A Twitter Journal Club

casemI want to alert you to a very interesting innovation which was instituted at the end of 2016 and will continue into this new year:  the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) Twitter-based journal club.

You read that right — a journal club, on Twitter.

We’re all familiar with journal clubs.  In fact, the fellowship in which I teach (Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine) just completed its monthly journal club yesterday, with the fellow (sports medicine physician in training, Jonathan Napolitano) leading the group of doctors through a study published in our January 2017 CJSM: Reliability Testing of the Balance Error Scoring System in Children Between the Ages of 5 and 14.

I recently wrote of the vital, and increasing, importance social media plays in the dissemination of sports medicine research.  A Twitter journal club is an example of that phenomenon.

The CASEM Journal Club just got off the ground at the end of 2016, and had as its first selection another CJSM study: Physical Exam Risk Factors for Lower Extremity Injuries in High School Athletes:  A Systematic Review. Seems like both CASEM and I found this to be particularly intriguing.  To wit, I cajoled the lead author of that study, Jimmy Onate, into recording a podcast with me.  And then he pulled duty on the CASEM Journal Club as the guest author, interacting on Twitter with folks from around the globe.  What a great opportunity — to get to ask the author directly the questions one has after reading his/her study.

The study for this month’s CASEM journal club is the same one we deconstructed in our fellowship yesterday:  the reliability of the BESS in a pediatric population  It hits close to my heart.   Read more of this post


Dreams of South Africa


With Wayne Viljoen (@BokSmart), one of the authors of new rugby research in CJSM

It was just a year ago that I was preparing to travel to South Africa on an American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) Travelling Fellowship — dreams of Cape Town and safaris danced in my mind [see post reblogged below].

I haven’t stopped dreaming of South Africa. Should I ever have a mental lapse and not think of the Rainbow Nation for a day or two, I have only to turn to my Twitter feed or my medical journals to be reminded — the country punches well above its weight in both sports and sports medicine. I enjoy reading of the exploits of current South African Sports Medicine Association (SASMA) President Phathokuhle Zondi as she takes care of Paralympic athletes in Rio, for instance — she is a definite follow on Twitter….

And I most certainly enjoyed reading some recent rugby research just published in our September 2016 CJSM: Incidence and Factors Associated With Concussion Injuries at the 2011 to 2014 South African Rugby Union Youth Week Tournaments.  It was a delight to read this epidemiological study, whose authors include good friends Sharief Hendricks, Clint Redhead, and Wayne Viljoen — researchers all of whom most definitely have made their mark internationally.


Partying with Sharief Hendricks (@Sharief_H), author of new rugby research in CJSM, in Johannesburg

In the authors’ words, the “….study provides the first published incidence of concussion, per player-match-hours, in South African youth rugby union and falls well within what was previously published elsewhere for youth rugby.”  They found the incidence of concussion in youth rugby to be 6.8/1000 player match-hours.  Importantly, and what for me was new information, was that under-13s and under-16s had higher incidence rates than under-18s.  The younger kids were at greater risk for concussion.  This may have important implications for rules and policy making in youth rugby.

For anyone with an interest in rugby, or South African sports and sports medicine, the study, in our newest edition of CJSM, is a definite read.  And it’s never too early to start dreaming of the 2017 SASMA biennial congress, which will take place in Cape Town 2017.  To stay ‘in the know’ for the timing and details of that pre-eminent conference, follow President Phathokuhle Zondi and SASMA itself on Twitter.

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine Blog

IMG_1630Every so often, sports takes a back seat to other world events. So too for sports medicine.

We all know this, whether in our personal lives or in our interactions with the world at large.  There is the NFL player who is torn between performance on Sunday and ‘being there’ for his young daughter with leukemia.  There are cases where the athlete him- or herself is felled with illness–think of Lou Gehrig and amyotrophic sclerosis.  The issues of who won the last game, the intricacies of a salary negotiation, or the season missed from a knee injury pale in comparison with such ‘real world’ contingencies.

In sports medicine we sometimes experience directly the intersection between serious illness and athletics.  I think immediately of the young gymnast I saw with anterior knee pain that turned out not to be Osgood-Schlatter’s but osteogenic sarcoma of the tibia…….a ‘game changing’ event…

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Rugby’s Big Year(s)


Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas Nevada, site of the annual Rugby 7s tournament.

It’s amazing how time flies.  How is it already March?

It’s almost 7 p.m. and I’m writing by the light of a sun that is still above the horizon, thanks to one of my favorite inventions of the modern world: daylight savings time, which arrived last night.

This realization is a personal reminder, however, that I have been delinquent: meaning to write a blog post about an event that took place three weeks ago…..but, my oh my, business has just swamped me, I guess.

As the swallows return annually to San Juan Capistrano, so do the Rugby 7 squads of Kenya, South Africa, New Zealand and other countries come each February to the desert:  Las Vegas hosted the USA leg of the HSBC Sevens Series Feb 13 – 15.  It is the largest annual rugby tournament held in North America. and Las Vegas has been its host since 2010.

