Thoughts on everything we are hearing and will see: An opinion

Dustin.Fink Dustin Fink

Certainly we are nearing a “too much” point in terms of concussion for most of the country. For others this is just the continuation of what we have been doing for years. From a personal perspective I do like the attention that the discovery process is getting. I am all for people getting all the info possible to make informed decisions.

I want to take this particular space in this post to assert that I am not – nor have I ever – been against any sport including football. I am, transparently, supporting flag and non-tackle football until high school. Yes, no scientific evidence proves this helps/hurts, but in all my work and research I am of the opinion that less dosage of repetitive brain trauma is better for humans.

That is where we stand, the issue really is one of repetitive brain trauma (RBT), not of sports or accidents or leisure activities. As Dr. Omalu clearly stated in his interview with Matt Chaney in 2011 and again today with Mike Mike (hour 4); the brain does not heal itself. Damaging it, even on the microscopic level can and will leave a lasting impact. This is not just assumption, it is noted in many different studies regarding brain health after activities (see Purdue).

I am confident that with proper healing time and avoidance of re-injury the brain will find a way to function at or even better (proper learning and congnitive functioning) as people get older. The management of not only the “gross” injury of concussion and TBI is one that is getting better and as we get more research the management of the subconcussive hits and exposure, that too will be satisfactory.

What we all must do is take off the “emotional pants” and wade through the muck to find out what is important for us to make decisions for those that are not capable or even legal. Part of this is discourse and discussion (civil would be best). Everyone will be challenged intellectually and morally with this – it’s OK.

I noticed an article written by Irv Muchnick yesterday that took apart some of the talking points from the Dr. Bailes interview also on Mike Mike and other previous appearances:

The media’s Hippocratic go-to guy for youth football says, “There have been no deaths in 40 years of youth football.”

Not, mind you, “somewhat fewer deaths than critics suggest.”


Bailes made the remark at a September 2013 neurosurgery conference in Munster, Indiana, and in numerous other settings. I have an image of his slide at an April 2015 presentation in Chicago, which reinforces the bullet: “No deaths reported in youth football.”

Zero, my friends, is a serious number — beyond science, beyond politics, beyond rhetoric. It is Manichean, absolute. In this case, it’s also a staggeringly large lie.

According to Missouri author-journalist Chaney, the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research (founded by UNC’s Frederick O. Mueller and now directed by Kristen L. Kucera) has reported 27 youth league football deaths since 1986. (The center reported one death, from cardiac arrest, in 2014; the group distinguishes “direct” impact deaths from those stemming from “indirect” causes.)

I might not be as strident against Dr. Bailes and his ilk – they do a tremendous amount of good work as well – about their personal beliefs in the sport of football and who and when it should be allowed to play, but I am concerned that we get the numbers right. It has to be right so people can make the informed decision on their own. The wordsmithing and massaging of the numbers that goes on in public spaces about concussion is tiring and madness.

We can, well should, agree that according to MEDICINE/SCIENCE that repetitive brain trauma is not a desired action in the short-term or long-term.

We should also take note of the actual problem in the word and realm of concussion: the mismanagement of the injury.

Do your best to find out the information that you feel is valuable to make such decisions. But one thing I implore everyone to do is; take a step back from the picture, get out of the frame for a few minutes and look at this from the distance. By doing this you actually notice other parts of the painting you are actually in.