College of Education panelists talk concussions

Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the Institute for Sports Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, speaks during the March 22 panel discussion. Jeff Mjannes, M.D., director of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic of the Rush University Medical Center, also offered his expertise.
Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the Institute for Sports Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, speaks during the March 22 panel discussion. Jeff Mjannes, M.D., director of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic of the Rush University Medical Center, also offered his expertise.

According to a 2013 report released by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, the reported number of individuals aged 19 and younger treated in U.S. emergency departments for concussions and other non-fatal, sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries increased from 150,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2009.

The report also revealed sports associated with the highest rates of reported concussions in U.S. athletes at the high school and college levels – linking football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and soccer to male athletes and soccer, lacrosse and basketball to female athletes.

Women’s ice hockey at the collegiate level has the highest rate of reported concussions.

Publicity surrounding brain damage among retired professional football players and research into the long-term effects of head injuries among young athletes have left parents wondering about their child’s safety on the field and prompted lawmakers nationwide to pass new laws regarding concussion in youth sports.

On March 22, the NIU College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education addressed these issues in a Community Learning Series event panel titled “Concussion and Youth Sport.”

The panel included medical doctors, policy makers, researchers and others associated with youth sports provided information about the effects that concussions have on young and developing brains, as well as details of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act, which goes into effect at schools across Illinois this fall.

Paul M. Wright
Paul M. Wright

“The panel was a great example of the momentum and network we are developing around this topic. We have been conducting research on the topic and consulting with the Sycamore Consortium for Youth Sport and other organizations to help them interpret the new concussion policy and address the educational requirements for coaches,” said NIU professor Paul M. Wright, moderator of the panel.

Wright said the group is developing workshops to help school districts and other organizations meet the requirements of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act with the most current information including the state-specific policy requirements.

“While we hope to provide such workshops to local districts, these are statewide issues and requirements. Therefore, after developing and piloting the educational program, we may develop online modules that could help coaches and educators anywhere in the state to access this same information,” Wright said.

“Awareness about youth sport concussion is only going to increase and the need for credible concussion education is sharply increasing,” Wright added. “We hope to leverage our expertise and capacity to help address this need locally and across the state.”

Professor Chad D. McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, said the College of Education’s Community Learning Series event on concussions in youth sports provided a terrific opportunity for NIU students, faculty and community members to engage with a diverse panel of experts on this important topic.

“As new legislation impacts this area, our panel provided robust dialogue on the medical, legal, and educational issues involved,” he said.

Audience members asked questions to stir the conversation.
Audience members asked questions to stir the conversation.

Panelists from Chicago included Jeff Mjannes, director of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush University Medical Center; Cynthia LaBella, medical director for the Institute for Sports Medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital; and Adam Potteiger, certified athletic trainer for the Division of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at Lurie.

Others on the panel were Thomas Kim, principal, coach and former high school athletic director at Huntley Middle School; Matt Wilson, assistant professor in the NIU School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders; and Sharon Moskowitz, an NIU graduate student.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper, distinguished teaching professor and presidential engagement professor, applauded the KNPE department’s collaborative efforts to identify and work with such a timely research topic of interest for the event and the field.

“I commend the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education for identifying such a timely and important topic for this Community Learning Series. They are truly committed to continuing this conversation and working collaboratively to educate and affect policy and practice regarding concussion and youth sport,” Elish-Piper said.

“This is a fabulous example of what we do best in the College of Education – applying research and theory to make a difference in the field.”

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