Monday night I rushed over to Hidden Valley High School for what I thought was going to be a jammed packed auditorium of parents, coaches and young athletes eager to hear about the latest on sports related concussions. After all concussions have been a hot topic recently with growing media attention.
I walked in to find the seats sparsely populated.
About 50 people were there, and that included those who helped to organize the event. I recognized many of the people in the audience, and on stage, as those who have a vested interest in promoting the issue of concussions in young athletes.
I wasn’t the only one to notice the audience. The featured speaker for the event, Chris Nowinski, asked, by a show of hands from the audience, who was there because they personally had been involved with the care of someone who had a sports-related concussion. Nearly every hand went up.
Needless to say, Nowinski was speaking to a group of people who were already educated about concussions and the seriousness of diagnosing and properly treating the injury.
“It’s a shame that we only educate people after something bad happens,” he said.
Nowinski, a former World Wrestling Entertainment character, is best known these days as a concussion advocate and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute. Carilion Clinic paid to bring him to Roanoke to headline an event that was supposed to educate the community about the growing concerns surrounding sports head injuries.
Afterwards, Carilion spokeswoman Allie Buth told me that the event may have been hindered by a number of lacrosse and soccer games also scheduled for Monday evening. The NCAA national championship men’s basketball game was also Monday night, but the event was over before the game started. (I made it home in time to watch.)
Nowinski said the crowd is typical for similar events he has attended across the country. He said the problem is educating the general public that this isn’t just a problem that impacts the NFL or other professional sports.
So here are some facts that Nowinski shared:
An estimated one in five athletes had a concussion last year. That’s all athletes, not just the pros.
Concussions are under-reported because people don’t know the signs and symptoms.
Most athletes, parents and coaches are not educated about concussions before the season begins.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, has been found in the brain of dead athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.