Can animals help limit concussions?

Gregory D. Myer, Director of Research in Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Recently wrote a fantastic – and very popular- article for “The Opinion Pages” of the New York Times on the concussion crisis. Below, we highlight a few key paragraphs and link to related BJSM publications. 

CINCINNATI — THE N.F.L. playoffs start tomorrow. During the regular season, the conversation about traumatic brain injuries in sports among doctors, players, league officials, politicians and parents seemed to gain in volume and intensity with each passing week. New revelations from retired N.F.L. players who announced that they had the progressive neurodegenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., helped fuel these discussions.

The key to beating the concussion crisis lies in dealing with what’s happening inside the skull, not outside of it. Because the brain doesn’t fill the skull, there’s room for it to rattle, be bruised or sheared, not just with every collision but with every sudden stop and even start —a phenomenon sometimes described as “brain slosh.” For athletes in contact sports, brain slosh has long been seen as inherent and unavoidable. But to make progress against concussions, we have to give priority in future research to minimizing brain slosh during game play. This means that we need sports leagues, policy makers and health care providers to emphasize primary prevention instead of damage control…

… Newer helmets don’t seem to make much of a difference, either. Studies appearing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics found nearly identical rates of sports-related concussions among different helmet brands and models, including older helmets and new. Why? Think about shipping fragile porcelain — do we use steel or titanium containers, or Bubble Wrap? The same principle applies when protecting the brain. Helmets fulfill their primary purpose of preventing skull fractures and lacerations, but they do not reduce concussions. It is the delicate brain within the skull that is damaged because it does not fit snugly. Athletes would benefit from a tighter fit for the brain — a Bubble Wrap effect — during play, but what are the factors within our control that might provide that effect? We have some leads….

Read the full NY Times article HERE.

See related BJSM articles/blogs/podcasts

Clara Karton et al. The evaluation of speed skating helmet performance through peak linear and rotational accelerations. 2014.

Brian W Benson et al. What are the most effective risk-reduction strategies in sport concussion? 2014.

Kimberly G HarmonJonathan A Drezner et al. American Medical Society for Sports Medicine position statement: concussion in sport. 2013.

Shameemah Abrahams et al. Risk factors for sports concussion: an evidence-based systematic review.2014.

BJSM Podcast: Kim Harmon on managing concussion 

BJSM Blog: James Thing – Paediatric concussion…….must try harder!


Gregory D. Myer is the Director of Research in Sports Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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