U.S. Soccer: Ban headers for players 10 and under

The U.S. Soccer Federation is recommending a ban on headers for players 10 and under, limits for players between 11 and 13 and having medical professionals rather than coaches make decisions on whether players suspected of concussions can remain in games.

As part of an announcement that a lawsuit over concussions filed last year had been settled, the USSF said Monday it is implementing the changes for U.S. youth national teams and its development academy, which are controlled by the governing body. The USSF is strongly urging they be adopted by all of its members, which includes youth local level entities and American professional leagues not under direct authority of the defendants in the lawsuit.

Under the new rules, a Health Care Professional (HCP) must be present at all development academy matches and will make all decisions regarding head injuries, taking decisions away from coaches. The replacement for a player who leaves a game for a suspected concussion or head injury will not count against a team’s total for allowed substitutions. If the injured player is cleared to return by the HCP, he or she must replace the original substitute.

A group of youth players and parents sued in August 2014 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, naming FIFA and the USSF as defendants along with the U.S. Youth Soccer Association, American Youth Soccer Organization, US Club Soccer and the California Youth Soccer Association.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton dismissed the case against FIFA in July, and the USSF and lawyers for the plaintiffs announced a settlement Monday, when the rest of the suit was dismissed.

The USSF said within 30 days it will announce an initiative to improve concussion awareness, return-to-play protocols and substitution rules. The USSF said it had been developing a player safety campaign before the lawsuit.

“With the development of the youth concussion initiative by U.S. Soccer and its youth members, we feel we have accomplished our primary goal and, therefore, do not see any need to continue the pursuit of the litigation,” Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

The USSF said it reached out to the medical community to develop the protocols.

“In constructing the concussion component, U.S. Soccer sought input from its medical science committee, which includes experts in the field of concussion diagnosis and management, as well as from its technical advisers, and worked with its youth members to develop a true consensus-based program,” Secretary General Dan Flynn said.

“While there is always more that can be done to keep our youths safe, I am confident that this agreement will help reduce the risk of concussion on the soccer field and provide the necessary tools to properly address a situation in which a head injury occurs,” Kira Aka Seidel, a parent who was one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

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An Athlete Felled by Concussions, Despite Playing a ‘Safer’ Sport

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Months later, the father mustered the strength to sort through what was left in his dead son’s bedroom. A Little League photo collage. Mardi Gras beads from that soccer tournament in New Orleans. And a typewritten personal essay tucked into a yellow folder, with a single word pen-carved into its plastic cover:

“Concussions.”

His son Curtis had written the paper for a college composition class in 2009, five years before his death. In it, Curtis recalled having been knocked unconscious three times in 14 years while playing soccer, twice after leaping to head the ball, only to — “WHAM” — collide with another player. The continuing side effects, he wrote, included “horrendous migraine headaches.”

“If I feel this way now,” he wondered, “what will it be like when I’m older?” He was 19.

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Reading those words, his father, Bill Baushke, felt the floor drop beneath him. This meant that Curtis knew. He knew well before most of us that repeated concussions could also lead soccer players — and not just those who box or play football — down the dark spiral of cognitive damage and decline.

Curtis Baushke, pictured in his Clarksville High School soccer uniform in 2009, was knocked unconscious three times in 14 years while playing soccer.
Well before the death in 2012 of the semiprofessional soccer player Patrick Grange, 29, who was posthumously found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease linked to concussions. Before the 2014 death of Hilderaldo Bellini, 83, the retired Brazilian soccer star, also found to have C.T.E. Before the specter of C.T.E. began to loom over every contact sport.

Curtis Baushke, racked by migraines and struggling with focus, was still focused enough to know. “Allowing kids to play too soon after a concussion could be very dangerous,” he wrote. “We need to find out the actual damage concussions cause people.”

When Curtis was not quite 5, a neighborhood boy bragged that his father was signing him up for soccer. Curtis then wanted to play soccer, too, but his parents were football and baseball people. “You go ahead and play soccer,” Bill Baushke recalled saying. “But next year you’re going to play baseball.”

