Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The next big issue for athletic departments to deal with

I have quickly seen more attention being turned to energy drinks being consumed before athletic participation, especially before competition.  The health risk that this poses is often being overlooked by the kids that are consuming the beverages despite the not so ominous warnings on the side of the cans.  The biggest problem is that a lot of these beverages contain ridiculously high levels of caffeine and /or caffeine-like stimulants (such as guarana).  The caffeine introduced into the body artificially increases heart rate before activity.  Once the athlete begins exercise, the HR continues to increase as a normal function of exercise.  This combination can result in some dangerous arrhythmia's due to the increased stress on the cardiac tissue. Caffeine is also a well known diuretic.  It increases urine volume.  This can lead to faster dehydration and heat illness during exercise.

Furthermore, the other substance commonly found in this drink is taurine, a naturally occurring amino acid that the body uses during exercise.  Dietary intake is usually sufficient to supply what the body needs in order to function.  However, because of some perceived benefits from taurine during exercise, it didn't take long for enterprising individuals to create a way of synthesizing it and adding it to other products in large doses to products.  The theory was once again, "If a little helps me, a lot should help me more."  Currently, research is looking into how taurine helps in the development of the central nervous system and its effects in large doses.  There is some controversy as to whether it works as a stimulant or a depressant. "In a recent article from, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York say they were “surprised” to find taurine “extraordinarily active” on brain receptors. Even though taurine is known to be a key amino acid, the researchers say they’re curious and puzzled still about the function of taurine in the brain, and have more questions than answers."

I realize I may be pushing limits of tolerance with everything that has changed with respect to TBIs and some upcoming issues on heat illnesses, but I will be pushing to get these drinks banned from the school because of their use before competition in athletics.  I also understand that I have my work cut out for me since the marketing of these drinks has been so heavy towards sporting events, especially the "extreme sports."  The marketing has allowed people to believe that these drinks are actually meant for people who exercise, and therefore; are completely safe.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For the parents that could "use a little help"

The NFHS has created a course for parents to help them to understand what a proper behavior is and what is expected of them during sporting events.  While it would be nice to see this as required of all parents before they take their seat on the sidelines, I certainly don't see this happening.  The course allows parents to reflect on what kind of sporting parent they are and allows them to improve their skills.  However, I am sure that even if it is required, there are those that would simply click through it as fast as possible and never really take the time for self reflection.  The best part of this course is the certificate that is given at the end of the course upon siccessful completion.  I think that the better use of this course would be to require this of any chronically problem parents before they are allowed to return to the stands.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It is time to return to more judicial use of tapings

Lately, a lot of kids have been dropping into the training room and demanding to get their ankles taped.  Many are doing it because they have recently "tweaked" their ankle or "rolled" it and they are afraid it will get worse.  Fair enough, but the statement is getting abused by those who want "game day tape jobs" or just like "the way it feels", the "tightness of it" or think that it somehow makes them run faster.  Unfortunately, this abuse has taken a toll on the limited supplies that I have each year.  (Yes boys and girls, I did say limited supplies and they have to last the whole year.)

While I am sure this will create some arguements, the first thing that needs to change is that nobody will be taped indefinitely after an injury.  I have some athletes who had a mild ankle sprain as a freshman and still claim to need it as a senior.  That will end with the start of winter season.

Also, the practice of coaches "sending kids in to get taped" and getting back out on the field will end.  I will not be taping kids just to satisfy a coach, who with no medical training, thinks they have the authority to dictate the treatment.  While this has not been a very big issue at our school, this can be an issue with visiting teams.  I will be requiring some form of documentation from visiting schools' ATC or physician that they need to be treated with tape before I do it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My prayers are for this young man and his family

ESPN is reporting that Eric LeGrand is paralyzed from the neck down after a hit he delivered during a kickoff coverage in a game this past weekend.  In the video included on the site, you can clearly see that he hit the ball carrier with his head in a lowered position making contact with the crown of his helmet.  This is spearing.  This is why the rule was written more than 30 years ago.  This needed to be flagged and penalized. 

I understand that the most important part of this situation is the young man and his health.  I wish him nothing but the best for a full and speedy recovery.

