“…like the Oscars, but with concussions.”

Oscars….or Super Bowl? Justin Timberlake — photo Mark Briello, Wikimedia

It would be hard to have spent any time this past month in the United States, my home country, and not be aware that today is “Super Sunday,” when the Philadelphia Eagles and the perennial champion New England Patriots will be playing the final game of the NFL Season.  For all the marbles. For the big kahuna. For (insert your favorite, overused metaphor here).

I woke up this Sunday in my customary manner:  with some coffee and the New York Times. The newspaper had several articles about the upcoming Main Event, including profiles of the halftime highlight, Justin Timberlake.  The story that most resonated with me was a piece by Bruce Weber, whom I find to be an uncommonly funny writer.  He wrote of the Super Bowl’s grandiosity, with its “…pregame blah, blah, blah….the rollout of new advertisements at a cost that might otherwise stabilize Social Security, and the betting line in Vegas, where gamblers risk enough to underwrite a single-payer health care system.”

He summarized:  the Super Bowl is “not so much a ballgame as a happening, like the Oscars but with concussions.”

Spot on.

Eagles or Patriots?  It’s hard to say, though the line favors the Patriots slightly (and most neutral observers with whom I’ve spoken say it’s an, er, no-brainer, the Patriots will be winning) — but one bet that is a sure thing: there will be injuries. And very likely, a high profile concussion, which may or may not be mishandled.

Who can forget the game three years ago (which the Patriots won): Julian Edelman sustained a hit which appeared certain to require medical evaluation, but remained in the game.  And then caught the go-ahead touchdown.

Concussions and gridiron football– the pairing appears in the pages of CJSM nearly every issue, so common is the injury and so prominent the issue.  Our first issue of the year contained cutting-edge, original research on the frequency with which professional football players hide their potential concussions. The article is free, but if you don’t have time to read it, you can even ‘listen in’ on what the author has to say about the study in our most recent podcast.

Super Sunday is upon us. There’s a game, yes, and a whole lot more. Will we see a hologram of Prince? Will Janet Jackson make a reprise showing and sing a duet/have a wardrobe ‘malfunction’ with Timberlake?  What will be the most memorable commercial?

And, oh yes, who will win:  Eagles or Patriots?

Enjoy the game and/or its attendant bells and whistles, if you’ll be watching.  And share your reactions with us on Twitter [@cjsmonline ] if you have thoughts about one of the injuries you’re bound to see.

Super Sunday

rachel nichols

Some of the media absurdity, and social media fun, in the run up to the Super Bowl

Why is Marshawn Lynch not talking?

Will #DeflateGate show up in the next edition of Webster’s dictionary?

Might Richard Sherman be in a hospital labor and delivery room rather than the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday?

The two week period between the NFL conference championships and the Super Bowl is at last, blessedly, over and it’s time for the real deal, the big kahuna, the game itself:  #PatriotsVsSeahawks.

There is so much room to fill in this fortnight that the media gets a little loopy, and many of the questions being asked with bated breath are, as the above sampling would indicate, fairly ridiculous.

One redeeming dimension to this tempest is that some clever folk get the opportunity to emphasize the absurdity of it all: I especially enjoyed the Jimmy Kimmel spoof of the DeflateGate controversy, “I am the locker room guy,” for which I owe Rachel Nichols a big thank you:  her tweet first made me aware of this hilarious video.

There has been the opportunity, as well, for what I think are intelligent analyses of the current state of the NFL, and of American football itself.  Mother Jones–a magazine not typically paired with, say, Sports Illustrated–recently ran an article entitled “The NFL’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year” and which began with a statement which sounds like the NFL apocalypse is nigh:  “From domestic violence and concussions to racist team names and angry cheerleaders, 2014 was a rotten year for pro football.”  Katy Perry–the singer who will perform at halftime this Sunday and the person with the largest twitter following on the planet–made what I think was a particularly concise evaluation of the multiple domestic violence issues occurring this season:  “It wasn’t an image problem–it was a problem.”

Many of the articles I’ve been reading in various periodicals have direct relevance to those of us in the universe of sports medicine.  The New York Times has done a great job in the past several days profiling the increasing awareness of injury risks associated with football; examples include an article on NFL outreach to mothers to assure them of football’s relative safety (and ensure for the league a pipeline of young talent coming their way) and an article profiling the recent study in Neurology purporting to demonstrate the long-term cognitive effects of initiating contact before the age of 12.