Although Curtis excelled at both games, he eventually chose to concentrate on soccer, partly because he had been hit by pitches several times, once to the head. “He wanted to play a safe sport like soccer,” his father said.

With Curtis’s older brother, Ryan, playing as well, the Baushkes became a soccer family, their free time revolving around practices and games, field conditions and out-of-town tournaments. Life was lived on the mosquito-rich lawns down by the Cumberland River, under the lights at the sprawling Heritage Park and in the stands at the athletic field behind Clarksville High School.

Curtis played as a freshman on the varsity team, as well as for a premier club that served as a feeder system to colleges. “You’d start him maybe on defense,” Dave Donahue, one of his high school coaches, said. “But if you needed some punch, you’d put him in midfield, and then if you were a goal behind, you’d put him up front.”

“He was full speed, and just a terrific athlete,” said Donahue, who coached hundreds of players in his 26 years at Clarksville High. “He stands out, even to this day.”

Bill Baushke, 57, recalled how gifted his son had been at winning balls in the air with headers, at setting up teammates with pinpoint-perfect passes, at sending corner kicks curving toward the goal. But he also remembered the many times when Curtis “had his bell rung, sat out a couple of plays, and was told to go back in” — as well as that upsetting day when a disturbed classmate hit him in the head with a bowling ball, knocking him out.

Curtis began exhibiting behavior now recognized as suggestive of postconcussive trauma. Dramatic mood swings. Depression. Headaches so debilitating he would need to lie down in a dark room.

After high school, Curtis took a few classes at Hopkinsville Community College, where he wrote his personal essay about concussions. He moved to Chattanooga, Tenn., to live with his brother and took more college courses in hopes of becoming a sportswriter.

But Curtis, who was also found to have bipolar disorder, continued to struggle. He lost his job writing a blog about college draft picks. He injured himself while competing in a new passion — disc golf — and became addicted to prescription medicine. He moved back to the family house in the country, with that large front lawn where he and his buddies used to kick around a soccer ball. He stole, and used drugs, and lied. Maybe not lied; maybe he forgot.

Looking back, Bill and Patti Baushke might have dismissed their son’s self-diagnosis of C.T.E. as a convenient excuse for his problems. Credit Joe Buglewicz for The New York Times
“He wouldn’t remember doing things,” his father said. “He would sit there and deny it, but in his mind, he was telling the truth.”

Because of those severe migraines, his parents took him to a series of specialists, to no avail. They even had his brain scanned for tumors. Nothing. But it had to be something, Curtis insisted. He began to maintain that he had C.T.E.

Looking back, the Baushkes might have dismissed his belief as a convenient self-diagnosis by Internet. All they knew was that their sweet younger boy — who loved his grandmother, loved practical jokes, loved duck hunting — was failing to find his footing. More than once he made arrangements to move out, only to pull back at the last moment.

“I just don’t think that he felt he could do it,” his mother, Patti Baushke, 55, said as she sat before family photographs splayed across the dining room table.

A year ago last week, Bill and Curtis Baushke made plans to watch the United States play Germany in the World Cup. The elder Baushke left his job in Nashville early, only to come upon his son snoring loudly on his bed. He went to his own bedroom, changed his clothes and turned on the television in the living room, where wooden duck decoys adorned the shelves.

The game began, and the father called for his son. Called again, then went to rouse him. But Curtis had stopped breathing, and neither his father nor emergency medical technicians could revive him. Accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

His parents did what they knew Curtis would have wanted.

A few months later, the Baushkes participated in a conference call with researchers who had examined Curtis’s brain at Boston University’s CTE Center, which works with the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to brain trauma research and prevention.

Their determination: Curtis had Stage 2 C.T.E., meaning there was clear evidence of deterioration in the brain — surprising, given his young age.

“I cried and cried,” his mother recalled. “He was so right. Curtis wasn’t just making it up and talking crazy. He thought he had it, and he did.”

With that, the silence of unspoken what-ifs filled a house in the country, where the photographs on the dining room table depicted a gifted and airborne young athlete, meeting yet another soccer ball head-on.