However, the one thing missing on the video is the flag.  Being an ATC and a high school football official, this incompetence by the officials gives me cause for great concern.  The problem is one of the perception by the spectators that this is a legal hit and should never be penalized.  This creates the ignorance that leads to the comments that were so disturbing to me in the youth video I referenced in a previous post.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Comments on a Webinar Today

First, for those of you who don't know what it is, think of a seminar performed over the web.  That is how it gets its name.  The topic of a webinar can be anything you can think of.  The nice part is that you can attend a webinar in your pajamas from home.  You are not expected to arrive at some venue and sit in a lecture hall for a seminar.  It is an outstanding way to bring content over long distances too, since you don't have to travel.

This webinar was presented my Dr. Mickey Collins, a leader in the United States on sports related TBIs.  He is one of the founders of ImPACT software that many schools, colleges, and professional teams use to baseline and test their athletes to judge the severity of a TBI and when it is safe to RTP.  It was very encouraging to hear Dr. Collins assert that often times, EDs will give advice as to when it is safe to RTP when they really should not be doing it.  There are far too many variables that go into treating a TBI that can create a large difference in the rate of recovery between athletes.  He states that there is no way any ED physician could know when it is truly safe to RTP unless they are able to follow up with the athlete consistently.  This, of course, is not within the scope of ED physicians.  Dr. Collins even went so far as to say ATCs should disregard those recommendations completely.  Since I recently had an ED physician try and offer RTP guidelines recently that I ignored, I was very pleased to hear this.  However, I foresee a parent who will not be as agreeable when I hold a child out longer than the ED physician stated was necessary in the future and it can create a serious amount of tension.  I would hope that some education to the ED physicians about referring mild TBI cases to those trained in follow up care would be shortly forthcoming.

The other fascinating part of the webinar was the description of what is going on physiologically in the brain to create the energy deficit that the brain experiences after sustaining a TBI.  Now I admit, I was never one to find the physiology of anything else all that exciting and trying to explain the Kreb's cycle now would be fruitless without some serious review.  The concept of how long the brain remains in an energy deficit state is the part that is really scary.  With athletes that report lingering symptoms, the deficit can last up to a week in 90% of cases and even longer in the other 10%.  A few cases never really recover and need to be removed from participation in contact sports.  Certainly after watching the number of videos that can be found on secondary impact syndrome, it is enough to scare anyone into doing the right thing.

Finally,  the last point that I found interesting was that the research stated that children who sustain TBIs heal much slower than adults do.  Children, whose brains are still developing up until the age of 22, simply take longer to heal from TBIs.  That is not the point that was new to me, as I have heard that many times before.  However, Dr. Collins points out that just because an NFL player (who are all adults and most are older than 22) can return from a TBI in a week, doesn't mean that a high school player or their parents should think that it is safe for the high school athlete to do the same.  Again, this point can become a strong point of contention with a parent who thinks that their son or daughter really needs to be out on the field playing in order to earn the scholarship.

One thing is for sure, I will be sharing this webinar with colleagues so that they can all benefit from the same information.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Another helpful video on TBIs released by the NATA

The National Athletic Trainers' Association has released another video online regard TBIs in football.  This one is hosted by Steve Young and is another superb resource for coaches and parents.  This video helps to explain the risks of injury and why there has been such a large spotlight turned on this subject for the past year.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Drug Prevention and Testing

Our school district is re-examining our policies on drugs and alcohol use and looking into the community's reactions to the possibility if testing for drug use.  Needless to say, this is a hot topic in our district just as it has been in many others.  Ohio law states that we can test any kid that participates in any extra-curricular event they don't receive a grade for.  This includes athletics, drama club, chess club, and even parking sticker privileges.  I don't know how this final revision of our policy will take shape, but if the following meetings are to be anywhere near as entertaining as the open forum last week, the notion of testing will be hotly contested.  Tonight's second public forum meeting will be, I'm sure more of the same issues being raised.  There are a great number of people who, despite its legality, think that the schools are overstepping their charge and becoming more of a parent if they do test.  I have to admit, I find it very hard to argue with this assertion.