Tag Archives: American Football

Lystedt Law and Youth Concussions

January 31, 2010

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The United States House Judiciary Committee meets on 01 February 2010 to examine youth sports concussions. Approximately 1.2 million teenagers play organized high school football in the US with another three million participants under the age of 15.

According to Dawn Comstock of Ohio State University, youth football players sustain about 140,000 concussions per year. It was reported that an alarming 15.8% of these players sustaining a concussion severe enough to lose consciousness returned to play the same day and that as many as 40% of them return to the field sooner than modern medical guidelines would suggest. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as 3.9 million sports-related and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States annually.

Washington State passed the first concussion-specific law (House Bill 1824) covering scholastic sports last year. The statute requires that a youth athlete who is suspected of sustaining a concussion or head injury must be removed from the practice or game. The maxim in play now is “when in doubt, sit them out.” The athlete cannot return to play until they have been evaluated by a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and received written clearance to play.

The law – named after Zackery Lystedt, a teenager who in 2006 sustained a serious brain injury playing football – is a template for the dozens of other states considering similar legislation.

The law also directs school districts to require a statement of compliance vis-à-vis policies for the management of head injuries and concussion from youth sports programs using school facilities in order for the district to remain immune for injuries which occur during the delivery of services of the youth program on school property.

The Lystedt family settled a claim on behalf of Zackery against the Tahoma School District for $14.6 million in September 2009. The school district did not admit liability.

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Do Helmets Make Contact Sport Safer?

November 13, 2009



The Wall Street Journal published an interesting story about the role helmets serve in protecting players in American football.  The article describes how helmets were invented to protect against skull and facial fractures which were then pervasive in the game and how those injuries have been replaced by concussions.  Whilst helmets reduced the likelihood of lethal skull fractures, they also paradoxically created a sense of invulnerability that encouraged players to collide more forcefully, more often and with hits directly to the head.  

The discovery that the compounding effects of ‘wear and tear’ to the brain as a result of such repeated hits is being felt by players years after they retire from American football has caused the game (and Congress) to take a hard look at itself.

The piece also provocatively showed how the at-least equally tough Australian football players, who do not wear the body armour and helmets worn by their American brethren, are 25% less likely to sustain a head injury although their incident rates for shoulder and knee injuries are higher.  This suggests that players compensate for the lack of personal protective equipment by either not hitting as violently or by knowing how to take a hit.  

On a related note, it is noteworthy that after years of dismissively rejecting any criticism of injuries to its hockey players by saying that the game was inherently violent, general managers of the National Hockey League are now contemplating rule changes that would make egregious blind-side hits to the head illegal.  This tide change was brought on by a recent rash of heat shots resulting in players temporarily losing consciousness and getting concussed.

No doubt motivating the decision makers of both leagues is how rule changes will affect the integrity of the game and the bottom line of the sport.  With bigger, stronger and faster players hitting one another harder than ever before, the NHL reasonably foresees a player getting paralyzed or killed if it doesn’t do something.

The National Football League, however, appears not to have an appetite to seriously look at this issue.

In another posting, I’ll couple American football players’ behavioural adaptation to helmets (by hitting harder) and hockey players’ response to rules cracking down on fighting (by taking more cheap shots) with the risk homeostasis theory as promulgated by Dr. Gerald Wilde of Queen’s University in Canada.  In short, Wilde’s theory says that a person or a system unconsciously calibrates and accepts a certain level of risk in order to maximize the overall expected benefit from an activity.  Thus, a control measure designed to mitigate the risk in one area (such as helmets or rule changes) is compensated by behaviour which elevates the risk to its pre-existing level.  This makes for quite the balancing act!

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Jason Armstead arrested

March 5, 2009


Source: http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090303.wsptbomb3/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090303.wsptbomb3

Jason Armstead (Winnipeg Blue Bombers wide receiver) was arrested and charged over the weekend for domestic violence and resisting arrest. Allegedly he waved a gun at his former girlfriend after chasing her on US Highway 90.

No one was injured and Armstead was later released on bail.

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Search for Missing Footballers

March 5, 2009


Source: http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090304.wsptnfl4/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090304.wsptnfl4

Searching is continuing today for three missing footballers (Oakland Raiders linebacker – Marquis Cooper, free-agent NFL defensive lineman – Corey Smith, and former South Florida player – William Bleakley) after their boat capsized during poor weather on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico.

Coast Guard crews managed to rescue a fourth man (Nick Schuyler) who was found clinging to the boat. Doctors have said it is a miracle he survived as long as he did in the cold water off the Florida coast.

Officially, the Coast Guard has closed the search, and has discouraged private searches for safety reasons, however the families of the men have not given up hope just yet.

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Smith released early

March 5, 2009


Source: http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090225.wsptriders0225/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090225.wsptriders0225 ; http://www.montrealgazette.com/Health/Roughrider+Smith+left+Canada/1336437/story.html

Trevis Smith (disgraced former Saskatchewan Roughrider) has now been released after completing two years of his six year sentence for aggravated sexual assault. The charges were brought in 2007, after he had unprotected sex with two women when he was HIV-positive.

Smith has now been deported back to the United States.

