Concussing Our Kids, One Hit At a Time

While pro sports finally fess up to the dangers of high-impact athletics, trainers, coaches, parents and lawmakers struggle to curb head injuries that are even more dangerous for kids.

The findings have forced the NFL to shelve its concussion skepticism. In February, the league urged all states to pass concussion legislation in youth athletics. But for the 75 former NFL pros who sued the league in July, alleging it concealed the dangers of the injuries for decades, it's too little, too late. Football retirees such as Mark Duper, Ottis Anderson and Raymond Clayborn are claiming that the league was careless in its false assumptions. (The NFL plans to contest the allegations.)

The proper treatment of concussions, especially in youth sports, is still a developing — and somewhat murky — science.

Dr. Mark Ashley is co-founder, president and CEO of the Centre for Neuro Skills, whose clinics in Bakersfield and Irving, Texas, specialize in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. He's currently helping Ali Champness recover from a number of serious health issues spawned by the not-too-dramatic hit from a soccer ball in January.

Justin Landers, trainer for Katy High (Houston), says new helmets reduce the risk of concussions.
Daniel Kramer
Justin Landers, trainer for Katy High (Houston), says new helmets reduce the risk of concussions.

Champness, based on Ashley's advice, sat out the rest of the soccer season. Two months later, she joined the school's swim team. But three weeks in, Ali called her mom from a competitive meet in a panic. "Mom, you need to get me to a doctor," Kim Champness remembers her daughter saying.

At Ashley's center, an MRI and CAT scan revealed bleeding in Ali's brain. A cardiologist found that the initial concussion had deregulated Ali's autonomic nervous system. For months, whenever Ali jogged on the treadmill, her heartbeat soared high enough to trigger cardiac arrest or stroke. She still goes to rehab three hours a day.

One of Ashley's most severe cases, treated at the Centre's Texas facility in 2006, was a 13-year-old football player from the Seattle suburbs named Zackery Lystedt. In the second quarter of a game, Zack fell backwards after an unremarkable tackle and hit the back of his head, although the injury escaped the notice of his father in the stands. "I thought he had gotten the wind knocked out of him," recalls Victor Lystedt.

Zack played every down for the rest of the game, even forcing a fumble and sprinting to a 32-yard return. But when his dad met him after the game, Zack started stumbling and muttering, "My head hurts really bad." He collapsed onto the field. His left eye suddenly "blew out" and turned an inky black, the result of blood swelling in his skull. And then he convulsed into dozens of strokes. Says Victor, who witnessed the spectacle, helpless and confused, "My boy was dying on a football field." His son would survive, but his serious health problems continue to the present day.

Spurred by stories like Zack's, school districts en masse are adopting new procedures for dealing with blows to the head. The most popular is the ImPACT test. A simple computer program designed by a pair of Pittsburgh doctors in the early 1990s, the exam finds an athlete's "baseline" — his mental aptitude and quickness of reflexes when he's not suffering concussive symptoms — which can be used later in a comparative test to see if a collision has caused a lag.

But the test has hit real-world snags. The first is its price: At packages costing roughly $600 per school for the first year, ImPACT is deemed too expensive for some districts. And even when they spring for the program, few schools can afford to pay a specialist to administer it. That duty tends to fall on coaches or trainers, who are often unqualified to conduct the test.

In 2008, Ryne Dougherty, a 16-year-old high school linebacker in Essex County, New Jersey, sat out three weeks following a concussion. But after taking an ImPACT test, he was cleared to play. During his first game back, he suffered a brain hemorrhage and slipped into a coma. He died within a week.

But Ryne's ImPACT results were ominously low, the family has claimed in a lawsuit against the school district. Additionally, according to the test results, Ryne reported feeling "foggy," but he was still cleared to play.

"Fogginess is the lead predictor of lasting head trauma," says Beth Baldinger, the attorney representing Ryne's family in a suit against the district. "[The trainer] ignored the test results in front of her. This case screams ignorance."

Michele Chemidlin, the trainer who administered the test, ignored phone messages and an email requesting comment for this story. She told Sports Illustrated that Ryne's test was interrupted by a "disruptive" teammate, which made the results "invalid." But Baldinger claims that the trainer retracted that story in a recent deposition.

"It's better than nothing," says UCLA researcher David Hovda about ImPACT. "I don't mean any disrespect, but neuropsychological tests, which require responses and performance from individuals, are always going to have problems because there's always going to be variances."

