Posted by: mdegeorge | March 24, 2011

Weekly Diagnosis: March 24

It’s hard to believe that something other than March Madness managed to wriggle its way into my consciousness this week. But I suppose something had to fill all those other hours. So here’s my take on the NHL somewhat asleep at the concussion wheel, some delicious changes at the ballpark, and whether or not concussions are the boogeyman.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

The sudden side of concussions

We’ve gotten accustomed to seeing only the chronic side of concussion syndromes, with lasting damage seemingly only manifesting itself over the decades. But a pair of tragic stories from England reminds us that the issue of head injuries has very immediate and deadly consequences.

In two unrelated incidents last week, young footballers died on the pitch after receiving blows to the head. Huw Thatcher and Reece Jeffrey, both 15, did after being struck during their games. Thatcher was kneed in the head while during a tackle, while Jeffrey suffered an awkward fall to the ground. Thatcher’s death was ruled to have occurred from an aneurysm, a pre-existing condition that may have been caused by an earlier contact and was set off by the latest hit.

The Concussion Blog uses these incidents to highlight what is known as second impact syndrome, the symptoms of which are similar to those of an aneurysm. They also shift the discussion in a couple ways: toward a sport most Americans fail to consider a real contact sport and toward the sudden and devastating effects concussions can have beyond the long-term cumulative effects.

One step up, two steps back for NHL

The solution to head injuries in the NHL isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. So the league can be forgiven for sending some mixed signals as to their policy on how to best police hits to the head. Eventually, though, the stopping and starting has to turn into sustained forward momentum one way or the other.

Consider the actions of the past 10 days. The NHL has tempered the good (mandating examination by a doctor or trained concussion specialist for all players exhibiting symptoms before they return to the ice and avowing increasingly harsh penalties for hits to the head) with the bad (simultaneously eschewing a overarching ban on all head shots).

Despite facing an undeniable rise in concussions, almost half of which were caused by legal hits, the NHL seems to be taking the exact opposite stance of the NFL is in not wanting to compromise the entertainment value of the game. That position is typified by Montreal’s Pierre Gauthier: “We don’t want to slow down the game. It’s a good game.”

It creates an interesting dilemma. I’m not in accord with the NFL’s new kick-off rules and not ok with the NHL’s lack of action. So how’s going to find the conciliatory middle ground?

Buy me some peanuts and turkey burgers?

It’s almost time for America’s pastime to start up, with the national holiday that is Opening Day so close you can smell the freshly cut grass.

That almost means it’s time for those tasty, and usually unhealthy, ballpark treats. The latter condition has changed in some parks though. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, for example, is rolling out healthier, lighter fare for those not looking to caulk their arteries at Bull’s Bar-be-que. Philles fans have the first half of the year to decide between a Grilled Chipotle Chicken Wrap and a Char-grilled Turkey Burger, with the winner becoming a permanent fixture on the menus after the All-Star break. They’ll also unveil a Philly Fresh menu for Phanatics, which features such healthy snacks as hummus and pita chips, yogurt parfaits, carrots and celery sticks, smoothies and new garden salads.

The Food Network is also getting into the act, setting up food carts for the decidedly gourmet at eight stadiums. They’ll be featuring the Red, White & Blue steak sandwich, which includes Maytag blue cheese and sweet and spicy Peppadew-pepper mayonnaise on a French demi baguette. In addition, the Food Network chefs also concocted steak sandwiches with local flair for all eight cities.

Beside the fact that these sandwiches have to cost about $41 a pop, it’s nice to see some fresh fare at the ballpark. It’ll be especially good if you have four friends to share it with to defray the costs.

Concussions, the bogeyman, and you

We might as well end on a bit of a high note with this quote from renowned concussion expert Micky Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program. Collins, who was profiled by ESPN last spring, is a staunch believer that concussion are a problem that can be alleviated with early detection and prudent and patient treatment.

As we peel the onion on this injury and we started doing more and more research and more and more clinical work, it’s like, wow, this is really something that needs to be dealt with, and you have to do it very carefully … Researchers and doctors figured out that, despite their serious nature, concussions can be effectively treated. If managed correctly, Collins said, the potential for long-term effects can be mitigated.

Article of the Week

YahooSports Carla Swank’s takeout of what seems like a spike in sudden deaths of high school athletes is a comprehensive and touch look at far too many kids who died too young. She does a nice job of examining causes and offers some suggestions as to future prevention.


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