Friday, September 17, 2010

Time To Rethink How Practice is Conducted?

Practice gives greater exposure to concussive and sub-concussive forces than the games themselves. As reported in the New York Times, recent studies conducted on three NCAA Division I teams, a football team will encounter more than 2500 significant blows to the head that are in excess of 50g’s of force and approximately 200 head blows that are above 200g’s. These are just the blows that are of significance and are considered great enough for the athlete to sustain a concussion. The sub concussive forces that occur every time there is contact with another athlete or the ground are too great in number to count. The deaths of Chris Henry (Cleveland Bengals) and Owen Thomas (University of Pennsylvania) have shown the importance of limiting the exposure to sub concussive forces to the brain, not just those significant enough to create injury.

There have been some important research findings in the past few months that, if taken seriously, will lead to safer sport. Until recently, purposeful heading of the ball in soccer was considered a non-issue in regards to brain trauma. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the rate of concussions among soccer athletes in both recreation and elite leagues is similar to football and hockey. With the recent evidence of Tau protein formation resulting from multiple sub concussive hits to the head, the AAP has recently (released September 2010) altered their position that the “contribution of purposeful "heading" of the soccer ball to both acute and potential long-term concussive effects, such as cognitive dysfunction, seems less controversial today than previously.” (Clinical Report Injuries in Youth Soccer) The AAP is waiting for more definitive evidence to actually site the relationship between purposeful heading and long term brain damage. But the sport of soccer (or any of the contact and contact/collision sports) should not wait for long term studies to come to fruition before action is taken. Currently Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) can not be definitively diagnosed except through an autopsy of the brain.

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