Living with Chronic Pain

Why NO One Wants to Take Concussions Seriously (Part 2)

2014-10-27 10:58:13

This blog was initially published in August.  Sadly as was witnessed on Saturday at the college football game in London, Ontario, no one appears to be taking concussions seriously.  The star quarterback was played a week earlier just 2 weeks after suffering a reported concussion.  That should never have happened. On Saturday, 3 weeks after the initial concussion, he was knocked out cold on the field.  A second preventable brain injury appears to be the result.  Unfortunately, it continues to appear that no one wants to take traumatic brain injury seriously.  The blog is worth repeating.  Perhaps litigation or a union for college football players is the only way to fix this. 


August 2014


Today in the London Free Press there is an interesting article of how the Fowler Kennedy Clinic at the University of Western Ontario is joining forces with an American network, to continue to research the impact of concussions on athletes and others who experience them.  I am interested to know how an organization known throughout the world as the “go to place” for orthopedic injuries is going to use those professionals to diagnose and treat concussions or traumatic brain injury.  Truth be told, no one will admit it; that they really don’t want to know if an athlete has experienced a concussion, nor do they know what to do if that athlete comes forth and admits to having one.  Here are my thoughts and suggestions of how to fix this problem:


  1. Athletes are not supposed to admit that they are injured and can’t play.  Playing hurt is part of the code in most contact sports, especially football and hockey.  Most athletes will never say they can’t play.  Someone else has to tell them.


  1. Orthopedic surgeons are great at fixing body parts but don’t have the extensive training of neurologists, or psychologists with speciality training.  They should stop pretending.


  1. Parents only care for their children.  Many feel that means getting them ready to play at a high level for scholarships or even the NHL.  They don’t usually do it on purpose, but they also don’t want to know if their child has had a concussion.


  1. Coaches and General Managers want to win.  Even those who care about their players don’t usually know enough about traumatic brain injury to take it seriously.  Got your “bell rung” or “seeing those stars” is still part of much of the culture in contact sports.


  1. You don’t fill out a checklist or watch someone to diagnose a knee injury.  You look at the knee with sophisticated neuroimaging techniques.  Why isn’t that standard protocol with the brain? While we have created a free web site to help track and monitor concussions it should only be a very small part of the return to play decision.

You can replace a knee, or hip, but not a brain.  We only have one chance, so here is what we need to do:

 Baseline all athletes with an EEG prior to starting a season.  You can then look at the brain again after a suspected injury and have experts in the field look at those.  Dr. Robert Thatcher is one of those experts and practices in St. Petersburg, Florida.


 Once verified, use an ACL knee rule.  One concussion and you must not play for 10 weeks.  You could only return if a subsequent evaluation determines the brain is healed.  Have another concussion, and you are out for 12 months.  No discussion, no exceptions.


I’m not sure we will ever accept that even having one concussion can be a life changing event.  The main reason I believe is that most involved with contact sports DON’T WANT TO KNOW.