Contributed by The Jernigan Law Firm
The National Football League (NFL) is concerned about concussions and they should be. I recently attended a program at Duke Law School (https://law.duke.edu/sports/headtrauma/) on Head Trauma in Football that mentioned the concerns parents have about their kids playing football and several of the experts, including Joel Charles Morgenlander, MD, of Duke University School of Medicine and Dale Bass of Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, expressed concern but also emphasized that we should not jump to conclusions. There is a need for more research as to the effects of one-time blows to the head, multiple hits to the head, and whether a player can safely resume play after one or more concussions. There are simply too many unknowns before a physician can state with certainty the answers to many questions parents have about safety.
Dr. Morgenlander stressed the need to make sure any physician making an initial examination for a concussion gets a complete history of the individual, which may require speaking with family members and others who know the patient well. Duke University has started a program that tries to establish a baseline for athletes coming to the school and every athlete, not just football players, gets this examination. Also, although helmets can potentially minimize the impact of a head trauma, if the helmet doesn’t fit properly (and many schools don’t have the resources to do that adequately) the helmet may do more harm than good. And speaking of helmets, he added that he sees more head trauma at Duke involving bicycle riders than any other activity, yet Duke has no mandatory helmet requirement for the students.
The NFL has approved a flyer entitled “Concussion – A Must Read for NFL Players – Let’s Take Brain Injuries Out of Play.” It discusses Concussion Facts, Concussion Symptoms, and tells the players to (1) Report the Injury (“never ignore symptoms even if they appear mild,” (2) Get Checked Out (“your team medical staff has your health and well-being as its first priority,” and (3) Take Care of Your Brain (“Concussions and conditions resulting from repeated brain injury can change your life and your family’s life forever”). UNC-Chapel Hill also has a research center on traumatic brain sports injuries (http://tbicenter.unc.edu/). For more information on concussions, go to the Center for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/headsup/index.html.