Concussion Misconceptions

As I write this blog post, I can’t help but feel frustrated about the misconceptions and misleading click-bait articles that have caused a variety of reactions that seem to surround football conversations.

These conversations are happening in homes, within football communities, football teams and boosters, and with countless advocates for the game of football. We started Guardian Athletics to innovate around products that can help elevate player safety — not only football but also any high-impact sport. And we also observed a lack of awareness around head injuries and concussions overall.

I recently listened to a dynamic conversation on Minnesota Public Radio with a roundtable of folks on a similar mission as ours. Please take time to listen to this conversation for yourself! Here’s the link. We are going to discuss their roundtable over a series of posts in the coming weeks.

The increase of concussion awareness has led to increased pressure for protocols related to how concussions are observed. Yet the additional research around concussions and sports is extremely complex and while football is a great place to start increased protocols, and all of us need to commit to greater advocacy for education around concussions and injuries overall.

Did you know that girl’s hockey has a higher rate of concussions vs. boys hockey (source: Washington Post)? What are some potential reasons for this, and what can we learn from this disparity in hockey that relates to football?

First, a girls neck is less strong largely due to the lack of proper neck strengthening tactics taught by trainers and coaches. That means the deceleration of the head can be greater, and as an intervention, we need to prevent injuries by providing proper training to girls.

Generally, young girls aren’t trained on how to tackle or simply how to tumble. Teaching kids how to tumble is important to learn at a young age. Stats show that boys learn this easier than girls and we need to close that gap by being better trainers.

Finally, girls have a different chemical and biological makeup that requires a different means of training and strengthening to ensure they are safe. It isn’t simply a one-size-fits-all approach to keep them safer from injuries. This is a good reminder that we should be continuing to provide training practices that best relate to the player, no matter the sport.

Dr. Uzma Samadani and Mr. Grant comment that football is the safest its ever been, and we agree. Additional resources — driven by a mix of media influence and overall fan/player voices being heard — support the safer game overall. Consider the evolving nature of concussion protocols. Dr. Samadani speaks of the process, and how through a series of eliminating a list of variables, the player can be quickly (and many times incorrectly) put back into the game with potential damages that weren’t seen in these first moments after the hit. Coaches have the voice to make a decision on how to pull the player. However, this is arbitrary (outlined in a post by our founder here) and potentially guided by other considerations, some not medical in their nature.

Working on building algorithms that help identify what are correct protocols for post-injury is essential and exciting: This means we can advance in safety overall. Testing eye movements are quite standard in a variety of medical tests and having a standardized approach to this test will enable safer treatment after an impact.

In a future post, we’ll discuss the importance of the sport related to what comprehensive research shows for kids later in life. In the MPR story, Dr. Samadani speaks about trust and how that is given her confidence with her permission for her son to play the game. We’ll dive into that topic and how it’s part of a new discussion that we need to have with our families.