Monday, March 28, 2016

Concussion Demagoguery Continued

The demagogoguery we seem to always get about football and head injuries ramped up with a NY Times story about the NFL's research into CTE and questioning the sincerity of it. Recently we got a minor admission from Ann McKee, of BU's concussion research effort (whom an NFL official while in DC cited when he talked about links between football and CTE), where she said "we have no idea" what percentage of NFL players develop CTE. She insists it can't be rare because of the sample size she cites - but then red flags about the research should have first flown with discovery of CTE in people and players (notably Chris Henry of the Bengals, killed in a highway accident in 2009) who never had concussions; the "explanation" given is that an accumulation of little blows could cause such brain damage, but this amounts to changing definition or diagnosis to justify a conclusion rather than rethink the conclusion.

There is also the discovery of CTE in the likes of Raiders great Kenny Stabler - discovery even though he hadn't played in over thirty years.  

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians also raised eyebrows by angrily defending the safety of the game and mocking people for trying to prevent children from playing youth football - this even though Stanford researcher Ed Riley defended its safety back in 2015.   It earned a stupid retort in Sporting News that defined dumbed down demagoguery posing as sports writing. 

The demagoguery has to stop.  Football is a safe game and only getting safer, and Arians is right - you ARE a fool to deny participation in the youth game.

2017 UPDATE - the fifth International Conference On Concussion In Sport met in Berlin in late 2016 and around April 2017 was issued  the group's consensus statement.  

A key part from the consensus statement -
The literature on neurobehavioral sequelae and long-term consequences of exposure to recurrant head trauma is inconsistent.  Clinicians need to be mindful of the potential for long-term problems such as cognitive impairment, depression, etc. in the management of all athletes.   However, there is much more to learn about the potential cause-and-effect relationships of repetitive head-impact exposure and concussions.   The potential for developing CTE must be considered as this condition appears to represent a distinct tauopathy with an unknown incidence in athletic populations.   A cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been demonstrated between CTE and (Sports Related Concussions - SRCs) or exposure to contact sports.  As such, the notion that repeated concussion or subconcussive impacts cause CTE remains unknown.

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