Sports Med Garnering Headlines — the Ugly Way

Our profession’s shame — headlining the newspapers this past weekend

I woke up Saturday to local news that had a national profile and an international impact:  the front page of ‘my’ local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch announced in a headline A Failure to act by OSU and went on to describe in the first few lines the essence of the story:

“Over his 20-year career, Strauss would go on to abuse at least 177 male students at Ohio State. For years, nobody stopped him.”

Nobody stopped him.

Dr. Richard Strauss was a team physician for Ohio State (OSU) athletics, taking care of wrestlers and football players.  He was as well a founding member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), one of the premier professional bodies in our profession (I am also a member of the AMSSM).

If you have not read this story, I encourage you to take a look. In brief, one year ago Ohio State announced an independent investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against Dr. Richard Strauss that had emerged at that time.  Dr. Strauss was a team physician at OSU from the period of 1978 to 1998. He died in 2005 when he committed suicide.  During his tenure the report reveals he abused at least 177 athletes.

There have been multiple media reports, but you may not have had the ability yet to see the full report, which has been released by OSU can can be found here.

I honestly find myself at a loss for words here. That is, I don’t have much in the way of commentary.  I want more than anything with this post to bear witness to the victims and to air this news as widely as possible; it may be that some of the readers of this blog are international and possibly have not heard this news yet.

Our profession of sports medicine has earned these headlines before — the Larry Nassar story still plays out, with USA Gymnastics in shambles a)nd the lives of hundreds of young women forever altered.  Our sports and top institutions have earned these ugly headlines far too often:  from the story Jerry Sandusky and Penn State in the USA to Barry Bennell and youth football in the UK.

“Nobody stopped him.”  The subtext of each one of these ugly, headline-making stories.

I think if the story of abuse in the Church (as told in ‘Spotlight’ and other movies) teaches us anything, it is that the last ugly story we have heard will not be the last ugly story we hear.  There are a Richard Strauss and a Larry Nassar alive and practicing in our profession right now.

Bear witness. Open our eyes to the possibility that this is occurring in your institution, your school, your community. Be willing to speak out and act. Look at resources such as the UN’s initiative on safeguarding in sport (particularly useful for youth sports). The IOC likewise has a ‘toolkit’ — Safeguarding Athletes from Abuse and Harassment in Sport. 

More than anything in a post like this, I would look to you the sports medicine community to share back with me what your thoughts are about this, what resources you are aware of to make these headlines go away.

The Mental Health Podcast and CASEMCON2019

I hope readers of this blog, and listeners of the podcast, have been following #CASEMCON2019 on their social media feeds this week. The Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) has been conducting its annual meeting in Vancouver these past several days, and is scheduled to wrap up today, May 18.  I have learned so much from following this #, as well as following the feeds of CJSM Twitter friends including Drs. Jane Thornton  Margo Mountjoy and Laura Cruz.

The topic of mental health in sport has figured prominently in the CASEM proceedings:  for instance, Clint Malarchuk, a retired NHL player, is scheduled to talk today about the stigma of mental health in sport.

And so one of our more recent publications and our most recent podcast could not be timelier (published in our May 2019 journal): The Canadian Centre for Mental Health and Sport (CCMHS) Position Statement: Principles of Mental Health in Competitive and High-Performance Sport

Krista Van Slingerland, of CCMHS and the University of Ottawa

The CCMHS is a relatively new organization and, along with a similar group in Sweden, represents one of the first such initiatives on the planet.  The co-founder of CCMHS, Ms. Krista Van Slingerland of the University of Ottawa, is the lead author of the position statement. She graciously met me on Skype (she, in Ottawa, and I in Columbus) to conduct a podcast exploring the issue of mental health in sport and the work CCMHS is doing to bring further attention to this issue and begin treating individual athletes for the problems they are facing.

CJSM is committed to providing a platform for this important issue, one which has been relatively neglected for too long in our world of sport and exercise medicine.  In my training — and I would suspect in yours, too — the focus was primarily on musculoskeletal medicine,  Medical issues such as managing diabetes or exercise-induced asthma, screening for cardiac disease, etc. would demand our attention at times.  The issue of concussion and its sequelae have of course become central to our athletes’ lives and our practice.  But identifying and helping our athletes cope with anxiety, depression, suicidality — I received little to no training in sports medicine about this, and have heretofore relied on my training in family medicine to help.

The new position statement as well as the CJSM CME Module we have created will help clinicians, including myself, learn more about the importance of mental health in the athletes we serve, and will help us be better able to identify and address the issues uncovered.  High profile and tragic stories like that of the life and death by suicide of Olympic cyclist Kelly Catlin underscore the vital importance of improving our care.

Besides the timeliness of #CASEMCON2019 wrapping up today in Vancouver with Clint Malarchuk’s talk, there is a bit of additional serendipity to the publication date for the CCMHS statement and this podcast, as well, for May is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth!

And so…..your action items for this weekend

  1. Follow #CASEMCON2019 on your social media feeds
  2. Listen to the podcast, which can be found on our journal web page and on our iTunes feed
  3. Read the position statement — one of the Editor’s picks for this month
  4. Check out the CME module CJSM has produced on the topic of mental health in sport

AMSSM Houston 2019 was Great! (We Already have Atlanta 2020 on our Minds!)

