Veteran Pop Warner Coach, Kymber Del Mastro Veautour reviews the recent 2011 ERG Youth Concussion Forum. The 4-part live webcast series featured expert faculty comprised of pediatric physicians, neurologists, and psychologists. Topics included the latest developments in concussion research, legislation, diagnosis and treatment.
I found myself walking a fine line between anger and happiness during the forum. I knew that different people would take away different things. Some would be interested in the statistics and percentages, others the direction that the sporting world is taking in regards to concussions. I feel there was a third side, that few may have noticed, but all should have…the human side.
It may be because my background is in psychology, or because I have a child that sustained a severe concussion. Whatever the reason, I always had a different direction in my questioning of the experts:
Q 1. “Do you see that people still look towards concussion injuries as faked injuries, since they are silent injuries?”
Q 2. “What do you think we can do to better educate the coaches of today to react differently when there is a head injury and possibly a concussion injury involved?”
Q 3. “How do you feel about mandatory youth concussion laws in the states, and if you are for them, how do you suggest pushing them through?”
I will say that I am neither for, nor against, mandatory concussion laws protecting our youth. I rather wanted to hear the answers from the experts and advocates in order to understand what they were thinking, to produce a new view and direction in the forum since it seemed stalled.
They tried very hard the first day to establish the “human” sides by launching their forum with NFL football star Kyle Turley. He comes with a strong background in concussion prevention advocacy, and testified at a Senate Commission trying to improve existing concussion laws. He spent the majority of his time making this silent injury real to everyone involved. He spoke about the long term effects and the permanent damage he has sustained – damage that continues today, years after his retirement, making day to day living extremely difficult.
I do feel that after the first day, the experts became overloaded with monotonous statistics. They lost their audience at times because information given the day before was repeated by another expert in another way. I think that if they had made days two through four an open forum with their experts, where the experts themselves could bounce information off of each other, it would have cut the forum time in half and allowed more information to get to the viewer.
This topic is the future of sports today. It is a hot topic and everyone is trying to take a stand supporting it in one way or another. The ones that truly get it right will make the difference to people like my daughter and I. As a coach, I stand dedicated to spirit safety and take every opportunity to further my knowledge. I just wish this forum had gone into more of the unknown facts about concussions, the human side, and less of the statistics that are posted everywhere on the internet and in every news station headline. Bring a little devil’s advocate into it; bring a little back and forth discussion. Bring less droning on about the topic from the night before under a new topic name.
All in all, did I learn something? Yes! I truly did. I was able to ask questions that they did not cover and get information they did not cover. Maybe they will add the questions I asked into the agenda the next time they present the forum… every presentation should improve upon the last. Knowledge of the injury, and of sports is forever growing - the information should be growing along with it.
In closing, I will say that when my daughter was injured, and knocked unconscious in a cheering accident, the coaches removed her from the mats and applied ice to her head while they waited for practice to finish. Emergency services, a neck support, and the severity of the injury were never disclosed. This forum did hit everyone in the head with a proverbial wake up brick, talking about how these injuries may present themselves so that this does not happen to someone else. This may have been the most important thing they accomplished. You cannot make it so the injury never happens again, but you can make it so that it is handled in such a way that a young girl doesn’t miss her first 6 weeks as a freshman in high school…as was the case with my child.