The 504 Plan: School Accommodations and Protections for Your Concussed Student Athlete

By Alicia Jensen

After student athletes suffer a concussion, the first thing that pops into their heads is, “When can I play again?” What many might not realize at first is that the effects of concussions are way more than just physical in nature. Concussions mentally and cognitively impair that athlete either along with the physical symptoms or even after they have been cleared to go back on the field.

Many student athletes like me who are diagnosed with Post-Concussion Syndrome may notice some cognitive symptoms as they return back to school. Symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, a short attention span, and the terrible list goes on and on. Continue reading

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats; A Falling Tide Drops Them All On The Rocks

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We’ve all taken our eyes off the ball

By: Jay Fraga

While the sports world stands trivially transfixed with Richard Sherman’s NFC Championship post-game interview, lawyers on both sides of the recently-denied-for-preliminary-approval NFL Concussion Settlement scurry around in relative obscurity. With the sheer outrage mustered toward Sherman’s antics, one would think that America’s Game is being threatened. Once again, we’re proving as a nation that we are easily distracted.

America’s Game IS being threatened- but it’s not being threatened by Richard Sherman’s interview decorum. America’s Game is being threatened by a sub-par settlement, chiseled out by the bean counters and face savers at the NFL as well as a handful of plaintiff attorneys, who will take a sizeable sum of the bounty for their own coffers rather than forward it to deserving players. Worse yet, the settlement is based on troublesome language that calls to question just which players might qualify for medical benefits under it (for more detail on that, Patrick Hruby’s January 14th article is good reading). Continue reading

Press Release: 2008 US Olympic Bronze Medalist and Three Time World Champion BMX Racer Donny “dR” Robinson Joins The Knockout Project’s Board of Directors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

2008 US OLYMPIC BRONZE MEDALIST AND THREE TIME WORLD CHAMPION BMX RACER DONNY “dR” ROBINSON JOINS THE KNOCKOUT PROJECT’S BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

Belchertown, Massachusetts – January 17, 2013- The concussion education initiative, “The Knockout Project”, announced today the appointment of Donny Robinson to its board, the “KO Roundtable”.

Robinson, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Bronze Medalist in BMX Racing, brings valuable experience, knowledge, and reflection to the table in terms of concussive history. Robinson has suffered over twenty concussions in his two decades worth of racing. Recently, Donny has been speaking out to racers and parents about a subject that he never really thought twice about; while trying to convey the serious nature of identifying concussions, sitting out until healed, and seeking a doctor’s advice before returning to action. Continue reading

Press Release: Impakt Protective, Phoenix Factory Racing, and The Knockout Project Announce Shockbox Pilot Program For BMX Racing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

1/9/14

IMPAKT PROTECTIVE, PHOENIX FACTORY RACING, AND THE KNOCKOUT PROJECT ANNOUNCE SHOCKBOX PILOT PROGRAM FOR BMX RACING.

A chance meeting between two men at a Sports Legacy Institute event in Boston in October of 2013 has paid dividends.

Danny Crossman, CEO of Impakt Protective, maker of the Shockbox helmet sensor, and Jay Fraga, Founder of The Knockout Project- two men who know all too well the sting of head injuries- met at the 2013 Sports Legacy Institute Impact Awards and began to compare notes almost immediately. Continue reading

Fixing Concussions with Band-Aid’s: How Effective is the NFL’s Defenseless Receiver Rule?

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By Kevin Saum

Improving health and safety in football became a passion of mine after I suffered from second impact syndrome while playing in a high school football game and fell victim to the culture of toughness that exists in all sports. Despite the fact that football nearly took my life, to this day I still love the game and I do not regret one play from my 10 years of participation. Many of my fondest memories are from playing high school football and I credit the game and my coaches for making me the man I am today. Because of the intense passion I have for football, I become infuriated when I see professional players undermining the NFL’s attempts to make the game safer by taking cheap shots on defenseless receivers. Continue reading

Multiple Concussions and Multiple Missed Chances Highlight NJ Soccer Player’s Story

{Editor’s note: Wow, where do I start with this story? It’s wince-worthy from almost the word “go”. I guess there are some things that stand out to me: There just isn’t enough oversight when it comes to recreational (ie: non- HS sanctioned) sports. Far too few of our kids are overseen by qualified Athletic Trainers. Somehow, we must increase awareness of injuries that athletes are suffering in these settings. That comes down to parents and coaches being more aware, since the odds are against our kids speaking up when they need to. Frankly, Haley never should have been allowed to play anything in short order the way that she was able to. Not speaking up and playing hurt took contact sports away from her- there is no doubt about it. Had Haley spoken up, been adequately treated, had time to heal, and observed a legitimate return to play protocol, the chances are much better that she would still be playing sports right now. That’s a tough lesson to learn. Hopefully, someone in a similar position will read her story and think twice about being vocal that they’ve been injured. Playing hurt for just one game can absolutely take the rest of them away from you forever, as Haley’s story clearly shows. –Jay}

By Haley Mahony

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As I jumped up to head the ball, I knew exactly what the consequences would be. But, I did it anyway, as I had done many times. Before my first concussion, I knew nothing about concussions. Concussion was just a word in the dictionary to me. I didn’t think that something could be so serious and change my life forever in many ways.