One of the many excellent talks at this year’s AMSSM meeting in Houston

Our Junior Associate Editor Dr. Jason Zaremski — well known to readers of this blog for his recurring journal club posts — was among several of the CJSM Editorial Board down in Houston recently for the annual meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine.

Dr. Zaremski is a newly-elected member of the AMSSM Board of Directors as well as a member of the CJSM Editorial Board, and so he is uniquely qualified to give his fresh perspective on some the highlights of the meeting.

Have at it Dr. Z!

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Jason Zaremski M.D.

Good-bye Houston! [see you soon Atlanta!]

The 28th Annual American Medical Society for Sports Medicine Annual Meeting just ended and it was a wonderful assembly of sports medicine physicians from the United States and around the world, all gathering in Houston April 12 – 17.

A wonderful addition to the conference this year was the Youth Early Sport Specialization (YESSS!) Summit, the exercise physiology pre-conference, and first Regenerative Medicine Symposium. The YESSS summit was a full day designed to review the current scientific knowledge related to youth sport specialization and develop a research roadmap to drive future research efforts based on existing evidence and knowledge gaps. Kudos to the AMSSM Leadership of the Summit, Jim Griffith, Stephanie Kliethermes, Col. Anthony Beutler and Drs. Daniel Herman, Neeru Jayanthi, and Steve Marshall. The Regenerative medicine summit, led by Dr Ken Mautner, provided evidence based research presentations on all aspects of this type of treatment modality.

Jordyn Wieber, one of the Keynote Speakers at AMSSM 2019, and UCLA Gymnastics Coach

The highlight of the first dull day of the conference on Saturday had to be Dr Jeffrey Tanji addressing the Larry Nassar revelations and Jordyn Wieber and her emotionally moving talk. AMSSMs members provided standing ovations for both of these powerful talks.

Sunday brought a return of the 5K fun run with nearly 200 participants and wonderful talks revolving around American Football, technological leaps in sports medicine, and many other topics, including the Hough memorial Talk by Dr Kim Harmon on Concussion Updates.

Monday, after a great day of learning including research podium presentations, and a powerful talk from Brian Fletcher on perspectives on thriving after childhood cancer, the AMSSM Foundation Party at the NASA Johnson Space Center commenced. We hopped in buses for the 30-40 minute drive and arrived for an evening of fun!

Tuesday brought the Sports Medicine Fellowship Fair and continued great talks, including a special session on Aerospace Medicine with the Presidential Keynote provided by aerospace medicine physician Dr Michael Berry!

There were 2 more fantastic sessions in Wednesday, including one by Lisa Fenn Mahooti highlighting the importance of community change with a direct personal involvement.

Special mention of Dr Jason Matusak and his planning committee for an outstanding 2019 annual meeting. We can’t wait for 2020 in Atlanta April 24th-29th!

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Two special notes

  1. Regarding #AMSSM2020 (or will it be #AMSSM20 ?) — Dr. Zaremski is the chair of the planning committee for this event, and we’re sure Atlanta will be another in a long-line of excellent AMSSM conferences.
  2. And AMSSM is often where CJSM holds its annual Editorial Board meeting.  This year

    Cheers! From members of the CJSM Editorial Board

    2019 we gathered on the Tuesday evening for a couple of hours of food, drink, and thought over how to make CJSM a better resource for our readers.  The fruits of this meeting will be seen in future offerings we have coming your way!!!  In the meantime, please accept your virtual champagne toast to you, our readers around the globe!

5 Questions with Dr. Chad Asplund — President of the AMSSM

Dr. Chad Asplund, President of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (2018 – 2019)

The 2019 annual meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) commences in Houston April 12 and ends April 17.  Like many of hundreds of sport and exercise medicine (SEM) specialists around the world we’ve been looking forward to the event for months.

This meeting represents one of the high points in our field of SEM, a venue for sharing much of the most current, relevant, evidence-based information in our field.  And, as for most such meetings of a medical society, it also represents something of a shareholder meeting for AMSSM members (I happen to be one, as are many of the members of CJSM’s editorial board):  it’s a time for the society to gather and, perhaps change bylaws, discuss finances, introduce new executive and board members, and say good-bye and thank you to the service given by those individuals who are stepping down from such posts.

One of those individuals in any society is the president, the head dude/dudette. We have traditionally touched bases with the outgoing AMSSM president prior to the annual meeting, and this year we had the chance to catch up with Chad Asplund MD, MPH on the ‘year that was’ for AMSSM.

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1. CJSM: We have to begin by asking you about your year as President of the AMSSM. What were your major challenges this year?  What were your high points?

Dr. Asplund (CA): The high points of the year were the finalization of the marketing and branding strategy with a new logo, member seal and messaging.  It was also great to meet and to hear from so many of our members throughout the year.  It was a humbling, but rewarding term as president and I am honored to have been selected.  There were no major challenges, other than media requests regarding the USA Gymnastics (Larry Nassar) and Ohio State (Richard Strauss) cases and the Maryland incident involving the death of Jordan McNair.

2. CJSM: Can you tell the readers a bit about your ‘day job’ – what do you do when you are not busy with AMSSM duties? Read more of this post

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