Friday, January 31, 2014

Er, progress on concussions at the NFL?

It's Super Bowl week and time for self-congratulatory stories from the National Football League about reductions in concussions.  In this one we learn:

There was a 13% decrease in the incidence of concussions among NFL players between 2012 and 2013, league officials announced in a press conference here.  During 2011, there had been a total of 252 concussions overall, and during 2012 the total was 261. The total fell to 228 in 2013, Miller reported.

Wait, first the number went up between 2011 and 2012, and we're using that higher number of the base for comparison? I know they are trying, but I don't know, it still seems like a lot to me.

And then I read this quote from Robert C. Cantu, MD, co-director of Boston University's Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, who is senior adviser to the NFL's Head, Neck, and Spine Committee:

But probably more important than anything else is that they've reduced full contact hitting during practice to less than once a week -- a total of 14 times in an 18-week season. No other level of football -- college, high school, youth -- has that little amount of hitting.

I don't get this.  He's comparing the number of full contact hits between the behemoths of the NFL with kids playing youth sports?  Maybe I'm judging without data, but I'd make a guess that the average weight and strength of NFL players is far greater than those other categories of players.  (Even the category "college players" would include the smaller guys in lower division teams in addition to the division one players who are headed to the professional league.)

But an underlying problem remains, according to Tanzid Shams, MD, director of sports neurology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston:

In an ideal setting, the clinicians on the field should have no financial relationship with the teams. Instead, they should function as independent observers similar to referees. This model would take out the conflict of interest.
A recent editorial in Neurology Clinical Practice makes a similar recommendation:

Removal of any conflict of interest in the medical management team. This means that a medical decision by the athletic trainer or physician must be driven only by the medical interest of the injured athlete, and there should be no influence by coaches or other nonmedical staff.

Look, the country now watches the Super Bowl more for the ads than the game. We don't need a league that continues to hurt more people than is necessary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What?! I completely agree about the concussions, but I watch the game, thank you very much. The ads are just gravy.
These high and mighty soccer players, hmph. (: