So…is encouraging kids to play tackle football the same as encouraging them to smoke? If you ask the Concussion Legacy Foundation (formerly known as the Sports Legacy Institute), it is. That organization, dedicated to solving the concussion crisis by advancing the study, treatment, and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups, just unveiled an incendiary new promotion.
In its new public service announcement as part of the “Tackle Can Wait” campaign, the foundation compares playing youth tackle football to smoking and shows a coach handing out cigarettes to his young players.
“Tackle football is like smoking: The younger I start, the longer I’m exposed to danger,” a youthful voice-over says as a smiling, motherly type lights a cigarette for one of the pre-teen players.
The goal of the ad is to encourage parents to keep their kids in flag football until they turn 14.
“We now have the data that show that playing youth tackle football and developing [chronic traumatic encephalopathy] is correlated in a very similar way to smoking and developing lung cancer,” CLF co-founder and former professional wrestler Chris Nowinski told the Associated Press. “We’re trying to help parents visualize that those two things are equally bad: Letting your kid smoke and letting your kid play tackle football are both bad ideas.”
In other news…
• The high school sports with the highest rates of concussion are football, girls’ soccer and boys’ ice hockey, according to a new study published in the academic journal Pediatrics.
“These results matter for all stakeholders involved in high school sports: parents, coaches, athletes, as well as researchers,” Avinash Chandran, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an author of the study, told CNN.com. “This study updates our understanding of concussion patterns in high school sports using injury surveillance data. It adds to our existing understanding by providing the most recent ‘time-stamp’ in concussion incidence in high school sports.”
According to CNN:
The study included data on 9,542 concussions across 20 high school sports that occurred between the 2013-2014 and 2017-2018 school years.
Those sports were: boys’ football, wrestling, soccer, basketball, baseball, cross country, ice hockey, lacrosse, swimming and diving, and track and field; girls’ volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball, cross country, field hockey, lacrosse, swimming and diving, and track and field; and coed cheerleading.
The data came from the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study database, or HS RIO.
For the study, a concussion — a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head — was defined as occurring as a result of practice or competition, requiring medical attention and being diagnosed as a concussion.
For each sport, the rate of concussion was measured as the occurrence of a concussion per each exposure athletes had to participating in their respective sport, either in practice or competition.
… The study found that across all sports, most concussions — 63.7% — occurred during competitions. Only one sport had a concussion rate higher in practice than in competition: cheerleading.
Shortly after the study was published in early October, the executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations claimed that “much of the media coverage as it relates to high school sports — and particularly the sport of football — is misleading.”
Karissa L. Niehoff, in a wide-ranging piece, notes that the study published in Pediatrics “indicated that concussion rates during football practices dropped from 5.47 to 4.44 concussions per 10,000 athletic exposures between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 seasons. In addition, repeat concussion rates across all sports declined from 0.47 to 0.28 per 10,000 exposures during the same time period.”
She adds that all states now have concussion laws on the books, and all NFHS sports rulebooks include concussion management protocols and prohibit helmet-to-helmet hits in football, with limited contact during the preseason and practices.
“After considering all the available research, we encourage parents to let their kids play their sport of choice in high school, but we would discourage moving away from football —or any contact sport — solely based on the fear of developing CTE later in life,” Niehoff concluded.
• A new study questions the ongoing hypothesis that the blunt force behind a traumatic brain injury causes nerve damage. A team of researchers from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke, the University of Maryland, the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, and Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciencesfound greater signs of blood vessel damage than nerve damage after performing postmortem scans on an injured brain. The findings could influence the treatment of and development of new drugs for traumatic brain injuries, the researchers say. “Nerve damage following traumatic brain injuries has been a majority point of view, and therapy as well as drug development has been targeted towards that,” CSHL professor Partha Mitra saidin a statement. “The idea is that if the mechanism is actually different, therapeutic intervention may also be different.”
• SyncThink, a global leader in neurotechnology and brain health analytics, recently announced a partnership with North Boulder Chiropractic in Colorado, which will be implementing the award-winning EYE-SYNC technology. EYE-SYNC uses high-speed, high-fidelity infrared cameras to capture the subtlest eye movements, many of which cannot be observed through a standard clinical evaluation, and the technology has been designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a “Breakthrough Device” for aid in concussion assessment. North Boulder Chiropractic is the first chiropractic center to adopt EYE-SYNC. “What impressed me … is the speed at which you can get an objective, accurate assessment for neurological function,” the center’s Dr. David Boynton said in a statement. “Within three minutes I have a level of certainty, as does the patient/athlete, for initial assessment and tracking progress.”
• Sleep deprivation and concussions aren’t mentioned in the same sentence too often. But in a recent interview with ESPN.com, Tobias Harris, a forward with the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, made the connection. “I think in a couple years, [sleep deprivation] will be an issue that’s talked about, like the NFL with concussions.” Indeed, the article in which he was quoted was headlined ‘The dirty little secret that everybody knows about,’ and detailed concerns about sleep deprivation in the NBA. “Some in the league, from players and coaches to training personnel, have begun to suspect that the toll extracted by the NBA grind — the combination of the sport’s physical demands, the circadian disruptions, the six to eight months of travel across time zones — is not fully appreciated,” ESPN senior writer Baxter Holmes wrote. “Some of those specialists have begun compiling data. And that data suggests that sleep deprivation is the NBA’s silent scourge, a pox on the bodies and minds of NBA athletes, with impacts both wide and deep.” Sounds lot like the way concussions were once talked about in the NFL, doesn’t it?