By Kevin Earl Wood, Investigative Reporter
Bay Community News
Panama City, Florida
Published January 19, 2015, 3:00 pm CST
The Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) of the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) will be meeting today in Gainesville to address the serious threat of brain damage to high school athletes who participate in high-impact sports, particularly football.
The Florida Legislature, in 1997, gave the FHSAA statutory recognition as the official governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida public schools.
In the wake of the eye-opening dramatic movie “Concussion”, starring superstar Will Smith, public attention nationwide is now focused on the threat of a life-disabling and life-threatening invasive brain disease now known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or “CTE.“
Bay Community News has extensively lobbied FHSAA to warn and “fully inform” parents of the threat of CTE to their children’s brains who play high-impact sports and particularly football.
FHSAA Associate Executive Director for Athletic Services Justin Harrison has excelled in his communications and coordination with Bay Community News to achieve intense exchanges of research information with the FHSAA Committee.
Bay Community News further encourages the FHSAA to have an in-depth dialogue on the need for CTE child protection legislation with the offices of Florida Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and Florida Senator Travis Hutson who both have bills pending that address student concussions.
According to the FHSAA SMAC agenda for today, discussions will be held on CTE at the meeting including the need to update the standard parent/student EL3CH Consent and Release from Liability Certificate for Concussion and Heat-Related Illness form to warn parents of the threat of CTE damage to their children’s brains in high-impact sports, particularly football. The EL3CH form is used by all public schools in Florida as a precondition to a student’s participation in sports.
Extensive research since 2002 to the present has linked CTE brain deterioration and damage to football players from the public school level through college and professional football players with the National Football League (NFL).
In particular, the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, has studied brains from its donor “brain bank” and has found the CTE disease in individuals who had played contact sports in their youth.
In one recent study announced by the Mayo Clinic they found that out of 66 brains dissected and studied 32% of the brains, 1 in 3, showed CTE damage to the brain in individuals with contact sport history.
In comparison, the Mayo Clinic found that out of 198 other brains studied of individuals with no participation in contact sports, not a single brain showed evidence of CTE.
Dr. Jennifer R. Maynard, M.D. is a member of the FHSAA Committee but also practices at the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Department in Jacksonville.
It is expected that Dr. Maynard will take a lead role in today’s FHSAA Committee meeting, and future meetings, and will enable the Committee to access the full body of research on CTE at the Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Maynard as well can assure that the full extent of CTE research conducted since 2002 to the present by Dr. Bennett Omalu, MD, MBA, MPH, CPE, DABP-AP,CP,FP,NP will be placed before not only the FHSAA Committee, but as well before the Florida Legislature to find the best ways to protect the still developing brains of children and youth involved in sports in our public school system in Florida.
Dr. Omalu’s “Curriculum Vitae“, or “resume” to us common folk, goes beyond being impressive and Dr. Omalu deserves and has earned respect since 2002 as the foremost expert in CTE and voluminous other skills and training.
Dr. Bennett Omalu Holding his Book “Play Hard, Die Young: Football Dementia, Depression, and Death”
In the movie Concussion, released Christmas Day, Will Smith played the part of the real-life Dr. Bennett Omalu who came to the United States from Nigeria to seek the ideals and dreams that America represents.
Dr. Omalu faced a rude awakening when he was vilified by the NFL for connecting CTE to the disabilities and deaths, including suicide, of numerous NFL pro football Famers.
Will Smith’s most famous line in the movie addressed to the NFL, “Tell the truth. Tell the truth.”
Dr. Omalu, as portrayed in the movie “Concussion”, has divided “concussions” into two groups:
- Detectable Symptomatic Concussions (Obvious Symptoms)
- Undetectable Asymptomatic Concussions (No Obvious Symptoms)
The original FHSAA EL3CH form only addresses the first group, i.e. Symptomatic Concussions.
The updated form will in detail address the second ground to warn parents and students of the danger of Undetectable Asymptomatic Sub-Concussions.
While a high school football player may have only a few or less “symptomatic” concussions during his high school “career”, he could accumulate literally hundreds of “asymptomatic” concussions that are never detected and noticed.