During his January parole hearing, Smith admitted that he didn’t inform his sexual partners of his HIV status because he was embarrassed and in denial.

The original story of how the footballer fell from grace can be read here: http://www.canada.com/theprovince/story.html?id=dced6e21-bee4-4183-95d3-da83cf3a9ab2

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Holmes recieves misdemeanour charge

March 5, 2009


Source: http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090226.wsptholmes26/GSStory/GlobeSportsFootball/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090226.wsptholmes26 ;

Santonio Holmes (Pittsburgh Steelers receiver) waived his right to a preliminary hearing on a misdemeanour marijuana charge after Police found three marijuana-filled cigars in his car, last October 23rd. Holmes was co-operative with the officers and was not arrested. No date has been set for the charge although a formal arraignment is scheduled for April 29th.

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March 5, 2009

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Sources: http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/crime/crime_krqe_santa_fe_accused_hazing_leader_denies_guilt_200902122348 ; http://espn.go.com/otl/hazing/monday.html ; http://espn.go.com/otl/hazing/list.html ; http://www.news-bulletin.com/sports/86676-02-11-09.html

It would seem that hazing is alive and well in sports despite policies in place to the contrary.

The court in the infamous Robertson High School American Football hazing case has now arraigned defendants ahead of a full trial in June / August. The five defendants are charged with multiple counts of rape, attempted rape and kidnapping after trying to rape six younger teammates with a broomstick at a pre-season training camp. They have all pleaded not guilty. Although the state has not decided whether to press criminal charges against the football coaching staff, they have all resigned from their posts.

For a full description of the incident, click this news report: http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/26856453/

The criminal charges against the players themselves are in stark contrast to another high-profile hazing incident involving the Downie-Aliu rookie initiation and subsequent fight. Although each of the players involved were suspended and the Windsor Spitfires hit with a $35,000 fine, it was actually Moe Mantha (the Windsor Spitfires general manager & head coach) who was hit the hardest (40 suspended games as coach, the entire season as GM) because he accepted that the buck ultimately stopped with him.

For a full description of the incident, click this news report: http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090220.wspt-maki-col-20/GSStory/GlobeSportsHockey/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090220.wspt-maki-col-20

The problem is, what actually counts as hazing? If you read the research from Alfred University, they suggest that it can be defined as, “Any activity expected of someone joining the group that humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate. This does not include activities such as rookies carrying the balls, team parties with community games, or going out with your teammates, unless an atmosphere of humiliation, abuse or danger arises.”


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Tillman sex charges

February 24, 2009




 Source: http://sports.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090203.wspttillman0203/GSStory/GlobeSports/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20090203.wspttillman0203 ; http://www.cbc.ca/sports/story/2009/02/24/tillman-case.html  

Eric Tillman (Saskatchewan Roughriders General Manager and VP of Football Operations) has been charged with sexually assaulting a 16yr old girl on 6th August 2008. Apparently the charges relate to an alleged inappropriate touching from behind, however the police and club refuse to confirm or deny this. Although Tillman made a brief appearance in court today, the case has been adjourned until March 17th.

Tillman asks that the public reserve judgement until the legal process has run its course. When news of the story broke, he was suspended on full pay and will not be taking part in team operations.

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Ellis convicted of assault

February 18, 2009


ESPN reports that Carl Ellis (former Vikings star) has been convicted of a second-degree refusal to submit to a field sobriety test and fourth-degree assault on a police officer who tried to arrest him following a traffic violation. Sentencing will take place on Feb 23, but could be as much as a year on each count.

In a pending federal lawsuit, Ellis is counter-claiming against the officers, alleging that they violated his civil rights, used excessive force and concealed videotape evidence of his arrest.

Eller was arrested on April 9 2008, after police said they saw his Mercedes sport utility vehicle swerve and speed through a stop sign and narrowly miss a squad car. They gave chase and eventually attempted to arrest Eller in his garage, where they said he punched one officer and threw another onto the hood of his SUV. Efforts to subdue Eller with a Taser didn’t work, according to a criminal complaint.

Eller may appeal, but his attorney, Albert Goins, wouldn’t predict the next step until he sees the judge’s written ruling.

Source: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3861082&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

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Concussion Trauma

February 18, 2009


Researchers from the Sports Legacy Institute for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, working in partnership with Boston University have confirmed that Tom McHale (an ex-NFL veteran) who died in 2008, aged 45, was suffering from a degenerative brain condition similar to Alzheimer’s disease which has been linked to repeated head trauma.

Although Police said that the actual cause of death was OxyContin and Cocaine (which he took after developing chronic pain in his shoulders and other joints), an autopsy showed up the damage to his brain. The condition, which is caused by repeated trauma and can be diagnosed only in dead patients or by an invasive biopsy, is characterized by tangles of nerve fibers in the brain’s cortex. The symptoms can include memory loss, depression and dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease and are typically found in elderly people in their 80s and in boxers suffering from dementia.

The NFL is currently funding an independent medical study of retired NFL players in an effort to understand this issue.


Source: http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=3864644&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines ; http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2905142


See also: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/24/sports/football/24concussions.html?_r=4&hp&oref=login&oref=slogin ; http://www.sportslegacy.org/CSTE.asp

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