Concussion—it’s a headline issue affecting people from Pee-Wee footballers all the way up to NFL alumni. But what do you do if you’re personally impacted by concussion? Or if someone in your immediate family has suffered long-term ill effects? If you’re Michael Duerson, you use Fatal Vision® Concussion Goggles from Innocorp, ltd. to help convince school administrators and state legislators to take steps to protect young athletes.
Mike’s brother, Dave Duerson, was a third-round draft pick for the Chicago Bears in 1983 after graduating with the Gold Tassel from Notre Dame University. Dave had played football while growing up, so it was a natural transition to the NFL. He played defensive back for the Bears, the New York Giants, and the Arizona Cardinals, along the way earning two Super Bowl rings.
Cost of concussion
But success in the pros came at a high cost. After retirement, Dave suffered from a chronic brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It’s a disease that at the time could only be diagnosed post-mortem and happens in people who have experienced multiple concussions. When he took his life at age 50, Dave bequeathed his brain to Boston University School of Medicine Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy for study to develop a test for diagnosis of the disease while the patient was living. Currently, the National Football League, National Hockey League, and professional boxers are studying his brain.
But Dave wasn’t the only family member to suffer from the ill effects of multiple concussions. His brother Mike, who played college basketball at Indiana University- Purdue University at Indianapolis in 1977, had paralysis to his left side for six months due to multiple concussions. So not only had he seen his brother struggle with the aftereffects of concussion, he continues to struggle with the neurological and psychological issues himself.
Mike knew something had to be done to stop this from happening to young athletes.
Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc. formed
So in 2012, he formed the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc. (DDASF) in honor of his brother. The fund began by helping Indiana student athletes in the Muncie Community Schools, the brothers’ hometown. The fund has five clear goals:
- To educate those involved with young athletes on the signs and dangers of concussion.
- To provide Fatal Vision® Concussion Goggle kits to elementary and middle schools for education purposes.
- To provide baseline computerized ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) tests for all student athletes, both male and female across all sports (including cheerleading), from grades five through 12.
- To provide post-injury ImPACT tests for any student with a suspected head injury sustained through a school-sponsored sport event.
- To pay for doctor charges related to head injuries in uninsured student athletes.
To carry out these goals, DDASF needed to persuade the Muncie school district about the importance of the ImPACT test. After numerous meetings with the school board, they convinced the district to require the ImPACT tests and to comply with the Indiana state law that was passed in July 2012 requiring student athletes to immediately be removed from the game or practice if a head injury is suspected. Players may not return to play until a licensed health care provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions and head injuries has cleared them. This protocol is for male and female athletes in grades five through 12.
Once the schools were utilizing the ImPACT testing methodology, DDASF sought to educate the younger students about concussions. To do that, DDASF’s board members and Mike demonstrated how concussions could affect students by using the Concussion Goggles, which simulate the negative effects of concussion. After meetings with various school officials, teachers, doctors, and lawyers, the Muncie Community School Board approved the use of Concussion Goggles in all elementary and middle schools.
But that wasn’t enough for Mike and his wife Lori. After all, concussions can happen to any age child engaged in any sport.
Spreading the word
“We wanted to spread concussion awareness to younger students, too,” Lori said. “So we used the Concussion Goggles with the school board to convince them.” The result? “They decided to use it in grades kindergarten through eight also.”
Members of the DDASF board traveled to all 12 Muncie district schools to demonstrate the Concussion Goggles and educate athletic staff, teachers, and administrators on what concussion looks and feels like. Mike and Lori suggested to school officials that students throw balls, walk a straight line, read a book, and perform the peg game included with the Concussion Goggles kit both with and without the goggles.
According to Lori, the hands-on games are a big hit with students. “Kids enjoy and understand them,” she explained. “All the kids in school get the training.”
Elementary school students are trained with the Concussion Goggles in physical education classes while middle school students receive their training in health classes. Since the Muncie school district adopted the ImPACT protocol for grades five through 12, each elementary and middle school has received at least one Concussion Goggles kit from the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund to continue educating staff and students.
“Our hope is that young children in kindergarten through eighth grade will take that experience and if they begin to feel that way they will communicate it to their parents or coach,” Mike said. “Someone who can make the decision to get them medical treatment.”
DDASF’s work hasn’t stopped at the borders of the Muncie Community Schools, either. It has spread to Indianapolis schools and across the state. Today, over 30 schools in Delaware County, Indiana, use the ImPACT protocol and Concussion Goggles. Area hospital IU Health/Ball Memorial has partnered with DDASF to supply Delaware County schools with sets of Fatal Vision® Concussion Goggles.
“We plan to meet with them again and ask them to supply the schools with second pairs,” Mike said. “We’re in over one hundred schools now.”
DDASF is in negotiations with the Chicago Public School system to provide their protocol in the third largest school district in the US. This will include both the ImPACT testing and the Concussion Goggles.
Mike’s also working with the Indiana State Senate to pass a state law that would expand a previous law that currently applies only to high school football players. Mike hopes to apply ImPACT protocol to all male and female students athletes in grades five through 12 instead of just high school football players.
DDASF’s mission has jumped borders into other states, too. They are partnering with Lindsey Berman, Mrs. South Florida International, to spread the word in Florida using the CAP Initiative (Concussion Awareness and Prevention). She is also spreading this initiative to the state of California. The ImPACT test and Concussion Goggles are part of the CAP Initiative. For more information about the CAP Initiative, please visit https://capchallenge.com/.
While headlines bemoan the effects of concussion on professional athletes, DDASF is doing something about it at the grassroots level. And the organization is using Concussion Goggles to make its point.
“We’ve had really good feedback with the Concussion Goggles,” Lori said. “With them, we show people what it’s like instead of explaining it.”
“And the kids just love them.”
For more information about the important work of the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund, Inc., visit www.ddmuncieyouth.org/.
What is ImPACT?
Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, or ImPACT, is a computerized test that takes approximately 20 minutes to complete. As the title says, it assesses a person’s trauma after a possible concussion. It measures the person’s attention span, reaction time, working memory, sustained and selective memory, response variability, and non-verbal problem-solving skills. All of these things can be impacted by a concussion injury. For more information, visit www.impacttest.com/.