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The Concussion Report: A Roundup of the Latest Headlines

7 Aug, 2019

By: Michael Popke

The dominance by the United States Women’s National Team in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup helped shed a spotlight on concussions in soccer and their impact on female players.

As Traci Snedden, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, recently pointed out in a USA Today opinion piece: “The rate of concussion among female soccer players has been called an unpublicized epidemic. Perhaps it’s because we don’t realize the alarming incidence of concussion in girls and women’s soccer, still stuck on the outdated belief that most concussions happen in football or men’s ice hockey. Perhaps because concussion in men is the primary focus of the media, the Boston brain bank and CTE headlines. Perhaps because until just recently, federally funded research had no mandate to include women in their recruitment plans.”

But, as Sneddon points out, the number of concussions in girls’ and women’s soccer has equaled or exceeded the incidence rate of football and other men’s sports at the high school and college level for years.

“The USNWT deserves more than equal pay,” she concludes. “They deserve equal scientific attention and media coverage directed expressly toward prevention and recognition of concussion, clinical management and focused efforts to reduce concussion’s effects in female soccer players.

• For college student-athletes, having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be linked to increased concussion symptoms — and longer concussion-recovery times — according to a preliminary study released in July and presented at the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis. The study used data from the NCAA-Department of Defense Grand Alliance: Concussion Assessment, Research, and Education (CARE) Consortium to evaluate 20 athletes with ADHD who were taking psychostimulant medications for ADHD, 20 athletes with ADHD who were not taking those medications and 80 athletes who did not have ADHD. All of the athletes experienced concussions during their seasons.Athletes with ADHD who were taking medication had symptoms for an average of 12 days, compared to 10 days for those with ADHD who were not taking medication and four days for those without ADHD. All athletes with ADHD exhibited greater decreases in verbal memory and greater increases in symptom severity one to two days after concussion, compared to the control athletes. “These results may help as we try to determine why some athletes take longer to return to play and experience greater symptom burden,” R. Davis Moore of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Athletes with ADHD should be monitored with this in mind, … and in general it’s important to be aware of and address pre-existing health conditions in anyone at risk for concussion.”

• The style of tackling used in rugby may be associated with a lower force of impact than that used in football, according to a preliminary study of college student-athletes that was presented at the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference in Indianapolis in July. The study measured impact data from 30 male athletes during their spring practice season; 20 of the participants were football players who had impact sensors placed in their helmets, while 10 of the participants were rugby players who had mouthguards with sensors inserted into them. After researchers adjusted for factors such as false impacts, they found that the frequency of impacts was lower for the rugby players than for the football players. “For athletes who participate in a sport that involves a tackle or direct contact, adapting a rugby-style tackle where the players lead with their shoulders, not their heads, could make college sports safer,” study author Zach Garrett of Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., said in a statement. “A small number of NFL teams have incorporated the rugby-style tackle in an effort to reduce risk of concussion.”

Headgear worn during female lacrosse practices and games can reduce the rate of head and face injuries, as well as concussions, according to researchers in the Department of Orthopedics at the New York University Langone Health. In 2017, the Public Schools Athletic League of New York City became the first high school league in the country to mandate ASTM standard F3137 headgear for all girls’ lacrosse players. Researchers evaluated injuries among players on eight varsity and junior varsity girls’ lacrosse teams (as well as their game opponents), who were mandated to wear F3137 headgear for all practices and games over the course of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Certified athletic trainers assessed and documented all injuries that occurred, and those injury rates were compared with those from the High School RIO (Reporting Information Online) injury data reports from the 2009 to 2016 seasons. Lead researcher Samuel Baron and his team concluded that mandated use of F3137 headgear was shown to be effective at lowering the rate of head or face injury and concussions in girls’ lacrosse. Additionally, mandated headgear use was also shown to lower the rate of non-head/face injuries during practices. (For an in-depth look at the issue, click here.).

• The University of Houston’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is leading a $3.2 million project to create new technology that could provide an unprecedented look at concussions and other brain injuries. The technology combines a new generation of “super microscopes,” according to department chair Badri Roysam, that deliver detailed multi-spectral images of brain tissue and a “supercomputer” that interprets the data. Roysam added in a statement that this technology will be particularly helpful in better understanding pathological treatments triggered by concussions. “By allowing us to see the effects of the injury, treatments and the body’s own healing processes at once, the combination offers unprecedented potential to accelerate investigation and development of next-generation treatments for brain pathologies.” The project is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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