Monday, May 2, 2011 ❘ the gazette ❘
special reports: concussions
cc coach happy with safety rule by JOE PAISLEy
senate: Coaches will need to be more mindful from page 1 —
THE GAZETTE filE pHOTO
Colorado College coach Scott Owens talks with referee Derek Shepherd in 2008.
We weren’t perfect and never missed a call. ... I’d give us a B or B-plus. We’ll never get there completely, but we’ll keep striving for perfection.” greg shepherd — WChA’s head of officials on a new rule concerning blows to the head that are under the referee’s discretion
the rule to a no-tolerance level. “We’ve made a dent and some progress in that area,” he said. “We’ve gotten close to it but I think no tolerance would be a dangerous precedent.” Most everyone understands the importance of the rule even if they lose track of that during a game. “Coaches and players get it,” Shepherd said. “We all understand the severity of concussions and that’s the motivation behind this rule.”
Having the severity of the penalty under the referee’s discretion put a lot of pressure on them. Judging intent or whether a player hit the chest and then accidently slid up into the head and neck area, all in a split-second decision, is challenging. “We weren’t perfect and never missed a call,” Shepherd said. “I look at every call made so I know (with the benefit of video replay). I’d give us a B or B-plus. We’ll never get there completely, but we’ll keep striving for perfection.”
closer look at tHe rUle A player shall not target and make contact with an opposing player’s head or neck in any manner (including, but not limited to, with the shoulder, stick, elbow, etc.). Penalty — Major and game misconduct or disqualification at the discretion of the referee. These are intended as guidance and include, but are not limited to, the following: • A player that has just released a shot or pass • A player that delivers a late hit • A player that extends and directs the arm, elbow, forearm or shoulder to contact the head and neck area of the opponent
• A player that extends the body and targets the opponent’s head or neck area • A player that leaves their skates or launches in order to deliver a blow to the head or neck of an opponent • A player that uses the stick in any way to target the head or neck area (e.g., cross checking, butt-ending, etc.). As additional guidance, when the initial force of the contact is a shoulder to the body of the opponent and then slides up to the head or neck area, this is not classified as contact to the head. This type of action may still be penalized, at the referee’s discretion, as another penalty (e.g., charging, roughing, etc.).
nfl’s impact concussion test for its players NFL players have often complained about the battery of medical tests at the annual scouting combine, and this year each of them had another test: the ImPACT concussion test. The ImPACT (which stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) tests things such as word memory, color and symbol recognition and letter sequence memory in a computer program. Most athletes who use it get a baseline test, to measure against future post-concussion
tests. According to the ImPACT website, all NHL and Major League Baseball teams use the test, 21 NFL teams (including the Denver Broncos), eight NBA teams and just about every major university athletic program uses the test, including Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State and Colorado College and some area high schools. Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs uses the test. Just because the test is widespread doesn’t mean it’s foolproof, however. FoxSports. com reported in mid-April that some NFL players admitted to a concussion specialist they had purposely performed poorly on
the baseline test, which would allow them to get cleared more quickly if they did suffer a head injury. Dr. Mike Nunley, a clinical neuropsychologist at Memorial Health System, said he tries to pick up on abnormalities in the testing, to make sure athletes aren’t tanking the test. In most normal cases, the test measures an athlete’s visualmotor skills, processing speed and memory after a concussion. Once the scores match up with the pre-concussion baseline scores, an athlete can be cleared to return to action. The tests cost about $40 and takes about 20 minutes to complete. frank schwab, the gazette
nosed and couldn’t return until they were cleared. Senate Bill 40 has been lauded for including coaches and athletes of middle school, junior high and club teams, and is designed to protect athletes as young as 11 years old. “We figure if it’s important for our high school Nancy sports, it’s Spence important for our middle school sports,” Spence said. “It’s protecting the young, developing brains of children.” There wasn’t much backlash against the bill, but Spence said some worried that rural areas might have a tougher time finding coaches because of the extra responsibility. Jim Haverstrom, the director for the Colorado Springs Amateur Hockey Association, and Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation youth sports program coordinator Gerry Strabala said they didn’t think fewer coaches would volunteer because of the measure. Both men supported the bill. “We’re putting a little more responsibility on our coaches, but I also think it’s a good thing,” Strabala said. “It’s a tool for our coaches to recognize concussions.” Haverstrom said hockey has tried to be proactive in preventing concussions. USA Hockey proposed a rule earlier this year that would eliminate checks for players less than 13 years old. He thinks the coaches, who can do their required educational training online, will be more cognizant of making sure players aren’t in harm’s way. “I think we’ll find a lot of people are going to err on the side of caution,” Haverstrom said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, right, was booed by fans on Thursday during the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
