Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The International Olympic Committee and the National Football League should be on the same page when it comes to concussions and return to competition but subtle differences in approach remind us how difficult it is to assess the brain of a competitive athlete. Both organizations agree that players should be held out of competition if a concussion is suspected. They both will use standardized testing on the field to look for subtle changes in mental function. It’s easy to make the diagnosis when the athlete has been knocked out; no so easy when the only sign is a brief look of confusion.
Both organizations agree that concussion victims should not return to the field of play that day. The IOC has decided on a timetable the gets the athlete back on the practice field for conditioning within 48 hours and gradually back to game condition on day six. The NFL guidelines ate vague; the athlete can return after a normal neurologic exam, normal neurologic testing that returns to preseason baseline, being cleared by the team doctor and a normal exam by an independent neurologist. Both systems can be gamed by a driven athlete. Quarterback Peyton Manning confessed that he “tanked” the preseason testing so that it would be easier to return to play if he was hurt, a confession that he quickly recanted. Since an Olympic athlete only has an opportunity to compete every 4 years, injuries are markedly underreported.

Even pro athletes don’t have good enough reflexes to overcome a blood alcohol level of 0.208 and drive a car. Though Cleveland Indian Shin-Soo Choo was arrested in the early morning and charged with driving under the influence, and then apologized to his teammates and formally apologized to his fane, his lawyer may plead not guilty in his absence. The national pastime prides itself on having its players respect the history of the game. Unfortunately, Mr. Choo did not remember the evening of April 9, 2009 when Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver as he drove home after a game. Mr. Choo also didn’t remember that on December 23, just 5 months ago, the guilty driver was sentenced to 51 years to life for his crime.
Choo said he will do all he can to block out his mistake and stay focused on his job. “It’s OK. I’m good,” he said. “This happened outside the team. I’m going to be the same guy.” http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/baseball/mlb/05/03/indians.choo.dui.ap/index.html?sct=hp_t2_a11&eref=sihp
This does not sound like the remorse that his manager says he feels. Perhaps he should spend more time on his ethics instead of his swing.

The NFL draft and medical errors share an interesting similarity. Monday morning quarterbacks both hover in judgment over decisions made with the information available at the time. Most medical errors cause little harm; they are recognized, corrected and hopefully, the family and patient are informed about what occurred and what actions have been taken to prevent damage and future mistakes. When lawsuits happen, experts for the patient and doctor square off in the courtroom trying to convince the jury that their side is just. The same is true when teams pick their future players. Some may become stars and while others may not play a single pro football game. One thing is certain. Retrospectively, and with the advantage of time, experts will explain to anybody who will listen, why some players are terrible and have failed to live up to their potential. I wonder if their listeners would tolerate such criticism and agree to have their lives and careers dissected in public. Perhaps because football players are hidden behind facemasks and underneath pads, they seem less human to those who watch them perform.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.