As the whole nation is getting into the spirit of the football season, this year the phenomenon is marked by a somber note.
The fact that football, like soccer, is a concussive sport was underscored when earlier in September the National Football League said it was donating $30 million for brain injury research to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Yet several efforts have been made to make football a less dangerous sport or at least one where action can be taken quickly if there is any evidence of injury. Here are two.
Concussion Screening Tests
Just five years ago, screening tests that provide a baseline reading for how an athlete’s brain is functioning wasn’t available, said Keith Cronin, a St. Louis, Missouri,physical therapist and center manager at SSM-Select Physical Therapy.
SportSafe Concussion Testing uses the test developed by ImPACT have such that if a brain injury is suspected, then these tests can be run again to see how they compare with results before the injury. That is increasingly important because sometimes brain injuries may not have physical manifestations, Cronin said.
The ImPACT test is used by many hospitals, including Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center, Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital and University of Chicaho hospitals; several NFL teams including Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, and the New England Patriots and other professional sport teams; and sports medicine centers around the country.
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization
This kind of therapy is to treat injuries like tendinpathies, diseases of the tendon like tendinitis and tendinosis, and allows the athlete to keep moving despite the injury.
For instance, the Graston Technique uses stainless steel instruments to “roll across the skin and catch the knots that the fingers can’t feel,” Cronin explained. The goal is to work across the injured soft tissue and restore its normal condition. Before this kind of therapy became available, physical therapists would use ultrasound, electrical stimulation, massages and off-the-shelf orthotics to treat the injury, Cronin said.
Innovations in Helmets
Football helmet makers are also trying to develop advanced helmets that can protect players better. Cronin could not name any manufacturer specifically but said there are multiple makers all trying to build a helmet that protects against brain injury. The key here, is better protection and not prevention.
“You can make a helmet as perfect as possible but you can never prevent head injury,” Cronin said. “The goal is to create one that overall reduces the risk of a concussion happening.”
That seems to be the intent behind Riddell 360, which the company described as the “next evolution of the Riddell CRT (Concussion Reduction Technology.” A review of the helmet says that the way it tries to reduce concussions is by preventing the head from bouncing around inside the helmet. The Riddell 360 has an “occipital lock” that keeps the helmet firmly on the player’s head.