It has been estimated that there are as many as 3.8 million reported and unreported concussions every year (Broglio et al, 2014); further, a study comparing 100 high schools and 180 colleges in the United States found that concussions made up 8.9% and 5.8% of the total injuries due to sports (Gessel et al, 2007). With occurrence numbers in those levels it is not a major reach to argue that concussions are approaching an epidemic level in sports. As an Athletic Trainer working in the Collegiate setting, I find these epidemiological findings concerning and disparaging at best.
This information inspired me to seek out advocacy groups for which I could become involved. After a good deal of research I came across the Concussion Legacy Foundation, a non-profit organization co-founded two major players in concussion research Dr. Cantu (MD) and Dr. Nowinski (PhD). This organization, founded in 2007, has taken a three pronged approach to shaping change in regard to the concussion crisis:
- Education through running Advanced Concussion Training (ACTs) clinics and conducting various conferences and coalitions in concussion education
- Policy through advocacy for state concussion laws and accurate video game representation of concussions
- Research through driving multiple published research articles in various journals, involvement in position/consensus statement development, and league driven research.
This organization has been a driving force behind much of the advancement in concussion research and policy. Currently, there is a large push for donations to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank this national initiative allows researchers access to brains after the patient has passed away, currently the only way to diagnose CTE or research long-term effects to multiple brain injuries. The Brain Bank currently has been pledged brains from famous athletes the likes of: Brandi Chastain, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Nancy Hogshead-Makar. As of 2014, they had been donated over 400 brains and of those 400 over 250 had tested positive for CTE!
Another national initiative this organization has taken on to herald takes place at the front lines of concussion in sport, the very athletic team. The Concussion Legacy Foundation advocates for teams and coaches to take the Team Up Speak Up Day Pledge, this annual pledge day is scheduled for September 12, 2017 and the organization is asking for volunteers to pledge that if they notice their teammate and friend is concussed that they will speak up and notify someone to get them help. These pledge drive days are designed to increase reporting of concussion, currently research suggests that only 47.3% of concussed athletes will report their symptoms (Gessel et al, 2007); further, we research has shown that, subject to motor vehicle accidents, sports is the second leading cause of concussion in the 15-24 year old age group (Marar et al, 2012). Knowing that the 15-24 year old age range is also susceptible or vulnerable to Second-Impact Syndrome this disparity in self-reporting could be the makings of the perfect storm… Thus, this advocacy at the front line is a much needed action!
A third major action the Concussion Legacy Foundation is taking is their Ambassador program. This is a program that allows interested volunteers to get involved in the efforts and help shape change in the day-to-day concussion fight. Being an Ambassador to the Concussion Legacy Foundation allows mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, athlete, coach, student, medical professional, or basically anyone with a vested interest to join the efforts in stopping the concussion crisis through raising awareness about concussion or raising funds for the non-profit to bankroll it’s research and education efforts.
I could not be more excited to announce that after much research on the foundation’s efforts and accomplishments to ensure their goals are in line with my own, I have personally taken the pledge to be a Concussion Legacy Foundation Ambassador. If you have a friend, child, or loved one that participates in sports or you care to help make a difference in the world’s concussion crisis then I highly recommend taking the pledge to be an ambassador, Donate your Brain to the Brain Bank, or get your team to take the Team Up Stand Up pledge on the day. Every effort helps and the numbers don’t lie.
Author: Jeremy D. Howard, MS, LAT, ATC, CSCS, CES, PES, ITAT
Broglio, S.P, Cantu, R.C., Gioia, G.A., Guskiewicz, K.M., Kutcher, J., Palm, M., & Valovich McLeod, T.C. (2014). National athletic trainers’ association position statement: Management of sport concussion. Journal of Athletic Training, 49(2), 245-265.
Gessel, L.M., Fields, S.K., Collins, C.L., Dick, R.W., & Comstock, R.D. (2007). Concussions among United States high school and collegiate athletes. Journal of Athletic Training,42(4), 495-503.
Marar, M., McIlvain, N.M., Fields, S.K., & Comstock, R.D. (2012). Epidemiology of Concussions Among United States High School Athletes in 20 Sports. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 1-9.