“…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.

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The impact of clavicle fractures on return to play in NFL athletes

Aaron Rodgers, quarterback of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers — photo Mike Morbeck Wikimedia

I love sports as well as sports medicine.  For many of us, our path to this field saw us grow from athletes or fans ourselves to physicians who kept ‘in the game’ by caring for other athletes and keeping them in the game.

I have written about my affection for my favorite professional team — the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Anyone following the Packers this season, or the NFL in general, will know that Aaron Rodgers, the team’s franchise quarterback (and sine qua non), sustained a potentially season-ending clavicle fracture to his right, throwing shoulder in October. He has been out since — and his team, its fans (me!), and multiple fantasy football team owners are anxiously awaiting his return.  There is growing expectation he will be back next week for the Packers’ final three games of the season. Go Pack Go!

The waiting is the hardest part,” Tom Petty (RIP) has sung. And the waiting for Rodgers has been very hard for the Packers. Indeed, for anyone experiencing or managing a clavicle fracture, a lot of the frustration comes from the typically temporary but lengthy disability incurred — in the middle of an athlete’s season, a clavicle fracture can be the darnedest thing.  One is waiting as if for a batch of cookies to be done — take them out of the oven too early, you may be ruining a good thing; wait too long, you may unnecessarily be keeping your player out of the game.

With the ‘waiting’ for Rodgers on my mind, I read with special interest this morning a new, ‘published online first’ study from CJSM: Impact of Clavicle Fractures on Return to Play and Performance Ratings in NFL Athletes.   Read more of this post

Cannabis and sports

d morgan

Recent tweet from @dmorg91

The intersection of social media and sports medicine has been an interest of mine (and CJSM) for some time. Today, that relationship provides an opportunity to have the blog readers take a poll about a controversial subject: the potential medical benefits of marijuana (cannabis) for active National Football League (NFL) players.

Last week Derrick Morgan (@dmorg91), an NFL player for the Tennessee Titans, tweeted, “It’s time for @NFL to take an HONEST look into the potential medical benefits of Cannabis for its players #CBD #Research.” He and colleague Eurgene Moore were also interviewed by Katie Couric about the issue.  You can see the video here.

The tweet generated a great deal of, er, buzz on social media. In the United States, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, but such legal protection does not contravene employer law — that is, it may be legal to use marijuana for chronic back pain in California, but your employer can still terminate you from your position if they perform drug tests on their employees.  That is, the legal right to avoid criminal prosecution for use of marijuana does not prevent one from the requirement to participate in (and abide by) employer drug testing programs.

There are so many dimensions to this issue including the science itself about the purported benefits of cannabis, and the substance’s listing as a prohibited substance by anti-doping agencies.

But today I wanted to poll you, the readership, on the question somewhat narrowly drawn:  are you in favor of NFL players using marijuana for medicinal purposes?  I don’t intend by this poll to extend the question beyond the NFL (e.g. to Olympians), nor do I intend to enquire about the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational purposes for NFL players.  Like the Brexit vote, you get only two options: yes or no.

Let us know!!!!

And don’t ‘Bregret’ your decision, bro.

p.s. By all means, aside from voting, if you want to comment on the broader issues of marijuana use in sports (is there science behind the claims, should other sports be open to use, etc.) please do so below in the blog comments section.  Thank you!

Concussion: “The Movie”

in the dark

In the dark (not for long, I hope): Concussion has hit the theaters.

I was witness to two big events in the world of professional American Football this weekend:  I watched the movie Concussion and I saw the ugly contest which was the Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati NFL playoff game.

Of the two events, the more damning, the more worrisome for the league, was the playoff game.

First, let me start with the movie, as I had intended on focusing on that in this blog post….until the playoff game happened.

The movie was well done overall, I thought.  I am no movie critic (I hope that goes without saying) and I rarely see things on the ‘Big Screen’ any more–I think the great movies came and went in the 60’s and 70’s, when I was growing up (Easy Rider, The Deerhunter, Apocalypse Now….).  Concussion (the movie) is largely a heroic story about one man’s personal struggle and vindication:  Dr. Bennet Omalu vs. the NFL, David vs. Goliath.  There are some typical Hollywood moments (e.g. the romancing of his future wife), but largely the film stays on track regarding the story of pathologist Dr. Omalu and his reintroduction of the term ‘chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)’ into the medical lexicon after his autopsy on the brain of the deceased football player, ‘Iron’ Mike Webster.

And Will Smith does an excellent job, I think, with his portrayal of Omalu.

I approached this movie not so much looking for entertainment, but to see if there were anything new in this story I might learn, and to see how the movie might present the science to the general viewing public.  I don’t think I learned anything new regarding the basic story.  This is not so much a criticism of the movie as an endorsement of the PBS documentary, ‘League of Denial,’ which came out two years ago and went into much more depth than a dramatization ever could.  And as for the science?  Once again, you’re better served viewing the documentary.  You won’t have to hear a clunker of a line like this: “Three cases is the scientific burden of evidence.  We have four.”

Now, on to the playoff game.

I don’t think the NFL will be able to survive if the sorts of hits occurring in this game, regardless of their ‘legality,’ continue. Read more of this post

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