The Scoop Winter 2016 - Page 18

Keeping Their Head In The Game

How MBYLL Handles Concussions

By Jonathan Sigal

While the news is riddled with feel-good stories of championship teams, it’s hard to ignore the rhetoric surrounding a darker element of sports.

Concussions.

A tongue-twisting phrase such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy appears in articles left and right; Will Smith’s new feature film is aptly titled “Concussion,” the NFL just donated $1 million to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, and U.S. Soccer just eliminated heading at the youth level.

Despite all the recent fuss, concussions aren’t new to sports. Almost all athletes—not just lacrosse players—sustain hits to the head and experience symptoms ranging from blurred vision to headaches to memory loss. Mass Bay Youth Lacrosse League recognizes this and has its sights set on creating the safest environment for its athletes.

“One is too many, so let’s figure out a way to reduce all of them from our sport,” said Tom Spangenberg, president of MBYLL. “We’re not going to be satisfied until they’re all gone and the fun can continue without concussions.”

While it’s virtually impossible to fully rid lacrosse of concussions, increased awareness and proper education lead to coaches and parents making smarter decisions when a head injury does occur. A baseline understanding is already in place as Mass Bay coaches are certified in U.S. Lacrosse’s concussion curriculum.

The 2016 season will also mark the introduction of The Safety Tag, a mobile platform that’s aimed at increasing player safety. Each player has a profile, on which parents can upload all pertinent medical

information and compliance forms.

The dashboard allows coaches to report incidents to emergency contacts as they happen and follow injury response plans when necessary. Mass Bay Select programs will all have access to The Safety Tag in the upcoming season, while there are plans to branch out to the Classic program in the future.

“Mass Bay is such a well run organization and we’re excited to partner with these guys because they do expect a lot of their coaches and players,” said The Safety Tag CEO Michael Buono. “If a kid comes out with a head injury, the coach can right away send an injury log out via text or email and when they come back home the parent already knows. Having a proper action right on the mobile device is crucial, too.”

Spangenberg also added that MBYLL adopts an “If in doubt, sit them out” plan, while another partnership allows the league to use as many resources as possible to tackle this issue head on. Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg, who is the Director of Psychological Services at Mass General Hospital’s Sports Concussion Clinic, works closely with MBYLL to raise concussion awareness.

An expert in the field, Ginsburg explained that scientists know high school athletes take longer to recover from a concussion than collegiate athletes, and when a second concussion happens before the first one heals that it can create a longer recovery and complications.

However, there are still many questions to be asked and answered and the entire picture is not clear.

“Frankly, we haven’t studied the brains of every player … but there is some kind of complex, multifaceted explanation for why people have health complications and it is not exclusively explained based on hits to the head,” Ginsburg said. “We just

18 The Scoop / Winter '16