I hope Alan Schwarz, the baseball statistics nerd who used his arithmetical wizardry to bring the football helmet industry to its knees, will come out of retirement as The New York Times’ concussion beat reporter and engage the latest outlandish claims of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Concussion Program.
And that goes for Senator Tom Udall, too. Last October’s hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, spearheaded by Udall, either cluelessly or cagily attacked only lowest common denominators of the American football concussion crisis. Two-fisted lobbyist UPMC and its eminence grease, Dr. Joseph Maroon (a campaign contributor to Commerce Committee chair Jay Rockefeller), didn’t even warrant a mention. Udall also treated Dave Duerson, who helped stonewall mental-health benefits for other retired players while on the National Football League retirement board before committing suicide himself, as a hero in this decades-long national scandal.
Back to Schwarz and The Times and UPMC.
Neurosurgery has published a new paper claiming that healing time from a concussion now can be predicted with more precision. Remember that Neurosurgery is a virtual house organ of the NFL and historical repository of canned, cooked, and unethically produced articles on traumatic brain injury. Last year, in a shocking display of unprofessionalism and corruption, attendees of the annual convention of the journal’s publisher, the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, rewarded speaker Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, with a standing ovation.
UPMC flacks, who don’t respond to media inquiries unless they’re in the mood, today put out a press release on the new Neurosurgery article:
“The study, one of the first to examine concussion prognoses, showed that specific neurocognitive ‘cut-off’ scores derived from ImPACT™ (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) improved clinicians’ ability to predict which sports-related concussions could take longer — as much as five times longer — to rehabilitate than others. They found, in as many as 85 percent of the cases, the scores could warn athletes, parents, coaches, schools, teams and health professionals when a concussion is likely to take on average a month to heal.”
Micky Collins, the UPMC program director who co-owns the for-profit ImPACT Applications, calls the study “a game-changer” because it augurs “a way of determining within two days of injury who’s going to take a month or longer to recover.”
Meanwhile, in the neglected common-sense wing of youth concussion research, another journal, Brain Injury, has published a paper by Université de Montréal neuropsychologist Dave Ellemberg buttressing the intuitively obvious case that teenagers are far more vulnerable than adults in this area. Furthermore, Ellemberg says, a first sports-related concussion “will result in six months to a year of neurophysiological side effects for adolescents, adults and children alike.”