today may be key day in lockout as judges decide fate of league The Associated Press —
NEW YORK • If these are not fun times for football fans, they are captivating days for lawyers. The NFL lockout is back in force after a short hiatus last week. A St. Louis appeals court could determine as early as today whether the league deserves a permanent stay of an injunction granted to the players in Minnesota to block the lockout. “We are in uncharted but fascinating legal territory,” agent and attorney Ralph Cindrich said as he examined the short-term reinstatement of the lockout by three judges from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The owners’ lockout is temporary now; it can become permanent after the same three judges do a detailed review. If the lockout is reinstated, it puts the players down on points big.” If it’s not, something Cindrich predicts, league business could resume immediately, even as more NFL appeals are filed. Cindrich believes that even though those judges voted 2-1 Friday to review the matter, they won’t overturn Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s determination that the lockout was preventing the players from
earning a living. With the draft behind them, the 32 teams can’t have contact with players. “You just do what you do and abide by the guidelines the league puts out as we go along,” Rams GM Billy Devaney said. “Everybody’s in the same boat; we’re not stressing out or anything. It’ll eventually get settled and you just go with it.” Going with it for the players means training on their own. For first-round picks, it means devouring the playbooks they were able to get from their teams during Friday’s break in the lockout. “The quarterbacks and offensive linemen and wide receivers, these young guys, can you imagine? With no mini-camps and no OTAs, if they show up Aug. 1 to training camp, they’re going to be so lost,” Montana-based agent Ken Staninger said. “It may be a lost draft, other than the elite-elite.” For coaches, it means evaluating how they addressed their needs in the draft, and which undrafted players they might approach when allowed to do so. Dallas coach Jason Garrett has all his plans organized for offseason workouts and minicamps. “What we did is we laid out
the entire calendar for the offseason assuming there was no lockout,” Garrett said. “So all of those dates were in place soon after the season ended. But obviously we had to be responsive to the lockout and when the players came back, and we’ll continue to do that based on what the new rules are.” Those rules are uncertain even if the players win the next round in the appeals court. Among the league’s options is reinstating the 2010 guidelines, which featured more limited free agency and no salary cap. And no minimum for spending, which could come into play more than ever with some owners who fear profits will continue to decline. “It’s a chaotic time,” said Ben Dogra, agent for Sam Bradford and Patrick Willis, among others. “There are a lot of moving points, and it means daily uncertainty.” Amid the uncertainty, one message rang clear during the draft. It was delivered by the fans, who repeatedly booed commissioner Roger Goodell and also chanted “we want football.” Goodell responded, “So do I.” For now, getting football back is in the hands of judges.
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If the goal for the new major penalty for contact to the head was to raise awareness, then the rule was a considerable success in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Only 27 five-minute majors for contact to the head were recorded this past season, after the NCAA added the rule last offseason. “The perception is there were a lot more,” said Greg Shepherd, the league’s head of officials. “We did a good job making sure the coaches and players were aware, especially during the first month.” Tigers coach Scott Owens knew the problem had to be addressed and was happy with the new rule and how it was handled. “It’s had a positive impact,” he said. “The officials spent time explaining it to (the coaches) and we passed it on to the players. They made a lot of calls early. It’s definitely a problem. When you look at the (NHL channel news) ticker, at least a third of it deals with concussions.” The severity of the fiveminute major, which included either a game misconduct or game suspension, proved an effective, immediate deterrent that also made things easier for the league office. Whether a player missed the rest of the game or the rest of that game and the next was up to the on-ice official, which is how the league wanted it. “We did not even get involved in supplementary discipline,” said commissioner Bruce McLeod, who said the WCHA handed out three suspensions last season after games. McLeod said the NCAA does not anticipate altering
Published on Sep 28, 2011
Series of articles in Colorado Springs Gazette reporting on the scope of concussion injuries in sports, and thier mitigation. Published Apr...