I got my first concussion my freshman year of high school in September of 2011. On that Monday morning, I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for school. As I went to spit my toothpaste out, I sneezed and hit my head on the faucet. Everyone laughs at the story. I guess it’s a funny story, but it changed my life forever. When I tell people, they tell me that I should make up a different story and pretend that it never happened. At the time, I was playing on the freshman high school soccer team and the concussion forced me to sit. Continue reading

A Wife Opens Up About Living With Someone With Post-Concussion Syndrome

{ Editor’s note: My finger lingered for a while before hitting the “post” button on this piece. It did so, because it’s painful. It was written by my Wife, who I love very much. The physical pain of this fight is equally rivaled by the knowledge that your family is hurting along with you, and that you’re responsible for putting yourself and them in this position. It’s not easy to come to terms with that. But, if we’re truly going to be educational about the aftermath of concussion and ignoring your injuries, then this has to be spoken about. – Jay }

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By Jessica

I can’t focus today. I have to grade eight more papers and a week’s worth of discussion posts. Yet, here I sit staring at my macbook hoping that it will just magically happen. I’m sitting in my favorite coffee and tea café listening to the chatter of others and the espresso machine. It’s relaxing. I don’t have to worry about anything (other than the fact I’m not getting any work done).

Every day, I wake up with a knot in my shoulders. I’m stressed out before I even leave my bed. I bring a lot of the stress on. I try to do too much. I try to make others happy while often giving up my own simple pleasures (I really want a f’n latte right now but I’m sipping black tea with no sugar). Continue reading

Long Island HS Junior Speaks About Loss, and Perseverance in the Wake of PCS

By Kate Gaglias

kategThe saying “You will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory” is absolutely true. Many of us athletes take our sports for granted- The grueling practices, running laps for no reason, constant games and tournaments. But the truth is no matter how much we say we hate it we will always have the love for the sport. Until, unfortunately for some of us all of that can be taken away in an instant.

My name is Kate Gaglias, and I am a junior in High school in Long Island, New York. I’ve played soccer since I was four years old, beginning in an in-house league like every other toddler. I joined a travel team when I was eight called the Longwood Twisters (which I am still a part of today) and played on the junior high team, JV team, and in my sophomore year I became a member of our varsity team. But since a young age my life has been changed by concussions. I received my first concussion in 2007 by getting a ball slammed to the side of my head by one of my teammates at an indoor practice. I didn’t feel anything until I got home, and after telling my dad (an athletic trainer) and my mom (a physical therapist assistant), they checked out my symptoms (the normal dizziness, sensitivity to light, headaches) and they all added up to having a mild concussion. I was out of school for a week, and when my symptoms were gone I returned to school like a normal 5th grader. Continue reading

Product Review: Neuro Bliss Tropical Citrus Lychee Lightly Carbonated Beverage

By Jay Fraga

neurodrinkAbout a month ago, I began to spot “Neuro-branded” drinks in odd-shaped bottles in area stores. Living with post-concussion syndrome for the last three and a half years has changed my life dramatically, as it has with scores of other people. Spotting a drink in the convenience store cooler with “Neuro” written on it alongside all of the other juices, waters, and sodas prompted immediate notice on my part. It took me a few weeks to actually look into the product, which I’ll blame on the bustle of busy life along with forgetting pretty much the moment that I walked out of each store that I wanted to investigate the drinks. Welcome to life with PCS, which, a good memory doesn’t seem to be part of.

I finally had an opportunity to grab one, toss it into the fridge when I got home, and read up.

For starters, the typical “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration” and “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease” markings can be found on the back of the bottle. Not surprising in the least. There is a further warning that the product “should not be used by children under 12” and that “pregnant or nursing women should consult their physician prior to use”.

There are four bullet points on the bottle:

• Helps reduce stress

• Enhances Mood

• Provides focused concentration

• Promotes a positive outlook

Wow. Lofty claims. How many of us sailing the uncharted waters of post-concussion syndrome could use all of those things to some extent? Answer? All of us.

