Local approach to the concussion crisis

The sport of football is facing a growing problem regarding the health and safety of its athletes.  Approximately 3.8 million athletes in the United States will suffer a concussion this year.  Many of these may be the result of high velocity collision sports like football and hockey.  Since last season, four NFL players have committed suicide and autopsies revealed chronic brain damage associated with multiple brain injuries.

Concussion is best defined as “a syndrome of immediate and transient alteration of neurologic function as a result of a biomechanical force.”  The biomechanical force is generally a blow to the head.  Athletes have become bigger, stronger and faster over the past twenty years and protective equipment has not been able to keep up.

Many experts in the field of sports medicine have focused their efforts on reducing brain damage from repeated concussion.  Recommendations include modification of rules, teaching proper playing skills, providing appropriate, well-fit equipment and assuring the presence of trained medical personnel at sporting events.

Education is crucial to the success of any far-reaching public health effort.  Locally, Backus Hospital has partnered with the NFL Players’ Association and St. Louis Rams Super Bowl champion Ernie Conwell to produce an eight-minute video educating coaches, parents and athletes on the signs and symptoms of concussion.

Six local high schools have already agreed to show the video to every athlete involved in a high-velocity collision sport.  The goal of this program, titled, Concussion: Recognition, Rest, Recovery, is to increase early awareness and reporting of concussions.

The video is available online at www.backushospital.org.  Copies of the CD can be obtained free by sending an e-mail to aalessi@wwbh.org. 

Concussion is a serious consequence for all athletes regardless of gender and level of competition.  The widespread dissemination of accurate information can be lifesaving.

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