As followers of the blog will know, USA Rugby conducts an outstanding medical symposium every year just prior to the tournament, and I was out for some education as well as sport.  It was a fabulous conference, and I do hope you all get a chance to attend some day.

Tim Hewett, who is well known to readers of this blog, gave a great talk on original research of the difference in injury rates between collegiate rugby and American football players.  We are most definitely looking forward to seeing that research published.  Hey, Tim, if you’re looking for a place to send that manuscript for peer review, send it our way.

His colleague from Ohio State, the orthopaedic surgeon and OSU Team Doc Chris Kaeding, gave a great talk as well, regarding data on knee outcomes coming out of the ‘Multicenter Othopaedic Outcomes Network,’ or MOON group, some of whose research we have published in CJSM.

With the George North story on everyone’s mind, we were all eager to hear what concussion experts such as Chris Nowinski of the Sports Legacy Institute had to say about minimizing injury risk in rugby.  Nowinski presented one of the best and most nuanced talks I have heard on the ‘concussion crisis’ in sports. I enjoyed it so much I caught up with him after the conference, and the interview I had with him is now available as a podcast. Read more of this post

Neuropsychological tests in sport-related concussion – are they worthwhile?

The article by Shrier in the current edition of CJSM revisits the issue of neuropsychological testing in the setting of sport-related concussion, and poses some searching questions in relation to the use of these tools in the diagnosis and management of sport-related concussion. In particular, he asks ‘…do the results of neuropsychological testing change patient management or provide other clinical benefit to the patient?’ and ‘Is there sufficient evidence to mandate it (neuropsychological testing) as standard of medical care?’ (Shrier, 2012).

Whilst it is clear that sport-related concussion is a hot topic in Sports Medicine, with an ever-increasing literature on the subject, and following three expert consensus panellist group meetings since 2001, controversy surrounding the diagnosis, management, and return to play protocols continues to rage amongst academics and clinicians alike.

In his article, Shrier concentrates on the application of neuropsychological tests to the sport-related concussion setting. Whilst it is accepted that neuropsychological tests alone are not adequate to confirm the diagnosis and dictate the ongoing management of concussion, they are currently widely used in the rehabilitation and return-to-play setting as a part of an overall neuropsychological assessment for players in elite sport suffering from a concussion – especially in hockey, and college football.

Shrier points out that neuropsychological tests are designed to give an objective assessment of brain function, but that ‘the objective in concussion management is to measure brain injury’ and points out that ‘brain injury is only one cause of decreased brain function,’ mentioning that there are several other factors that may affect brain function such as the presence or absence of other injuries or mood disorders (Shrier, 2012). The author does not point out exactly when he means by ‘brain function,’ however, nor discusses in detail any of the other multidimensional tools that may be used to assess this such as EEG and fMRI.

There are clearly limitations in using neuropsychological tests in the setting of sports-related concussion related to the issues Shrier points out in his article. However, it is important to remember that it is the application of these tests in the overall clinical context that perhaps assists the practitioner in making an informed and reasoned judgement as to whether impairment in brain function is likely to be secondary to concussion.

Further on in the article, Shrier goes on to argue that neuropsychological tests have ‘minimal value for an individual athlete and does not support mandating (their) use,’ (Shrier, 2012) and then examines the arguments for using the tests related to asymptomatic athletes at rest, athletes who are asymptomatic at rest but symptomatic on exertion, and athletes who are asymptomatic on exertion.

Whilst there is still academic debate surrounding the clinical usefulness of neuropsychological tests in the setting of sport-related concussions, doubt must also be levelled at their applicability and cost-effectiveness, a point also argued by Shrier in his conclusion. He also mentions that there are not enough neuropsychologists with appropriate expertise available to be able to warrant mandatory neuropsychological testing on a population level for them to be considered as standard of care, which is certainly true.

In his conclusion, Shrier argues that ‘NP testing provides only a small increase in prognostic information and does not change the management of athletes who are symptomatic at rest or with exercise,’ and points out that ‘There is no evidence that abnormal NP testing is associated with increased risk of further injury or delayed recovery in athletes who are asymptomatic at rest and exertion.’ (Shrier, 2012). 

The Concussion in Sport group, however,  in their last consensus statement mentioned that ‘the application of neuropsychological testing in concussion has been shown to be of clinical value and continues to contribute significant information in concussion evaluation.’ (McCrory et al, 2009).

No doubt Shrier’s article will fuel much continuing academic debate on the use of neuropsychological tests in the setting of sport-related concussion.

Are you using these tests as part of your overall concussion management programme?

CJSM would like to hear your thoughts on the debate.


1) Shrier i. 2012. Neuropsychological testing and Concussions: A Reasoned Approach. CJSM 22(3): 211-213

2) McCrory  P et al. 2009. Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport 3rd International Conference on Concussion in Sport Held in Zurich, November 2008. CJSM 19(3): 185-200

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