Further examination of the bottle reveals a lengthy ingredient list highlighted by a “Proprietary Blend” of 238mg of the following ingredients: L-Theanine (L-TeaActive), Choline Alphoscerate (Alpha GPC) , Chamomile, and Phosphatidylserine. Bingo. For what it’s worth, I don’t recommend saying “Phosphatidylserine” as fast as you can three times and then clicking your heels. You could travel back in time and end up standing in the middle of a farm field in Kansas. It might be worth it if it brings you back to a time pre-PCS, but, I digress.

What do we know about these ingredients and how might they apply to our particular symptoms and situations as people living with post-concussion syndrome?

L-Theanine is an amino acid that I’m already well-familiar with using in my attempts to regulate mood. An active ingredient in tea (it’s found in tea leaves), L-Theanine acts to lower stress and promote relaxation. L-TeaActive, the standardized 98% type of L-Theanine found in this product, was recently classified and found to be GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Choline Alphoscerate and Phosphatidylserine are both phospholipids involved with production of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that’s important for memory. Both Choline Alphoscerate and Phosphatidylserine have been used experimentally for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease as well as dementia. They are generally recognized to boost memory, thinking skills, and learning (Choline Alphoscerate) and to improve thinking skills, improve attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder , improve depression, and to help prevent exercise-induced stress (Phosphatidylserine); all on an experimental basis with no love from the FDA, of course.

Chamomile. No surprises. This, too, is found in tea and is known for its calming properties.

The first sip of the beverage was alright. Truthfully, I didn’t care how this stuff tasted if it worked as it was billed. It tasted a little bit like a combination of all of the famous “Lemon-Lime” sodas out there. After about twenty minutes, I did notice a feeling of calm coming over me. Could it have been placebo? Sure- anything is possible, but I was pretty revved up beforehand and the difference was significantly noticeable. Additionally, I was certainly more focused as I felt calmer. Was that a linked effect of calming down or was it due to the ingredients that were billed as promoting focus? That’s a great question and I’m not sure that I care very much. The bottom line was that I felt calmer, happier, and less jumbled than I did twenty minutes earlier. A second bottle later in the same week produced the same effect. I’m sold.

I won’t be purchasing cases of this stuff, as I generally believe that too much of anything can’t be good for you, but I will certainly supplement with it here and there when I know that I can really use a boost. It’s important for me to highlight that I wasn’t paid to try or review this product and that the company that produces it doesn’t have a clue who I am. I’m just a guy fighting my way through post-concussion syndrome who is well-acquainted with many symptoms that so many of us look for ways to alleviate. My estimation of this product is that it does what it says and I hope that some of my PCS friends who are emotionally and cognitively-challenged might give it a shot and report back their findings. A rising tide floats all boats.

You can read more about this drink and others by visiting drinkneuro.com.

Jay Fraga

The Knockout Project

Peter Robinson, Father of Northern Ireland Teen Lost To Second Impact Syndrome in a Rugby Match, Speaks Out

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Benjamin Peter Robinson

Born 29th May 1996 – Died 31st January 2011

By Peter Robinson

Ben, as he was to me, or Benjamin, as he liked to be called, was an A student who had a big broad smile and a wicked sense of humour. A very caring sensitive boy who hated confrontation, he was a mediator. Growing up, Ben loved ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’, playing football and getting up to mischief. He was fanatical about Man Utd and visited Old Trafford and Wembley to see them play with his step father Steven. He would talk endlessly about who was the best player – Scholes, Ronaldo, Messi, Best, Pele. I brought him to see Messi play for Barcelona, it was a great day.

Ben has a sister Holly who lived at home with him. She was studying for her GCSE at the time. Holly continued to attend Carrickfergus Grammar and has shown great strength and courage, gaining all her GCSE and latterly all her A levels. She is now at College, she is sports mad including football and hockey although this gives me many sleepless nights, but at least she knows the dangers of concussion.

Ben has a younger brother Gregor and sister Isla who lives in Scotland with myself and my wife Carol. There is not a day that passes when Ben is not spoken about or watched on home DVD. When we told them what had happened to Ben, my son Gregor said, ‘can we not take the grass out of the ground and put it into Ben to make him grow better?’ If only it was that simple.

Ben also has 2 step sisters- Sian and Dana and they miss him terribly.

Ben was the most loyal child, he adored his mother Karen, they had a great relationship, since Ben’s death she has not been able to work again, any chance at getting her life back on track or a return to a form of normality seems a long way off.

On Saturday 29th January 2011, I knew that Ben was playing a Medallion match at School, I had spoken to him the previous day he was excited and nervous about the game. Late morning Holly telephoned Carol to say that Ben had been injured in the game and an ambulance was taking him to the Royal Victoria Hospital. At that time I thought, “okay its rugby”. I expected him to get injured at some time, a cut, a broken arm, ankle and my worst thought was a broken neck. I immediately booked flights across for myself and Carol, whilst waiting to travel I received telephone calls from Steven saying that Ben had a head injury and things were not looking good. Waiting on that flight was the longest wait of my life. I just wanted to be with my son.