Complicating head-trauma detection is a recently released Purdue University study that concludes that youth athletes who aren't clinically diagnosed with a concussion are still experiencing fundamental brain changes that may be detrimental. For two seasons, three Purdue professors tracked every practice and game hit sustained by 21 Lafayette Jefferson High School (Indiana) football players. "That's when we started to see that about half of the kids had some level of easily measurable neurophysiological change without any concussion whatsoever," says Purdue's Eric Nauman.

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13 comments
Vitaldifferenceutah
Vitaldifferenceutah

Children being over prescribed with medication and still in chronic pain from sport injuries. I'm a Correctional Officer at the Utah prison system, whose son became addicted to drugs after an injury. He took everything from Oxycodone to Heroin. After searching the country for months for a program that did not us drug to get them off of drugs, I finally found it in Dallas.

The program eliminates the most severe cases of chronic pain with out the use of drugs.

Did you know that most drug addictions happen because of an injury? Did you know that more addicts are caused by prescription drug use first? Did you know that there are more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than from automobile accidents yearly?

The Physicians Institute 214-253-2375 / Victoria Richards CEO and founder direct line 404-918-9099

This technology also repairs fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and bi-polar disorder.

This technology is now in four countries

Please left people now about this technology, it has been a blessing to are family.

Terrycart
Terrycart

So, this article show us kids stop doing too much sports exercise. Is that right?

ron
ron

when you you stop this drivil enough is enough damn kids get hurt playing in the dirt soooo football is contact sports or we could say do the fluff dance but you might break a nail. so in my opinion shut the hell up already.

bb
bb

I don't understand why parents encourage their kids to play in contact sports where risk of concussions and other serious injuries is very high. With school budgets cut to the bone it seems, as usual, the college farm teams (high school sports) are rarely impacted. The cost of busing kids to sporting events, equipment, maintenance of sports facilities, coaching staffs etc. is money that could be spent educating students in preparation for going to college on academic merit, or entering the local workforce. A fraction of 1% of high school students playing sports actual go on to earn a living playing their sport(s). However, most if not all injured playing high school sports carry those injuries for the rest of their life.Yea, I know the arguments on childhood obesity and teaching discipline, but at what cost. Get back to basics of teaching PE (Physical Education) and calisthenics.The high-risk sports should be outsourced to leagues and associations outside the school system similar to the way sports are played in elementary school. (Pop Warner, Little League Baseball etc.)Junior high and high schools should get out of the farm team business.

Ronb77
Ronb77

leticia olalia morales of 15501 pasadena ave #8 tustin ca 92780 submitted fake documents and paid 5000 dollars to obtain a US tourist visa. she also submitted fake employment records to obtain a work visa. she is now applying for citizenship. her contact at the embassy was man named sandman.

Joe
Joe

my son plays football and I have him in a 300+ plus helmet. I get alot of crap because of it but guess what, those who put their kid in those sub 100 water coolers should not be allow to complain when then get their bell gets rung..or better yet..those should not be allowed out on the field. If you can pay to protect your kids head...get the f ck off the field...your child is more important.

CR
CR

"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year. Out of this figure, about 235,000 are hospitalized and 50,000 die, according to the CDC."

What's sad is that after a certain age the majority of these young kids will grow out of these sports (as with alcohol and other drug abuse) but the damage can last a lifetime.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Do the Kids and Parents want to be stars and see stars ? Or not play at all ?

Their choice .

iblobar
iblobar

I think alot of these gung-ho coachs are to blame...mostly the football coachs. Refs have got to do a better job and throw out these agressive dogs that bite....

Roger
Roger

A freak accidental kick to the head derailed my daughters college volleyball career last season. She was not only out of sports, but out of school from last September until July when she went back for Summer 2 classes, she still has some ill affects from the concussion.

Mark Picot
Mark Picot

Concussions not only originate from head contact. Preliminary data supports the use of an orthotic oral appliance designed to prevent the boxers "Glass jaw". In cases of post orthodontics or where temporal mandibular joint dysfunction and concussion history exist, these corrective mouth guards offer more protection than common boil and bite or common custom made tooth protectors. Dr. Bill Burkhart, team dentist for the University of Texas is certified in the protocol to make these adaptive mouth guards.The U.S. Army is moving forward with a research initiative based on the date linked. www.mahercor.com

Study link peer reviewed by a Harvard MGH specialist

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu...

 
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