December 28, 2014

Most youth head injuries are not from organized sports

My 25-plus years in sports medicine tells me not to put the carriage in front of the science.

Brain injury is a serious matter, and it warrants fact, not fear.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is currently an autopsy diagnosis only. It can be stated that it is apparently associated with head trauma, but we cannot yet make the causation statement that Mr. Bukes does.

Physical changes to the brain have been described in advanced cases, but the few tragic high school cases reported have seen some scattered tau protein deposits only, not the dramatic findings that Mr. Bukes proposes. It is unclear to the medical community who develops these deposits and who experiences symptoms from them. Incidence and prevalence remain unknown.

The No. 1 sporting activity in relation to head injuries is bike riding. Yet, appropriately, no opinion pages call for an end to riding bikes. Most of our children’s sports-related head injuries occur in backyards, playgrounds and neighborhood parks — not organized sports.

Through the establishment of important standards rooted in education, such as those from the Centers for Disease Control, USA Football’s Heads Up Football program and the National Federation of State High School Associations’ recent 2014 Concussion Task Force recommendations and guidelines, behavior change for the better is happening in many sports, and there is more work to be done.

MICHAEL F. BERGERON
National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute
Indianapolis