scott dedicated the new law to Daniel Brett, a Broward County high school freshman who took his own life after enduring two years of long-term effects, including dizziness, mood swings and migraines, following multiple concussions playing football. His mother is now working with Broward Schools to bring baseline ImPACT testing and education to high school athletes.
“This bill cannot bring Daniel back,” Scott said, “but it will live in his memory and hopefully protect the health and welfare of other students for generations to come.”
Today, the two and a half year long effort to pass youth athlete concussion legislation in Florida came to a close in an amazing ceremony at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Governor Rick Scott came all the way down from Tallahassee to sign the bill into law. Many distinguished speakers (including State Senator and bill sponsor Anitere Flores, President of the University of Miami Donna Shalala, and President of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Marc Buonoconti) discussed the bill and complimented me for pushing the legislative effort forward. I also spoke at this spectacular event about my experience with concussions and the work to spread concussion awareness. All in attendance, including family and friends, granted me great praise. I also thanked Senator Flores, Representative Doc Renuart, Nelson Diaz, and Lindy Kennedy for the hard work and time they put into making this legislative effort successful. Overall, today marked a special day to recognize the end of a long journey and to celebrate the passing of legislation that will protect Florida youth athletes.
Looking ahead, I hope to continue to be a voice for concussion education. I will work on fortifying the county-wide concussion program that I have established and will continue to speak out about the dangers of concussions within my local community. I also look forward to persuading more local private schools to adopt concussion education and management including baseline concussion testing. I am also interested in speaking on behalf on new concussion awareness education initiatives locally, on the state level, or nationally. As the dangers of concussions continue to more frequently grab news headlines, I want to continue to do what I can to educate others about these dangers and be part of efforts to reduce these dangers. Today marked a major milestone in my journey, but my work is not done.