The issue of concussions in sports has attracted considerable media coverage in recent years.
The early focus was on professional football, a game built around high-speed and full contact between heavy, powerful players, but the scope of reporting and research has expanded widely to include sports at every level.
Reporter Alan Schwarz of the New York Times highlighted the history of concussions and their consequences in the National Football League over the past decade. The league responded by banning some high-risk hits. Further action was taken by investigating a ‘bounty pools’ scandal.
A bounty pool occurs when a team pays bonuses to players who are willing to injure their opponents.
A traumatic brain injury, most commonly referred to as a concussion in sports, is defined as a blow or jolt to the head, or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Traumatic brain injuries can result when the head suddenly hits an object, or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue.
Retired players continue to pursue legal action and raise awareness of the issue, particularly with cases of former players suffering from early-onset dementia that can result from repeated brain trauma, but very little was done before tragedy struck the professional football world. In January 2013, the National Institutes of Health concluded that former NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide in May 2012, had been suffering from a degenerative brain disease.
According to ABC news, a team of scientists who analyzed the brain tissue of Seau concluded the football player suffered a deliberating brain disease likely caused by two decades worth of hits to the head.
The sports world was left in shambles upon hearing the news. Seau was only 43.
Another rough and physical sport involving devastating head trauma is ice hockey. In Canada, hockey causes 44.3% of all brain injuries among Canadian kids. “It’s not surprising that kids are getting head injuries from the physicality involved in Canada’s National sport, but it shows we still need to make major inroads in preventing head injuries,” said Dr. Michael Cuismano, a neurosurgeon at St. Michael’s Hospital.
Over the years, players in the National Hockey League have experienced career-altering injuries as a result of fights, and/or dirty hits that have proven to have short and long-term effects on the brain. NHL all-star Sidney Crosby was out for the better part of a year, beginning in 2010, because of a severe concussion. While Crosby’s injury was a minor setback in his hockey career, the long-term consequences of such injuries can be dire.
Former NHL “enforcer” Derek Boogaard, who died in May 2011, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease directly linked to repeated brain injuries. During his 9-year professional hockey career, Boogard was involved in 27 fights, and threw over 200 hits to opposing players.
While repeated physical contact to the head seems to be an obvious way to sustain a head-related injury; researchers have discovered non-contact sports may still cause brain trauma. During the 2012 National Basketball Association Finals, Oklahoma City star James Harden suffered a concussion just before the beginning of the playoffs. In Major League Baseball, concussions ended the careers of Mike Matheny (now the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals) and Corey Koskie (Canadian, and former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop). They also cost Minnesota Twins star Justin Morneau to miss a season of play. The league instituted a disabled list for players with concussions in 2011 and continues to work on the issue.
Concussion risk may be highest in professional sports, but it starts at the youth level. As children grow up playing amateur and competitive sports – the risk grows. Football, ice hockey as well as baseball, soccer, boxing, gymnastics, horseback riding, skiing and cycling — any sport with potential for hard contact have risks attached to them. The best evidence still continues to raise questions about whether schools and teams are doing enough to protect athletes at a young age.
Two studies were conducted in 2014 by The American Journal of Sports Medicine to determine as much. One study was based on a survey of 1066 college students and concluded that “although a large majority of respondents indicated that their school has a concussion management plan, improvement is needed”. Another paper about protective equipment at the high school level found that among 2081 players enrolled during the 2012-13 football seasons, some 206 (9%) sustained a total of 211 concussions.
That study notes that, regardless of the type and brand of protective equipment, risk for concussion remains the same. The study also suggests it is the nature of on-field play that remains at issue. Because of specific concerns over youth football, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest have started a ratings system for helmets.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. emergency departments annually treat an average of 173,285 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries among children. Such emergency visits have increased 60% over the past decade. In 2009 alone, there were 248,418 such cases.
New research from Harvard has called into question whether current study techniques are suitable. In addition, the long-term effects of head injury are only partially understood. The Boston University Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy received a $1 million donation from the NFL in 2010, and continues to examine the brains of deceased athletes to research and compile case studies on the long-term effects of concussions; the center also conducts other inquiries and publishes academic studies in this field.
Finally, in 2014 a study was published in the journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise providing new evidence that high school athletes may be returning to the field too early after suffering a concussion.
Former Ontario Hockey League defenceman, and Brock University Badger, Kevin Christmas is a victim of retuning to play too early after suffering a concussion. At the time of the injury, he wanted to get back as soon as possible and never considered the long-term effects it would have on his brain.
“I had my first concussion when I was 16, and I’m still feeling the effects today… I forced myself to play because I didn’t want to let my team down, and when you’re young you only care about winning… I went against my doctors orders and to make matter worse, I got into a couple of fights… definitely not the smartest decision I’ve made,” said Christmas.
