"Fogginess is the lead predictor of lasting head trauma," says Beth Baldinger, the attorney representing Dougherty's family in a suit against the district. "[The trainer] ignored the test results in front of her. This case screams ignorance."

Michele Chemidlin, the trainer who administered the test, ignored phone messages and an e-mail requesting comment for this story. She claimed to Sports Illustrated that Dougherty's test was interrupted by a "disruptive" teammate, which made the results "invalid." But Baldinger claims that the trainer retracted that story in a recent deposition.

"She testified that she never even bothered to see Ryne's test results," says the attorney. "It was one of the most brutal depositions I've ever been involved in. She left the room crying several times."

Miami's David Goldstein spoke to the Florida legislators about devastating health problems that developed after he suffered multiple concussions. Despite his testimony, Florida killed a concussion bill for youth athletes.
Michael McElroy
Miami's David Goldstein spoke to the Florida legislators about devastating health problems that developed after he suffered multiple concussions. Despite his testimony, Florida killed a concussion bill for youth athletes.
Five years ago, former soccer player Natasha Helmick (left) once played a game half-blind after sustaining a concussion. Today, her mother, Micky, says that it takes her daughter three times as long to complete mental tasks.
Mark Graham
Five years ago, former soccer player Natasha Helmick (left) once played a game half-blind after sustaining a concussion. Today, her mother, Micky, says that it takes her daughter three times as long to complete mental tasks.

Kenneth Podell, a Detroit neuropsychologist and one of the creators of ImPACT, declined to comment specifically on Dougherty's case. But he says "in ideal circumstances," the test should be administered not by a trainer but by a medical professional.

"It's better than nothing," says UCLA's Hovda about ImPACT. "I don't mean any disrespect, but neuropsychological tests, which require responses and performance from individuals, are always going to have problems because there's always going to be variances."

One of those variances is that an athlete can cheat the system. In April, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning flippantly admitted he intentionally performs poorly on baseline exams. When and if he takes post-concussion tests, the results won't look as bad, which means he (or anyone else who employs a similar baseline-test strategy) may be able to return immediately to play. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell later fessed up that concussion-test cheating is an issue the league needs to address.

Complicating head-trauma detection is a recently released Purdue University study that concludes that youth athletes who aren't clinically diagnosed with a concussion still are experiencing fundamental brain changes that may be detrimental.

For two seasons, three Purdue professors tracked every practice and game hit sustained by 21 Lafayette (Indiana) Jefferson High School football players. "That's when we started to see that about half of the kids had some level of easily measurable neurophysiological change without any concussion whatsoever," says Purdue's Eric Nauman.

"What we think is probably happening is that since these kids don't have any symptoms, nobody ever takes them out of the game or makes them sit. They probably keep racking up more and more hits and it tends to affect more and more of the brain."

Nauman and his colleagues are looking for funding so they can study soccer players, wrestlers and participants in activities that aren't usually thought of as dangerous. "Anecdotally, the cheerleaders at Purdue had almost as many concussions as the football players," says Nauman.


"No bill is better than a bad bill," says Senator Dennis Jones, a working chiropractor who, in May, helped to kill a concussion law in Florida. "As chiropractors, we've been treating head injuries since 1931. The symptoms of a concussion are not that difficult to diagnose."

Florida is one of the only states to balk at concussion legislation for youth athletes, a nationwide trend that started in 2009 when Washington gave a thumbs-up to the Zackery Lystedt Law. A prototype for dozens to come, the act requires any athlete under 18 who suffers a suspected concussion to receive written consent from a medical professional before returning to play. (There is no similar federal law.)

In Texas, Natasha's Law, named after former soccer player Natasha Helmick, was signed by Governor Rick Perry in June after the Senate passed the bill by a 31-0 margin. And, beginning on January 1, 2012, Colorado's Jake Snakenberg Act will take the Lystedt Law one step further by requiring every coach in youth athletics to complete an online concussion recognition course.

Florida, however, recoiled from its own version of concussion safety because Jones, a Republican from Seminole, was miffed that the language did not include the back-cracking set among "medical professionals."

David Goldstein, the Miami high school soccer player, even testified in favor of the bill in Tallahassee. Jones didn't help his cause, recalls Goldstein, by talking on the Senate floor about how standard MRIs can be used to detect concussions, which is a fallacy. Jones filed an amendment to include chiropractors. The house refused to vote on the amended bill; it died on the floor.

After suffering three concussions, Goldstein had been told by doctors to wait it out, never play soccer again, and wish for good luck. It wasn't until he visited the University of Miami — one of the nation's top medical centers for head trauma in student-athletes — that Goldstein's injury wasn't treated as some unfathomable affliction. The doctors slowly worked him back to the point where he could return to soccer wearing a rugby helmet. Now 16, he's a starter on varsity.

Goldstein is the son of the CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises and attends a high school where the tuition is $28,000 a year. That prompts an obvious question: If his treatment by coaches and trainers was botched, for something that could be prevented by a concussion law, what chance does a regular kid — one whose parents can't pay every specialist in town — possibly have?

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10 comments
days out for kids
days out for kids

Wally do not ever gets whatever what is the news is during things. He's got designate is acceptable. Asphalt. What i mean discourage start! Speculation the guy would will need to care about having a concussion should the guy tried athletic? Heh.

Amber Murray
Amber Murray

Your websites terrible! Loading issues won't let me read the article.

Doug Bittle
Doug Bittle

Walter never sees what the news is in anything. He's name is appropriate. Concrete. As in block head! Guess he wouldn't have to worry about getting a concussion if he played sports? Heh

SLA
SLA

I had a concussion when I was 5 from being thrown from a horse. Will it be illegal to ride hroses as a kid too? I probably had a harder time than everyone else in a lot of subjects too, but I was never "dumb" always perceptive and got decent grades, but I had a problem retaining the information without a lot of extra work or emotion involved. I forget things very easily, but not to the point that it's screwing up my life. At what point do we ask ourselves is a safe and boring world really living...? Now if they're playing sports, yeah, don't be a moron, get your kid out and take them to the doctor...but frankly, the damage is done at that point.

charles
charles

Uhhh how about an informed society???? personally I didin't know about the future problems but thanks to this article I do now....people like you should be hit in the head with a shovel.....after diggin of course.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

I don't see what the news is here. It's common sense. Isn't western medicine and big pharma the saviours of the western world? It's obvious...if you get hit in the head you sit out and get checked. Sports is a game, it's not crucial to play with injury. In fact it's a programmed response for slaves to adhere to and be one of the pack.

 
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