In an extraordinary, and welcome, initiative reported last week by the New York Times, the national retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods plans to offer millions of baseline concussion scans to student athletes in an effort to cut down on traumatic brain injuries.
“Through a program it calls Protecting Athletes Through Concussion Education, or PACE, Dick’s will pay for schoolwide neurocognitive testing of athletes across more than 3,300 schools totaling more than a million students,” the paper reports. The goal is to help schools know when athletes have been injured by establishing a baseline against which their brain functions can be compared following a sports-related traumatic brain injury. The idea is to test athletes before their seasons begin.
Having data on “functions like verbal memory, visual memory, and reaction time” collected while a student is healthy will make it easier to determine later on whether injuries, even subtle ones, have altered the way the brain is functioning. The paper notes that the same tests are now routinely administered to professional baseball, football and hockey players.
Dick’s has promised to donate up to $1 million to fund the program, and is also promoting it in television advertisements. The company has hired former NFL player Jerome Bettis as its spokesman for the initiative. Bettis told the newspaper that he now realizes he suffered “numerous minor concussions” in addition to the major ones of which he was aware during his playing career. The minor concussions were never properly diagnosed and Bettis now says he would have approached his career differently had he realized at the time how serious their cumulative effect can be.
From a Portland traumatic brain injury lawyer’s perspective an initiative like this can only be applauded. Anything that helps cut down on serious injuries to children and other student athletes has to be welcomed. Kids do not always appreciate the dangers inherent in the sports they love. Giving parents and coaches more tools with which to keep them safe both on and off the field should make everyone rest a bit easier.
New York Times: Sporting goods chain supports concussion testing in schools