Christmas continues to suffer from dizzy spells from time-to-time, and often forgets simple daily tasks.
According to Dr. Ann C McKee, professor of neurology and pathology at Boston Univerity, post-mortem brains have taught us a lot about the effects of brain trauma sustained over an extended period of time; specifically to help analyze the damage done to an athlete’s brain.
“We analysed post-mortem brains obtained from a cohort of 85 subjects with histories of repetitive mild traumatic brain injury and found evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 68 subjects, including 64 athletes, 21 military veterans (86% of whom were also athletes) and one individual who engaged in self-injurious head banging behaviour…. Although there are many issues that require more thorough investigation, this study clearly shows that for some athletes there may be severe and devastating long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma that has traditionally been considered only mild.”
Although sports injuries only partially contribute to fatalities, the leading cause of death from sports-related injuries is traumatic brain injury. In the US, about 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries become fatal for children and adolescent athletes.
This poses the question, is the equipment used in contact sports safe or dangerous?
Anne-Christine Duhaime’s study in October 2012 analyzed the clinical characteristics of diagnosed concussions in college athletes wearing instrumented helmets. Her findings included forty-eight separate concussions found in 44 individual players. The results were shocking to say the least.
“Players experienced mental clouding, headaches, and dizziness moments after experiencing head trauma…Thirty-one cases were associated with an identified impact and in 17 cases no specific impact event was identified…Most had no external observed signings,” said Duhaime.
This finding indicates there were no physical, or noticeable side effects in athletes Derek Boogaard and Junior Seau until their brain could no longer function properly. The only way to tell if they had severe brain damage was to analyze the damage caused to their brain tissue.
The approach to manage and care for an athlete with a concussion, or severe head injury can be challenging. Physicians caring for these athletes often question specific types of neurologic, psychological, or radiographic imaging methods used to make a decision in treatment.
“New legislation will undoubtedly increase physician visits for these athletes to return to play. Thus, the goal is to review the latest guidelines regarding concussion management to help all physicians who care for athletes do so appropriately,” said Dr. John K. Su.
Moving forward, it is important for sporting leagues all over North America and the world to implement new and properly structured guidelines. These guidelines must be put in place to urge doctors to be conservative in treating sports-related brain injuries and to not allow someone who has been injured to return to activity that involves risk of further injury until completely free of symptoms. Many athletes over the years have sustained serious injuries, made worse by a lack of knowledge, and understanding from coaches and trainers. This needs to change. If athletes continue to not receive the proper care they need, the injuries that may seem moderate now will likely require rehabilitation and include physical and occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, medication, psychological counseling, and social support. If you know anyone suffering from post-concussion symptoms, please take them to a doctor – you may be saving their life.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says he is pleased with Rio Janeiro’s preparations for the 2016 Olympics.
Bach spoke in the capital of Brazil after his meeting with Brazillian President Dilma Rousseff. Both men will inspect the progress of venues in Rio Janeiro with other Olympic committee members.
It’s an improvement from last year when IOC Vice President, John Coates called Brazil’s organization “the worst ever”.
Concerns were raised after a recent rise of crime was thought to affect tourist in the area.
This is the first time an South American country will be hosting the games.
City of Toronto residents looking to lease their homes this summer can expect to pull in some major cash this July, thanks to the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games.
The Pan Am games are scheduled to run from July 10 to July 26 with the prices for short-term rental properties rising sharply in Toronto and the GTA during the competition. Private renters are paying close attention to game time – using sites like Airbnb, Craigslist and Kijiji to list their homes to city outsiders.
With an average cost of around $2,000 per week, most places are looking to bring in almost $5,000 for the entire duration of the Games. Most rentals are located in the downtown core, close to the newly constructed Pan Am village which is situated just 45 minutes from most Game venues.
(Map not to scale)
Airbnb, a site which allows homeowners to privately rent out their space to visitors, shows a significant increase in pricing during the Pan Am Games. Below are examples of one bedroom condos listed on Airbnb:
Renters can still find deals, but like most things during the summer vacation season, prices are likely to increase closer to the date.
Toronto was awarded the Games back in November 2009, the province’s first international multi-sport event since the British Empire Games in 1930. Athletes will arrive from all across Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and North America to participate in the 36 sports held throughout the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA).
With a budget of just over $1.4 billion dollars, the third largest international multi-sport games are set to bring close to 10,000 athletes into competition. Along side them will be an estimated 250,000 tourists supporting, cheering and desperate for accommodations. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) projects the Games will generate $3.7 billion in economic activity, and will result in roughly 26,000 new jobs.
