Last Friday, I participated in a fantastic panel titled “Concussion: Shaping the Future of Youth Sports” at Princeton University. Here is the description of the panel in the words of the its host, Dr. Annegret Dettwiler-Danspeckgruber:
“The primary goal of the panel is to discuss concussion from a public health and public policy point of view, based on the latest clinical and scientific knowledge. I view this panel as an initiative to start to bring together a group of experts who will continue to work on policy recommendations, initially in the State of New Jersey and in the future (if all goes well) nationally. The panel is co-sponsored between the Woodrow Wilson School and the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey.”
Panelists included NFL Hall of Famer Harry Carson, Peter Keating (writer for ESPN and actor in “League of Denial”, Barbara Geiger-Parker (President and CEO of the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey and a Chairperson on the United States Brain Injury Alliance), Columbia University Assistant Professor of Neurology James Noble, world-renowned economist Uwe Reinhardt, and Dr. Dettwiler-Danspeckgruber (a leader in the field of concussion research).
I learned an incredible amount from the panelists, and I am sure the same would be said by all the members sitting in the packed auditorium. There were a few points in particular that stuck with me. One was that concussion education needs to reach young age groups (i.e. 7-8 year olds) so that as they are entering sports they can have concussion awareness instilled into their newly forming sports world. A second point is that there are still so many unknowns when it comes to concussions, and it is essential that more scientific research is funded to eliminate this ambiguity. Lastly, every person involved in youth athletics including parents, researchers, coaches, clinicians, educators athletic trainers, athletic directors, and referees are responsible for making sure that youth athletes in the present and future are protected. It takes a total team effort to make sure kids are properly educated, diagnosed, and rehabilitated in the proper manner. I also had the honor of participating in the discussion as a representative of Countywide Concussion Care and the voice of a youth athlete who has suffered concussions. My contribution was well received by both the panelists and the audience, and it was a true honor to play a part in such an amazing event.
Another noteworthy event that I took part in recently was the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Great Sports Legends Dinner on September 29th. The Miami Project has backed Countywide Concussion Care since its inception, providing resources, hosting events, being a voice for the safety of youth athletes, and countless other essential contributions via the Project’s Kidz Neuroscience Center. The work that Marc and Nick Buoniconti have done for countless injured people truly is inspirational. Their annual fundraiser in New York City was an incredible event. Legends such as Warren Sapp and Grant Hill were honored and mingled with the crowd. There was a tangible sense of hope for a future in which spinal cord injuries are the thing of the past. In the midst of his incredibly touching speech about being a quadriplegic and how he will one day get out of his chair, Marc praised the work that the Project has done to combat concussions. That Marc would go out of his way to praise the efforts of the Kidz Neuroscience Center and Countywide Concussion meant so much to myself and Dr. Gillian Hotz, the administrator of Countywide Concussion Care for Miami-Dade County, who was also in attendance.
I hope to continue to participate in events like these and to spread the message of concussion awareness and protection. This past week has reminded me of how much progress has been made in terms of combating the issue of concussions and how much more work there is left to be done. Everyone out there who is reading this has a role to play in protecting youth athletes from concussions. Let’s get to it.