Tag Archives: sports

Covering sports concussions: Some takeaways from the #AHCJ16 panel

Tara Haelle

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo: Tara Haelle/AHCJNFL free agent Josh Cribbs captivated attendees with his own experiences, talking about the lengths that players would go to conceal possible concussions and game the tests.

Photo: Tara Haelle/AHCJNFL free agent Josh Cribbs captivated attendees with his own experiences, talking about the lengths that players would go to conceal possible concussions and game the tests.

Conversations about concussions, traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) have become more common in recent years as many military veterans return with disabling head injuries and the impact of football injuries on the brain gets more scrutiny in medical research.

The recent movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, raised even more awareness of the sports side of the issue. The higher profile in the media about sports head injuries, specifically in football, was the focus of a well-attended panel, “Covering the Concussion Crisis: Research and Real Life,” at the Health Journalism 2016 conference last month. Continue reading

Smokeless tobacco use among teens on the rise, even among athletes

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Image derived from SETShots via Flickr

The use of snuff and other smokeless tobacco products by American high school students is up significantly, even among high school athletes typically more inclined than their peers to be health conscious, federal health officials say.

In fact, athletes are more likely to use smokeless tobacco than their non-athlete classmates, according to a recently published study. Continue reading

‘Back-to-school’ a good time to focus on sports-related dental injuries

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

With millions of school athletes headed back to playing fields across the country, protecting teeth from loss and damage should be on the minds of parents, coaches, teachers and players too.

Ray Padilla spends plenty of time thinking about sports-related dental injuries.

He’s the team dentist for the Los Angeles Galaxy Major League Soccer team, for athletes at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is a consulting dentist for U.S. national and Olympic soccer teams.

A featured speaker at the recent annual meeting of the California Dental Association, Padilla shared his expertise with other dentists, and DrBicuspid.com assistant editor Therese Pablos, who caught up with him for an interview. Continue reading

Baseball’s Schilling blames tobacco for cancer; what do reporters need to know about links?

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Jeff Archer via Flickr

Photo: Jeff Archer via Flickr

The ties between smokeless tobacco and baseball run deep. The immortal Babe Ruth claimed Pinch Hit was his chew of choice (as this short film from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us). Now, World Series-winning pitcher Curt Schilling, who revealed in June that his cancer was in remission but didn’t say what kind of cancer it was, has announced that it is oral cancer. He blames the cancer on his 30 years of chewing tobacco.

The June death of Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn served as a reminder of the dangers posed by the habit. Gwynn said he believed the salivary gland cancer that killed him was caused by his longtime use of chewing tobacco.

National, state and local health organizations used the story of Gwynn’s passing to talk about the dangers of smokeless tobacco and likely will use Schilling’s news to raise awareness. Is there an angle in this that you could explore in your own state or community?

Mary Otto, AHCJ’s core topic leader on oral health, has written a tip sheet that includes links to studies on the connections between smokeless tobacco and cancer, where Major League Baseball and the players stand on eliminating chewing tobacco from the sport and more information you can use when reporting on the almost inevitable awareness campaigns. Read it now…

As Tenn. lags in youth sports concussion laws, reporter shows delay taking a toll

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 Tennesean‘s Nate Rau becomes the leader in the clubhouse for 2012’s “most viscerally disquieting use of a verb” award after opening his youth sports concussions story with “The hit that sloshed 17-year-old Joseph Lascara’s brain.” The entire anecdote, much like the hit it describes, is well-timed and jarring, and Rau then follows through with a thorough investigation of Tennessee’s legislative approach to youth head injuries, or lack thereof.

high school tackle

Photo by Eagle102.net via Flickr

The state’s athletic association has adopted limited concussion prevention and treatment regulations, but they do not apply to nonmember schools or independent youth sports organizations. Furthermore, Rau writes that efforts to pass statewide legislation “fizzled” this year, meaning that “Tennessee is now one of only 11 states, mostly in the Southeast, without a law,” even though “doctors who specialize in youth concussion care say the issue is urgent.”

The number of youth concussions treated at hospitals in Tennessee has increased 74 percent from 480 in 2007 to 834 in 2010, according to the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Program, which functions as a resource for Tennesseans recovering from brain injuries. Those numbers do not include young athletes who were treated by their pediatricians instead of going to the emergency room.

Journalists looking to replicate Rau’s work would do well to note how he used public records requests to access the so-called “Return to Play” forms (required by many state and local concussion-prevention laws) which doctors must file before young athletes may return to the field. While some local counties couldn’t locate the forms, the 140 he did find indicated a somewhat inconsistent implementation.

The review showed that doctors are frequently clearing athletes to return to practice or competition without following the recommended guidelines that gradually ease players back into physical activity. Of the 156 athletes who visited a doctor with concussion-like symptoms, 57 were immediately cleared to return to play.

College football, sickle cell can be deadly combo

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.

Rachel George, Iliana Limón and Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel look at college football players whose deaths have been linked to sickle cell trait.

Overwhelmingly in the past 11 years, more non-traumatic football deaths have occurred from complications from sickle cell trait than any other cause. It has accounted for nine of the 21 non-traumatic deaths in that time despite the trait existing in just 8 percent of African-Americans. It accounts for an even lesser extent in Hispanics, Caucasians and other ethnicities. And while the trait has been linked to deaths in other sports and at other levels, it has affected a much greater number of college football players.

Many doctors, coaches and trainers wonder what factors push a “generally benign” trait into a dangerous medical condition. George outlines some of the factors, such as coming back to training after a break, the kinds of drills athletes do, heat and hydration, altitude and more.

In the stories, doctors, coaches and former players discuss why football accounts for 82 percent of the cases in the U.S. National Registry of Sudden Death in Athletes.

The story includes NCAA materials about sickle cell trait and a graphic of the difference between normal blood cells and sickle cells. In a related story, Owens reports that “every baby in the United States is tested for sickle cell trait at birth, many athletes who’ve had it either didn’t know or didn’t understand what it meant.” In another story, she talks to parents of a child born with sickle cell trait who say they didn’t get information about the potential fatal complications.