This will be Canada’s third time hosting the Games.
Photo courtesy of Reuters
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON (REUTERS) –
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks rallied late in the fourth quarter to defeat the Green Bay Packers, while the Patriots crushed the Colts to earn a date in the Super Bowl.
With four interceptions, no touchdowns and barely a decent drive to his name, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback was having a nightmare in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. But with the Green Bay Packers looking set for a Super Bowl place, Wilson found the skill and the spirit to lead his team to a memorable victory.
Wilson fired a 35-yard touchdown strike to Jermaine Kearse in overtime to give the Seattle Seahawks a stunning 28-22 comeback win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and seal a return trip to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks, bidding to become the first team in a decade to win back-to-back Super Bowls, will play the New England Patriots in the February 1 NFL title game. The Patriots crushed the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 to win the AFC championship.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was left baffled by his team’s fourth quarter collapse as they allowed the Seattle Seahawks to rally for a 28-22 overtime win in Sunday’s NFC Championship game. Rodgers guided his team to a 19-7 lead which vanished in a thrilling finale to the game.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll took risks while his Green Bay counterpart Mike McCarthy played it safe; in the end the gambler won. The Seahawks’ remarkable 28-22 comeback win over the Packers in the NFC championship game on Sunday cannot be put down to a single decision but the outcome was certainly influenced by the differing approaches of the two coaches.
In the AFC championship game, Tom Brady fired three touchdown passes and LeGarrette Blount rumbled for three more. The New England Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts 45-7 on Sunday to book their sixth trip to the Super Bowl in 14 years. The Patriots head to Arizona for the February 1 National Football League showcase looking to dethrone the defending Super Bowl champions.
With a report from Reuters
The National Basketball Association has seen an impressive influx of Canadian talent in recent years. In fact, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, who were the two most recent number-one NBA draft picks, are both Canadian. Although Wiggins and Bennett are well on their way to becoming household names like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, their success has not been independently attained. Two unsung heroes have played a critical role in helping these star athletes compete in the highest echelon of professional basketball.
Elias and Tariq Sbiet are brothers and founders of North Pole Hoops, a Canadian-based basketball website and scouting agency working with National Collegiate Athletic Association programs; primarily focused on Canadian talent.
Launched in January 2011, North Pole Hoops identifies potential talent and works to find the best possible fit academically and geographically at top-ranking American schools like Duke and UCLA. College basketball is big business in the United States, and for top-flight players, Division I schools can be the gateway to the National Basketball Association.
The pair specializes in monitoring player stats and academic achievements. “Our job, of course, is to identify the information and relay the information to the coaches; provide as much information to the coaches so they are not wasting their time when they arrive to see the player,” says Tariq.
The brothers believe that building a relationship between the player, coaches and parents enables a player to make the best decision in regards to choosing the most suitable school – a process they call “active recruiting.”
Within the last four years, Canada has produced five first-round draft pick selections. Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson has been evaluated and tracked by North Pole Hoops, as has Cory Joseph, who won a championship ring with the San Antonio Spurs this year.
Northpole Hoops has also tracked Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett during their high school years. In 2013, Bennett was selected as the first round number-one draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he was joined this year by fellow Canadian and rising star Andrew Wiggins. In fact, Northpole Hoops has followed the majority of the Canadian talent that was selected in this past years NBA draft. This includes Tyler Ennis, who now plays on the Phoenix Suns, and Nik Stauskas, who was drafted to the Sacramento Kings.
Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, both brothers began as athletes with dreams of making it to the National Basketball Association. They competed at a high school and university level; however, a lack of exposure and recruitment outlets at home hindered their development. Fed up with the situation, the pair decided it was time to take action to help rising Canadian prospects obtain the same exposure extended to our American counterparts.
Elias and Tariq have since traveled across Canada and the United States, tracking down the best in basketball talent. Thanks to the connections they’ve made, North Pole Hoops has created several opportunities for Canadian talent to be exposed to different colleges, universities and potential agents.
Jerome Robinson, a Jamaican-Canadian from Toronto who played six years in Europe as a professional player, believes a lack of athletic culture is largely responsible for the development of talent here at home. “We didn’t have basketball on TV on a consistent basis. We didn’t have any role models, with the exception of Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. Vince Carter was huge for Toronto because we had our own basketball hero in our city,” says Robinson.
The hoop dreams of young Canadian athletes are far less likely to deflate because of North Pole Hoops and other basketball agencies. As North Pole Hoops continue to develop their network with NCAA coaches, scouts and agents, a Canadian presence in the NBA will also continue to be seen and felt and hopefully, in time, flourish. “Imagine we were able to keep our Canadian talent in Canada”, says Elias. “We would have the best talent pools in the world.“