Tag Archives: sports medicine

Focus on hockey’s head injuries grows

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins takes a look at hockey injuries, especially head injuries.

hockey-injury

Photo by Alex Kehr via Flickr

He points to an article in the Globe and Mail about the long-term effect of concussions and what Canada is doing to combat the issue, contrasted with what some places in the United States are doing to better treat and prevent concussions.

The article cites a study in the March 2009 issue of Brain that found former athletes were still suffering the effects of their head injuries more than 30 years after their last concussion.

Tompkins also notes the National Hockey League – which had 10 players out with head injuries in November – is confronting the problem by banning “blindside hits” to the head.

Even pro wrestling has a wellness program

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

umaga

Wrestler Chris Jericho fights WWE colleague Eddie Fatu (aka “Umaga”). Fatu died at age 36 after a Dec. 4, 2009 heart attack. He had been kicked from the WWE for wellness program violations in June. Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.

Writing for Human Resource Executive Online, Jared Shelly explained World Wrestling Entertainment’s version of an employee wellness program. With at least 22 professional wrestlers (including a number of high-profile WWE stars) dying before their 45th birthday since 2003, the health challenges faced by the high-impact WWE aren’t exactly typical, and neither is their wellness program.

For starters, the wrestlers are technically independent contractors, not employees, and the wellness program is run by a third party contracted by WWE. The program itself, instituted in 2006, revolves around drug testing (both for the performance enhancing and recreational varieties) four times a year, with suspensions and testing escalating with every instance in which a particular wrestler tests positive.

Wrestlers’ contracts are terminated after their third violation of the policy, but they are still eligible for the Former Talent Rehabilitation Program, an anti-drug-addiction prorgam used by about 4 percent of former WWE wrestlers.

NCAA doesn’t monitor painkiller use

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Gene Sapakoff of the Charleston, S.C. Post and Courier reports that while the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference went to the mat this summer over bagel quality in relation to an “ACC rules proposal seeking to specify ‘that an institution may provide fruit, nuts and bagels to student-athletes at any time,'” collegiate sports’ governing body doesn’t have any system in place to track or regulate the injections and painkillers given on a regular basis to many student-athletes.

ncaainjury

Photo by Monica’s Dad via Flickr

…the NCAA wouldn’t know if a South Carolina or Clemson player received one Toradol shot or 30 last week, or if a given school under its wide jurisdiction was refilling infamously addictive OxyContin and Vicodin prescriptions by the shovelful.

“The NCAA does not monitor that from a national standpoint,” said Mary Wilfert, the NCAA’s Associate Director of Health and Safety. “That is left to the institutions and also left to those professional and legal and ethical regulatory bodies that folks in those fields operate under.”

The NCAA sources Sapakoff consulted said that monitoring painkillers and other drugs given to student-athletes, while a good idea, would be a “gargantuan task” beyond the association’s resources.

“Just way too much to try and get a handle on. Simple as that, unfortunately,” said an NCAA official, requesting anonymity. “We just don’t have the staff as it is.”

Sapakoff’s series on painkillers in football also looked at high schools and the NFL.

Tim Tebow’s head fuels concussion debate

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The debate over sports-related concussions has resurfaced this week, thanks to the high-profile controversy over whether or not Florida quarterback Tim Tebow should play next week (The No. 1 Gators will face the No. 4 LSU Tigers in the Oct. 10 game), despite his recent concussion.

Experience

The Gainesville Sun‘s Kevin Brockway interviewed ESPN football analyst Merrill Hoge to get an idea of the long-term ramifications of Tebow’s decision this week. Hoge is still suffering the residual effects of the concussions that forced him out of the NFL in 1994 after nine years as a fullback with the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The key quote comes when Hoge, who was once cleared to play after a concussion after a token over-the-phone check, speaks with the clarity of experience:

high school tackle

Photo by Eagle102.net via Flickr

“This is not a decision that should be made by the University of Florida, Urban Meyer or even Tim Tebow himself,” Hoge said. “This is a medical decision that should be made strictly by doctors.”

Asked what advice he would give Tebow, Hoge said the former Heisman Trophy winner should become as educated as possible about his condition and be honest about the symptoms he’s feeling.

“What’s one more week to sit out when you are talking about the rest of your life,” Hoge said.

Ethics

Bloomberg’s Scott Soshnick, meanwhile, tackles the ethics involved in the decision facing Tebow’s coach, Urban Meyer. He doesn’t seem impressed by Meyer’s actions.

Meyer says that a decision on when Tebow returns rests solely with the university’s medical team. Tebow would be wise to consult an independent doctor whose salary isn’t paid by a university that reaps millions from its powerhouse football program.

Meyer is giving himself plausible deniability. If Tebow plays against LSU and gets knocked senseless, the coach can say that he relied on the expertise of the medical professionals.

According to Soshnick, it’s up to Meyer to “protect Tebow from himself,” and keep the selfless player from trading short-term glory for potential lifelong damage.

Science

Finally, the concussion debate has been amplified by stories like Alan Schwarz’ report in The New York Times that an NFL-commissioned study found that “Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49.” See the full study here.

For the other side of the story, see NFL Executive Vice President Harold Henderson’s USA Today opinion piece, in which he attempts to make the case that “The NFL has played a leading role for years in advancing the prevention, treatment and awareness of concussions in sports.”

Related

Ky. county to warn coaches about air pollution

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In a story that shows how health stories can span several beats, James Bruggers, writing for the Louisville Courier-Journal‘s kentuckianagreen.com, reports that the Jefferson County School District (which includes Louisville) will now share air pollution warnings with district coaches, who may then use that information to alter practice schedules.

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Louisville skyline (Photo by Glorius via Flickr)

The decision comes as a statewide sports safety work group created by the Kentucky General Assembly is scheduled to take up questions about air quality and outdoor practice at a meeting Thursday in Lexington. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association also is weighing possible recommendations on air quality and sports practices to its 279 members.

Bruggers found that, right now, such advisory practices (and more severe restrictions) are not widespread nationwide. “Bruce Howard, spokesman for the National Federation of High School Associations, said he has not heard of any schools or school districts anywhere in the nation with formal policies curbing practice during air quality warnings,” Bruggers wrote.

22 percent of kids’ hospital visits sports related

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has sifted through the numbers in the 2006 report “Sports Injuries in Children Requiring Hospital Emergency Care” and come up with some interesting observations.

Photo by emrank via Flickr

  • Twenty-two percent of kids’ hospital visits came on account of sports-related bruises, scrapes and broken bones
  • Three times more boys than girls needed hospital treatment for sports injuries
  • Teens were five times more likely than younger children to need sports-related emergency room treatment
  • In almost 99 percent of sports-related emergency room visits, the children were treated and released without hospitalization