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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Telegraph series on injured athletes ended with a public forum

The symptoms of a concussion can go away in a week or two. For an athlete itching to get back on the court or playing field, even an additional day on the sidelines can seem too long.

But the issue of sports related concussions will never go away and continued to be a big story in 2012. ...

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The symptoms of a concussion can go away in a week or two. For an athlete itching to get back on the court or playing field, even an additional day on the sidelines can seem too long.

But the issue of sports related concussions will never go away and continued to be a big story in 2012.

The National Football League is facing a lawsuit brought by several thousand former players who claims the league actively concealed the risks associated with repetitive head impacts, denied the consensus of medical experts about their devastating effects and ignored public health issues associated with permanent brain damage from repetitive head trauma.

Last May, the New Hampshire House approved Senate Bill 402, which requires all school boards in the state to develop protocols to deal with concussions.

The bill, supported by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association, asked school districts to distribute information on the risk of concussions to coaches, student athletes and their parents. It mandates that any athlete suspected, by a coach or trainer, of having suffered a concussion be removed from the game or practice and his or her return is contingent on the permission of a health care provider.

At a Sports Concussion Awareness Night at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Nashua in September, about 50 parents, coaches, teachers, school administrators and others attended the two-hour presentation and discussion session.

On the same night, another large group met at Nashua South High School to discuss similar topics. At a heavily attended Nashua Youth Soccer Association organizational meeting in August at the Nashua Public Library, the group discussed coming up with its own guidelines for dealing with concussions.

In October, The Telegraph published an extensive six-day series titled “Broken Athletes,’’ with concussions a major focus. In it, athletes told their stories, including Mandy Rogers, of Nashua, who was forced to drop out of Boston University early in her senior year because of the effects of what was originally diagnosed as a minor concussion.

Five concussions forced Souhegan High School senior Sam Ballard to give up two sports he loved, soccer and lacrosse. But Ballard would discover a new passion and help Souhegan win a boys cross country state championship for the first time in school history.

Physical tests and treatments for concussion were a big topic, again, in 2012, including the now widely used ImPACT test, a computer cognition program that determine levels of concentration, memory, problem solving and reaction time.

A baseline score, often gathered when a high school athlete is an incoming freshman, can be used to compare with a score an athlete attains from a second test after sustaining a concussion.

Most high schools in the area use the ImPACT tests to help determine when athletes are ready to return to action.

Look for testing to begin before high school in the future. The tests are currently designed for patients 11 and older, but a new test has been designed for 5-12 year olds.

The Telegraph series, which ended with a public forum, looked at the increasing roles of athletic trainers at area schools, and profiled longtime Nashua school trainer Jerry Holland, a certified physical therapist.

The physical and emotional aspects of sports injuries were discussed, as well the legal implications.

Sports injuries – and concussions in particular – will continue to be a big topic in 2013, and expect to see more emphasis on the dangers to younger athletes.

Some concussion experts, including Dr. Robert Cantu of Boston University, believe athletes under the age of 14 should not play tackle football, ice hockey and lacrosse unless rules are altered to reduce the risk of concussions.

Meanwhile the NFL is trying to devise ways to reduce concussions in its games, even considering the elimination of kickoffs.