November 13, 2012

Concussion Symposium Highlights New Research Findings

by Paul Ohanian |

Dr. Trey Crisco (right), who is finalizing a research project involving stick-to-head checks in girls' and women's lacrosse, was in attendence at Tuesday's concussion symposium in Atlanta.
© Mike Cohea

ATLANTA — As every sports fan knows, concussions are a hot topic in today's sports landscape. Fueled by the omnipresent NFL and the never-ending cycle of cable and video highlights showing every crushing Sunday blow, discussion about concussions is as prevalent these days as conversations about game strategy, touchdown celebrations and playoff scenarios.

But concussions are not just limited to the NFL's Sunday warriors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that up to 3.8 million concussions occur every year in the United States due to sports and recreation-related activities.

So it's no surprise that Tuesday's Symposium on the Mechanism of Concussion in Sports at the Hyatt Regency, sponsored by ASTM International, drew a wide ranging audience of industry leaders from many disciplines that seized the opportunity to hear about the latest scientific developments on the topic. That audience included several members of the US Lacrosse Sports Science & Safety Committee as well as USL staff members.

Research study presentations throughout the one-day event covered a wide range of topics related to concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including the testing of protective equipment, the influence of varying impact angles, acceleration rates and impact masses, and consistency in measurements and output across varying testing models. Research included data and findings from cycling, football, ice hockey, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball and other recreational activities.

"Events like this just stimulate further discussion relative to lacrosse," said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse, who was among the attendees. "Though most of these presentation topics are not focused on lacrosse, they all offer cause for reflection about what we can do in our sport."

Dr. Andy Lincoln of MedStar Health Research Institute and a member of the USL Sports Science & Safety Committee (SSSC), presented findings from a study entitled "Video Incident Analysis of Concussion Mechanisms in Boys' and Girls' High School Lacrosse."

Lincoln is one of four authors on the paper, along with fellow Sports Science & Safety Committee member Jon Almquist, a certified athletic trainer for Fairfax County (Va.) Public Schools; Shane Caswell of George Mason University; and Dr. Richard Hinton of MedStar Union Memorial Hospital and the SSSC.

Lincoln and his partners examined video footage of head injury incidents of nearly 2,500 boys’ and girls’ lacrosse players between the ages of 14 and 18 years old during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Initial findings from that study, sponsored by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) and US Lacrosse, reported on data about girls’ injuries and were released earlier this year. The second component, chronicling boys’ injuries, is now complete and is due to be published soon.

Lincoln introduced his findings by explaining the different nature that exists between the men's and women's games. He then noted that boys players were most often injured while attempting to pick up a loose ball or when ball handling. All incidents of concussion captured on video were the result of intentional player-to-player bodily contact.

Conversely, the findings in the girls' game showed that concussions were primarily the result of stick-to-head contact or body-to-head contact.

Lincoln's paper was one of 27 research presentations offered during the event. The opportunity to review the latest research findings related to concussions and TBI attracted researchers, scientists, equipment manufacturers and leaders of various sports organizations.

Dr. Trey Crisco of the USL Sports Science & Safety Committee and Brown University, is in the process of finalizing a research project that measures head accelerations from stick checks in girls' and women's lacrosse. One of the presentations that had particular interest for him involved variances in testing output based on the use of different brain models.

"It's premature to settle on one model because none of them have been validated rigorously against the human tissue," Crisco said. "So at this point, this research raises the importance of studying differences and coming up with one composite model and using that as a standardized model."

Many of the presentations involved research conducted using current football and ice hockey helmets. Closer review and study of these findings could stimulate changes in the standards that are currently in place for the manufacturing of these products, as well as possibly the standards for lacrosse helmets.

"There were a lot of talks today on different aspects of testing and that sheds some light on the importance of what headforms you use, what necks you use, and how you test things," Crisco said. "That adds to our understanding."

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