On May 29, 2014, President Obama hosted a Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit at the White House to address the growing risk of concussion in youth sports.  More than 200 invited guests attended, and the overall recommendation and emphasis were on the need for future research on head injuries and safety for the nation’s young athletes.  The president highlighted the millions of dollars in research commitments from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Department of Defense, National Football League and National Institute of Standards and Technology.  Children were still recommended to participate in sports, but needed to understand the risks involved, and parents were encouraged to embrace safety measures for their kids.  See the articles on the White House blog and in The Washington Post

Before this summit, there had been some other important updates in the concussion research community that are worth noting this year.  The 2014 Football Helmet ratings were once again published jointly by Virginia Tech and Wake Forrest universities and indicate that future ratings will look at hockey helmets and youth helmets and incorporate linear and rotational acceleration factors to make these ratings even more valuable.   See the Product Design and Development article

Researchers in Sweden have shown elevation of a blood protein, total tau (t-tau), soon after concussions noted in professional hockey players.  Before tau levels were usually obtained by looking at spinal tap fluid.  The new blood test is not commercially available yet, but is developed by a Massachusetts-based biotech company, Quanterix Corp.  Research at the Cleveland Clinic is looking at another blood protein, S100B, that may be a sensitive indicator of an acute concussion.  See the recent JAMA Neurology article.

Other countries are starting to take notice of the importance of addressing concussion awareness and research in sports outside of American football and, hopefully, this will lead to larger studies across many different sporting and gender populations.  See articles from The Guardian, Clearinghouse for Sport and Hunter Medical Research Institute

As I write this, my middle son, Eric, currently finishing his junior year in high school, has been ranked the #9 football player in New Hampshire and is being followed by 30 colleges across all three NCAA divisions.  See The Bedford Bulletin article.  The chance for a college scholarship looks realistic, and our family has discussed the risks and research data regularly.  Hopefully, other families whose children are involved with contact or collision sports will do the same and get appropriate advice from their doctors about sports safety.  Better knowledge and improved science should make long-term involvement in sports a safer choice.


Stuart J. Glassman, MD

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