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Pediatrician calls for more attention to childhood concussions

By Judy Benson

New London — While much of the focus on sports-related concussions has been on professional athletes, Dr. Karen Laugel, a Shelton pediatrician who helped found The Concussion Corps to educate parents, schools and medical providers, believes more attention needs to be paid to the issue of head injuries in youth.
“A half a million kids under the age of 14 are getting TBIs (traumatic brain injuries) and going to the emergency departments (annually),” she said. Of those, she said, 75 percent had concussions.
Laugel spoke to about 40 school nurses, registered nurses, doctors and others during a program at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital Thursday co-sponsored by L+M and The Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut.
Dr. Fred Santoro, chairman of the L+M Pediatrics Department, said the program also was offered to emergency room staff and others at the hospital, “so that we’re all on the same footing with how we evaluate kids and when they’re ready to return to school.”
In her talk, Laugel noted that, contrary to common perceptions, about 30 percent of childhood head injuries occur during sports activities, while the rest happen due to accidents or other incidents.
“These are kids who are just playing the dangerous game of childhood,” she said. In describing a concussion to a young patient, she said, she often compares it to the brain being shaken “like a snow globe,” so that the neurons “leak.”
After taking the audience through a step-by-step process of how to evaluate a child’s physical, visual and cognitive functions to determine whether they’ve had a concussion and how far they’ve recovered, she advised doctors, school nurses, teachers and parents to create “concussion management teams” to monitor the child. She also listed accommodations a student may need in school and at home after a concussion, including using audio books, extended test-taking time and limits on computer screen time. Returning to sports teams too soon, she added, is an all-too-common problem.
“We want them to play, but it’s our responsibility to make sure they play safely,” she said. Youth recovering from concussions, she said, need to be taught to self-monitor and self-limit their activities.
“Tell them to remember the snow globe, that if they’re getting a headache after watching TV for three hours, they’re shaking the globe,” she said.
She advocates students returning to school with accommodations after three or four days, and adding aerobic non-contact exercise soon after. But rejoining an athletic team, she said, should wait until the child has “returned to full academics” including a complete restoration of cognitive abilities. Returning too soon, she warned, risks long-term damage, especially if the youth is reinjured. Concussions, she added, are not just a problem for high school-aged students who play football, soccer, ice hockey, lacrosse and other contact sports, but for a broad cross-section of ages involved in a variety of activities.
“Don’t forget your elementary and middle school kids,” she added.
Her talk came as the General Assembly is considering a bill that would require coaches and other leaders of youth sports activities to provide parents with information about concussions.
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, co-sponsor of the bill, said Thursday that the bill has advanced out of the Committee on Children and the Appropriations Committee, and she is now hoping to get it scheduled for a vote on the House floor. Urban is co-chairwoman of the Committee on Children.
On Wednesday she spoke at a news conference on the bill with former University of Connecticut quarterback Casey Cochran, who urged passage of the bill. Cochran, a UConn senior who also played for New London High School, quit football in August after suffering his 12th concussion. Parents, he said, need to be informed about the risks of concussions and “how dangerous they really are.”
Urban said the required information sheets are readily available online. Coaches will be able obtain and distribute documents that would fulfill the requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s websites at no cost to the towns or school sponsoring the teams, she said.
“There’s no question there is more awareness, but many parents still are not aware,” she said. “The little ones, when they take a hit, their brain really flaps around.”
The bill requires that the information sheet describe the signs and symptoms of concussions, how to obtain proper medical treatment, the nature of concussions and their risks, and proper procedures for allowing an athlete who has had a concussion to return to sports. It would take effect on July 1.
Laugel urged audience members to get their school districts to develop concussion management policies and post them on their websites, to name staff to a concussion management team, and take advantage of online resources such as training programs on the Centers for Disease Control’s website.
Parents and medical providers also need to realize, she said, that youth may suffer setbacks as they heal from a concussion.
“Remember,” she said, “recovery is not always linear.”
j.benson@theday.com
Twitter: @BensonJudy