A student that continues through college or professional NFL football could experience up to thousands or even tens of thousands of “asymptomatic” concussions that causes the cancer-like protein “Tau” to bit-by-bit, from childhood to the pros, eat at the brain devastating the later lives of ex-pros, and their families.
Currently the NFL has been slammed by a pending $1 Billion lawsuit settlement in federal court to hundreds of former football players, and their families, who suffered brain damage and disease because the NFL had concealed this threat from the players.
Likewise, the State of Florida, and arguably the FHSAA, could be held liable for concealing the threat of CTE from parents and students in the Florida school system. Updating the EL3CH form is only the first step in “fully informing” parents of the dangers of CTE.
Today, Dr. Omalu, along with a growing body of supporters nationwide, are fervently opposing children under eighteen (18) from playing football due to the real threat of CTE deterioration of, and damage to, the still-developing brain of children and youth.
A national organization, Mothers Against Concussions, has been established.
It is seriously being recommended that the states, or the federal government, should pass new laws protecting the brains of children under eighteen (18) from CTE deterioration and damage.
These supporters who support protecting the brains of children from CTE damage point to laws that protect the lungs of children from smoking, the livers of children from alcohol, and the lives of children from illegal drugs.
The laws further provide criminal penalties for adults, caretakers and storekeepers who endanger the health and safety of children by exposing them to cigarettes, alcohol and illegal drugs.
They also look to a future where children, and their brains, are no longer exposed to the violence of football or other high-impact sports, hockey, boxing, heading in soccer, etc., where the threat of CTE brain deterioration and damage is real and imminent from repeated impacts of the head that cause the brain to collide with the inside wall of the skull.
When a football players is tackled and his head suddenly stops, the brain keeps moving until it collides with the inside of the skull resulting in a severe concussion or undetectable sub-concussion.
According to Newtons Three Laws of Motion, and basic math such as F-MA, it is impossible to defy the laws of nature and design a helmet to prevent these repeated sub-concussion despite advertising hype by companies claiming to do so.
Recently, Dr. Omalu wrote an Op-Ed position story for the New York Times, “Don’t Let Kids Play Football” expressing his opposition to children playing football.
Comparatively, Dr. Omalu adamantly takes a position that he would fight for the right of adults to do whatever they wish to destroy their own brains, lungs or bodies.
This interview of Dr. Omalu, a must watch for the FHSA Committee, drives home his position to protect children from football and CTE brain damage.
Relying on the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words one needs only look at the lung of a smoker before and after he or she started smoking.
The picture to the left shows the normal pink lung of a child who begins to smoke and then the diseased lung of the child when he progresses through adulthood.Likewise, the picture to the right shows the normal brain of a child who begins to play football and the diseased brain from advanced CTE in later adult life.
Florida Representative Heather Fitzenhagen has filed a new bill with the Florida House of Representatives, HB-1315, entitled, “Concussions and Head Injuries in Students.”
The bill is deficient in that it only addresses “symptomatic” concussions and dealing with, and training for, “symptomatic” concussions. HB-1315 bill makes no mention whatsoever of “asymptomatic” SUB- concussions and the threat of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) deterioration of, and damage to, a student’s brain who plays football or other high-impact sports.
Likewise, Florida Senator Travis Hutson has filed a companion bill, SB-1620, also entitled, “Concussions and Head Injuries In Children” that likewise has the same deficiencies.
With the filing of the two bills the timing is right for the Florida Legislature to take Florida to the lead in the United States and pass a law that prohibits children under the age of 18 from risking brain deterioration and damage from participation in high impact sports and place Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) on the same list with smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs and that threat that these dangers pose to children.
It is important to note that Representative Fitzenhagen is also a lawyer for the mega-firm of Hogan and Hogan (http://www.forthepeople.com/). Hogan and Hogan is well-known for recovering millions in damages from tobacco litigation against R.J. Reynolds Inc. for its history of concealing the dangers of smoking from the public.
Representative Fitzenhagen’s law firm’s experience in tobacco litigation places her in a unique position of understanding the liability of the State of Florida and local government school districts if they fail to “fully inform” parents and students and fail to protect students from CTE brain deterioration and damage.
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