Jan 29, 2015
Inside Concussion Headlines

By Abigail Funk

When University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was diagnosed with a concussion after being knocked out during a game in late September, head injuries were again a source of much conversation in the sports medicine community and among the general public. Here, T&C rounds up the latest buzz, including concussion injuries in the news, two recent studies of interest, and what some groups are doing to raise concussion safety awareness.
Injury Updates
You couldn’t watch SportsCenter last weekend without seeing a clip of University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow taking a hard–but clean–hit from a University of Kentucky defensive end. Gator fans took a collective gasp last Saturday when, as Tebow was sacked, his head connected with a teammate’s leg, snapping it forward. He laid motionless on the field for several minutes before walking off, but then began exhibiting symptoms of a concussion, including vomiting. He was transported to a Kentucky hospital, where he stayed until Sunday morning when he returned home.

Over the past week, Tebow was closely monitored and underwent daily post-concussion tests, including the Balance Equilibrium Scoring System (BESS) test, the Standardized Assessment of Concussion (SAC), and Post-Concussion Symptom Scale evaluations. Head Coach Urban Meyer has been inundated with questions from the media and fans about Tebow’s status, and accompanied his star quarterback to a testing session on Tuesday so he could see what the process is like.

“It’s been an amazing week,” Meyer told the Associated Press. “I was in the room with the doctors because I wanted to see it. I always hear about the baseline. It’s interesting how that’s evolved over the years, so I sat and watched it.”

Florida had a bye this past weekend, which couldn’t have come at a better time. Tebow’s teammate, cornerback Moses Jenkins, also suffered a concussion during the Kentucky game. Status updates on Jenkins and Tebow are expected sometime this week.

In more grim news, a 17-year-old Washington high school football player died last Sunday after suffering a head injury during a Friday night game. Andrew Swank is thought to have suffered a concussion when he was blocked and his head awkwardly hit the ground during an eight-man game. Swank’s teammates wore their jerseys to school in his honor on Monday, and postponed their game that was to be played this past weekend.

In Montana, a high school girls’ soccer player returned to school last week after suffering a skull fracture during a game two weeks ago. Maddie Cebuhar was tending goal and blocked a shot, but collided with an opposing player. She lost consciousness for 20 seconds, but after being transported to a hospital, underwent successful surgery that included implementing a titanium plate to relieve pressure on her brain.

Recent Research
Cebuhar may be proof of a recent study that showed evidence female athletes exhibit more severe post-concussion symptoms than their male counterparts. Appearing in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, the study from Mount Sinai Medical Center researchers tested post-concussion memory and reaction times in 141 female and 93 male soccer players ages eight to 24–within two weeks of their concussion diagnosis. In addition to exhibiting a higher number of symptoms, the female players also had significantly slower reaction times in the tests.

Another study, from University of Kentucky researchers, had scientists watching YouTube videos of athletes sustaining head injuries, and noticed a trend: The majority of athletes in the videos who suffered moderate to severe impacts to the head and didn’t immediately get up exhibited an involuntary arm motion called the “fencing response” before they even hit the ground.

In other words, the athletes put their forearm up in the en garde position seen in fencing or sword fighting. Researchers said the response “indicates damage to blood vessels and neurons in a critical brainstem region that controls balance” and its presence may be able to predict that an athlete has just suffered a concussion.

Safety Developments
A highly anticipated batting helmet from Rawlings, the S100, was tested by two All-American high school baseball teams in August, and the players gave it some pretty good reviews. With its extra padding and Polypropylene liner, the S100 is being touted as the safest batting helmet currently available.

Educational concussion safety programs are making headlines these days, too. The Illinois Athletic Trainers Association and the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch have teamed up for a concussion safety awareness campaign in the state.

And Maine high schools are making a major effort in pushing for student-athlete safety when it comes to concussions and return-to-play decisions. William Heinz, MD, an orthopedist at Orthopaedic Associates in Portland, and Paul Berkner, DO, Medical Director of Health Services at Colby College, recently established the Maine Concussion Management Initiative. Its goal is to provide ImPact testing to all Maine public high schools for free.

“The (ImPact) test gives us a fingerprint of the brain, tells us how the brain is functioning from a cognitive sense,” Heinz told the Portland Press Herald. “It’s a very accurate way of monitoring concussions and trying to decide when kids are ready to go back to play. And that’s the important thing.”

Abigail Funk is an Assistant Editor at Training & Conditioning.

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