Kathy Sinnett APRN,
Nurse Practitioner & SBHC NP Coordinator

Child & Family Agency of SE CT’s
School Based Health Center at
Regional Multicultural Magnet School
1 Buckeley Place
New London, CT 06320

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Sideline Reporter Pam Oliver Speaks Out About Concussion

Concussion story gets real for Fox’s NFL sideline reporter Pam Oliver

On Sunday, Aug. 18 at the Meadowlands during pregame warmups, a pass thrown by Colts backup QB Chandler Harnish hit Oliver flush on the side of the face.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Saturday, August 31, 2013, 5:15 PM.
Pam Oliver got hit with an errant pass during warmups at the Giants vs. Colts game yesterday.
FOX Sports via Deadspin

Pam Oliver gets hit with an errant pass during warmups at the Giants vs. Colts game.

No one could blame Pam Oliver for not wanting to talk about the most painful moment — literally — of her career as Fox’s NFL sideline reporter. It happened on Sunday, Aug. 18, at the Meadowlands during pregame warmups when a pass thrown by Colts backup QB Chandler Harnish hit her flush on the side of the face.

In the immediate aftermath she refused to read about it, talk about it or watch the video. “Now I want to get it out there. It was a painful, shocking moment,” Oliver said in an exclusive interview over the telephone. “I didn’t really know what happened.”

In the days following this flash of pain, neither would anyone else who watched the Internet video. Not the people who thought it was funny. Nor the ones who felt bad for her.

Until now, they did not know she suffered a concussion.

Adrenaline got Oliver through the game telecast (“You don’t want to be wimpy, you just have to push through it.”), but in the car riding back to the hotel, when she began to relax, the slight headache turned into one of the pounding variety. She tried reconstructing what happened leading up to the moment.

Oliver had just finished doing an interview with referee Ed Hochuli for a piece she was doing on NFL refs for Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports,” which airs Wednesday night, and returned to the sidelines. “That’s all I remember,” she said. “I asked the people around me, ‘What happened?’ They told me I just got hit in the head with a football.”

After waking up that Monday her head hurt so much she had to hold it. “The sensitivity to light started and some nausea too,” she said, “my whole body was sore.” Oliver went to the doctor. The CT Scan came up clean, but she was diagnosed with a concussion. Oliver spent the next five days in a dark room inside her home.

“I slept for hours on end. The minute you wake up you’re reminded. Your head is pounding,” she said. “I really could not take light — the light from the TV, the accent lighting. The sun was completely my enemy. My blinds were drawn. It was miserable.”

RELATED: SEE IT: SIDELINE REPORTER TAKES FOOTBALL TO FACE

When Oliver wasn’t sleeping she wondered how long she would be living in the dark. “I worried about my memory, but after five days things began clearing up,” she said. “I felt clear-headed and stronger, but the headaches still come and go.”

The coincidence does not escape her. She covers a league in which concussions are a major hazard — a big story too — and she gets one. Oliver has a sideline view of the violence every Sunday, but until now it was impossible to feel its after effects.

“Players don’t want to be reminded about their concussions. They don’t want to be known as the guy who went down with one. They downplay it,” she said. “Then it happens to me and I start wondering how these guys go back to being hit, taking all that punishment, a week or two later.”

Pam Oliver now wonders how she will feel on her return to the sidelines Sept. 8 when the Packers play the 49ers in San Francisco.
Jim Mahoney/AP

Pam Oliver now wonders how she will feel on her return to the sidelines Sept. 8 when the Packers play the 49ers in San Francisco.

Oliver now wonders how she will feel on her return to the sidelines Sept. 8 when the Packers play the 49ers in San Francisco. She vowed never to become “sideline road kill.” She came close once when Marion Barber ran into a kicker’s net and it hit her.

“I’m now officially road kill,” she said. “But when I’m back on the sidelines, I’ll do what I always do: Stay a bit behind the line of scrimmage. And keep my head on a swivel.”

Even during pregame warmups.

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