On arrival at the RVH, I knew Ben had been taken to HDU. We spoke with the consultants and I could tell by their manner that things were not good. They told us that Ben had suffered severe head trauma and was highly unlikely to recover. They expected this sort of injury from a car accident and they said recovery would take a miracle. The staff at the HDU were fantastic. They attempted to reduce the swelling in Ben’s brain by using a new cooling method, but unfortunately this did not help. Seeing Ben lying there in the hospital bed and being unable to help him is a parent’s worst nightmare, I could only hold his hand and talk to him.

On the Monday, the consultants spoke to the family and explained that they believed Ben was ‘Brain Stem Dead’ and they carried out tests which confirmed this. We were approached by the Organ Donor team who made a request to the family that as Ben was so fit and healthy he could help others by donating his organs. As a family we agreed that Ben would want to help others. We wanted a miracle, but knew that Ben could be someone else’s miracle by donating. We know that Ben’s organs helped to save 5 others: a little girl Erin who was 6 months received part of his liver and her parents wrote some time later to tell the family that she was doing well. Knowing that Ben has helped others is somewhat comforting.

On the Monday night, Karen (Ben’s mum) and myself sat all night beside him, holding his hand. We did not want to leave him for a moment. Knowing that that night was the last night we could hold our son was devastating.

On Tuesday he was taken away for the organ donation operation. That was the last time I saw my son alive.

On Wednesday I identified my son at the mortuary.

Ben’s funeral was very difficult. The amount of people who came to pay respect to him was beyond comprehension. The school choir sang at the funeral and they were amazing, singing whilst tears ran freely down their little faces. The headmaster told tales from Ben’s friends, we had music, photos, and I laughed and cried. The school rugby team carried his coffin out of the church and through the streets of Carrickfergus.
Some months later we were contacted by the State Pathologist Jack Crane and he told the family that the findings in relation to Ben’s cause of death were ‘Second Impact Syndrome’. Having never heard this before, he explained that Ben had suffered several concussions during the one match.

As there was a video of the match, we watched this and saw many incidents where Ben had been injured and was seen on many occasions holding his head.

As a family, we wanted to find out what had happened, what had went wrong, and why did no one know about this syndrome? We wanted to make sure that this could not happen again.

We could not get Ben’s death certificate until the Coroner had carried out an inquest into his death. Unfortunately, as time passed, Ben’s team mates were still traumatised by his death and when they found out that it was mismanaged concussion they were devastated knowing that if they had been aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion they would have highlighted it.

The police investigation was long and painstaking and many mistakes were made. The family had to instruct a lawyer to assist with the investigation.

A chance meeting at Ben’s grave between Karen and a school friend led to valuable information coming to light: Ben had been injured several times during the match, all head injuries. He was treated for each one and allowed to play on. It was felt he was fit to play on as he had passed some checks. The video shows that this was not the case. He is seen prone on the ground, not moving on occasions and slow to get up. He is disorientated and is seen constantly holding his right side of his head. Some team mates came forward and made statements that Ben could not remember the score, even although it was a low scoring game. Other statements emerged saying that Ben was knocked out on an occasion.

The family had to have another funeral service when Ben’s Brain was returned to the family. Over the two and half years since his death we have had 2 funerals, 2 inquests and hours of heartache. Finally, on 4th September 2013, we got Ben’s death certificate stating that he had died of ‘Second Impact Syndrome’.

As a family we have a very simple message: we want concussion awareness introduced into the School curriculum. ‘It’s a life skill’

We want mandatory training for all coaches and referees. Players need to be aware, they need to look after each other – a buddy buddy system.

Sports organisations and Unions need to accept that concussion can be fatal. Don’t down play concussion.

Professionals Rugby players are sending out the wrong message in regard to return to play after a head injury.

My son left me a wonderful gift, that I was unaware of until his mum found it in his school jotter. He had written the following :

My Dad
I probably don’t think of him as much as I should,
but when I do I think of all the things
he has done for me.
I think of the endless drives up
to football and rugby matches, I think of all the camping trips,
events and treats organised for me and my
sister. I remember all the plane trips
and drives he’s had to take,
as he lives in Scotland,
just for me.
I know he will ring everyday
to check up on me and know how
I’m doing.
I know I can talk to him
about anything and everything and
that he will give me the right advice
even when I think I don’t need it.
And although he has gained some
weight over the years and he is a Man City fan
I still love him and he loves me.

Ben Robinson