The Guardian even stepped into the fray with a very interesting piece on the potential for a measles outbreak in Arizona:  the massing of large populations; the recent outbreak of the disease in nearby California; and the relative lack of herd immunity (thanks to historically low rates of vaccination), contribute to a ‘perfect storm’ of contagion. The most deadly of childhood febrile exanthems–according to the CDC–may make for a post-Super Bowl hangover that won’t go away.

Like many of us who go into sports medicine, though, I do love sports, warts and all.  I am looking forward to a good game between New England and Seattle…..and a respite from the silly stories.

I am looking forward, too, to the research that will eventually come out of the NFL Player’s Association $100 million dollar grant to Harvard looking at player safety.  That’s a 10 year project, and so much of what will be found is still years away.  I am confident, as the evidence comes in, that some of the manuscripts to be published will be found in the pages of CJSM.  I am eager to discuss that research with you along the way.  Super Bowl L (actually Super Bowl 50–the NFL is dispensing with the Roman numerals for a year) will surely have more medically relevant stories seen in a new, evidence-based context…..and, of course, more inanity.

For now:  good luck to both teams.  May the players stay safe on Super Bowl Sunday. And….one last question:

Will Marshawn Lynch grab his crotch in celebration?

See you all next week.

The Safety of Artificial Turf vs. Grass as a Sport Playing Surface

Mo soccer

Safety aside, soccer and a muddy, grass field: a boy’s idea of heaven!

The World Cup has arrived, at last, and brought with it already the first controversy of the tournament: did Fred flop?
But in the world of football/soccer, there is another, older controversy: turf vs. grass. We revisit this issue by looking at a previous blog post (it is very difficult to write while watching Mexico vs. Cameroon!).
Turf vs. grass: which is safer? Take a read, and let us know what you think.

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine Blog

I was interviewed last week for a newspaper article which looked at the debate over a local school’s intention to transform a grass playing surface to artifical turf.

Among the controversies in sports medicine, the turf vs. grass wars are not the loudest nor the meanest, but they have been among the most persistent ever since 1966, when the Houston Astros first introduced a synthetic turf playing surface in the Astrodome, and dubbed it Astroturf.

Picture_of_Reliant_Astrodome Reliant Astrodome

The history of the Astrodome makes for interesting reading:  of note, the original intention was for the surface to be natural grass, and the makers of the dome had installed traslucent skylights to allow for grass to grow on the indoor surface.  Alas, not enough light made it to the playing surface, the grass died, and Astroturf was born.

The progress of science and technology have seen Astroturf give way to…

View original post 1,378 more words

#SuperBowlXLVIII

800px-NYC_Empire_State_Building

The iconic Empire State Building:
Super Bowl in view.
Photo: Daniel Schwen

After all the talk about Manning’s comeback, Sherman’s rant, the NYC vs. NJ rivalry, and the weather….we have come at last to Super Bowl Sunday. The high holiday of American football.

The collision, not just of two football teams but also of a vast sporting event and the NYC/NJ media megalopolis, has created predictable fireworks.  For example, you can tweet a prediction of who will win the game, with the hashtag #WhosGonnaWin, and determine the lighting color of the  Empire State building itself.

The power of the pen?  No, it’s the power of the tweet!

Getting back to the weather.  It has been frightful, both in North America and Down Under.  The Australian Open almost had player defections over the intense environmental conditions they faced from an uprecedented heat wave.  At the same, a polar vortex swept down over most of Canada and the USA bringing fears of hypothermia, frostbite and other assorted ills to outdoor exercise enthusiasts, sportsmen, and, possibly, spectators.  When all is said and done, however, it appears that Sunday’s Super Bowl game will be played under cold, but tolerable and dry conditions:  the most recent prediction I have seen suggests game time temperature should be just around freezing, and the skies should be clear.

I suspect the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell may have sought some help from Timothy Cardinal Dolan in supplicating the higher powers to ensure the Super Bowl would avoid becoming an Ice Bowl…..like the last time the NFL championship occurred in the NYC area, in 1962. Read more of this post

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