League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis

FRONTLINE | League of Denial

The effects of concussions and other brain injuries have become a topic of concern throughout the United States and are brought to the forefront in Frontline’s new documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis. While the documentary’s focus is on professional football players, concussions and brain injuries among youth, high school and college athletes are also of concern. Luckily, UW-Health Sports Medicine and the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) are proactively providing ways to prevent concussions and raise awareness about concussions in an effort to protect Wisconsin athletes and make sports safer for all participants.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the Youth Concussion Act (Wisconsin Act 172, Statute 118.293), a law sponsored by Rep. Jason Fields and Sen. Alberta Darling, and supported by the National Football League (NFL), the Green Bay Packers and various health care providers, into law on April 2, 2012 (WIAA|Concussions). The purpose of the new law is to protect the health and well being of athletes under 19 years of age who participate in organized activity. The law requires all youth athletic organizations to educate students, parents and coaches on the risks of concussions as well as sign a waiver indicating that students and parents have read the material. The law also requires the immediate removal of an individual from a youth athletic activity if symptoms indicate a possible concussion.

Signs/Symptoms (UW|Concussions)
Only one of the following needs to be present for a concussion to be suspected. It is also possible to have any combination of these symptoms.
•    Confusion/orientation
•    Dizziness
•    Headache
•    Blurred vision
•    Unsteadiness
•    Nausea
•    Feeling "in a fog"
•    Vomiting
•    May or may not involve loss of consciousness (loss of consciousness is not typical)

What should be done if a concussion is suspected? (UW|Concussions)
•    Seek medical advice from an individual who is trained in assessing and diagnosing concussions
•    Do not have the person take ibuprofen related products or aspirin
•    Carefully watch the injured person for worsening symptoms
•    If symptoms continue to worsen, transport the athlete to the local emergency room for further evaluation

If a concussion has been confirmed a trained health care provider must evaluate the individual and then they must get a written clearance in order to play again.  

The new efforts towards concussion safety for youth, high school and college athletes are a step in a positive direction. However, a more important part of concussion safety is prevention.

Preventing Head Injuries (UW|Concussions)
•    Understand concussion severity and symptom presentation
•    Follow a physician’s “return to play” guidelines
•    Equipment should be properly fitted, routinely checked and replaced or refitted when necessary (this includes protective oral devices such as mouth-guards)
•    Always follow “safe sports techniques” as they pertain to your sport
•    If an athlete has sustained a head injury and has concussion symptoms, he/she should not return to play without being evaluated by a medical professional

Wisconsin coaches can find extra training, either through the CDC or NFHSLearn.com (National Federation of State H.S. Associations)

Additional Resources

Wisconsin Act 172 (PDF)

Statutes relating to concussions and other head injuries sustained in youth athletic activities.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Guidelines for Concussion and Head Injury

Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association

Concussion Information and Forms

Websites