Dr. James Toldi (right), a sports family medicine physician at USA Health, discusses the Concussion Awareness Program with Napoleon Colston, a student-athlete at Murphy High School. Photo provided by USA Health.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have warned concussions can cause increased risks for brain disorders. This includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which research has shown can be a common brain injury in athletes.
To help learn more about these issues, six high schools from the Mobile County Public School System (MCPSS) are participating in the Concussion Awareness Program. It is designed to decrease the number of undiagnosed concussions and to improve the recovery process for injured players.
“This is an opportunity for our school system to partner with USA [University of South Alabama] Health and the United States Sports Academy to be proactive,” said MCPSS Athletic Director Brad Lowell. “This creates more concussion awareness for our parents and players. It gives our athletes the opportunity to get the baseline tests so that if an injury occurs, we can use the data during recovery.”
Participating from MCPSS so far are Baker, Blount, LeFlore, Murphy, Vigor and Williamson high schools.
Dr. James Toldi, a sports family medicine physician at USA Health and assistant professor of family medicine at the USA College of Medicine, has examined athletes and conducted cognitive and physical assessments that can be used after an injury to determine whether there is a concussion.
While injuries are often part of sports, some injuries can have lifelong, debilitating effects. Toldi described a concussion as when the brain hits the skull, adding that it can be a short-lived injury that is self-resolving. However, the aftermath of a concussion could lead to more serious issues.
“Post-concussion symptoms can last months or years,” Toldi said. “Some research shows repetitive head trauma or concussions can lead to health problems such as memory loss, mood changes and chronic headaches.”
USSA is assisting in the cognitive testing portion.
“The partnership with USA Health is an exciting one that started back in 2016,” said Dr. Brandon Spradley, chair of sports management at the Daphne academy. “The program has grown to also include preseason concussion baseline testing, on-field assessment tools for athletic trainers and a concussion clinic for athletes to be evaluated.”
Two tests are used to diagnose a concussion from the sidelines, leading to the quick removal of an athlete from a game.
“We chose the Sideline Concussion Assessment Tool 5 (SCAT5), which measures cognitive and physical changes and the King-Devick test, which measures eye movement and vision,” Toldi said. “The added bonus of the King-Devick test is that it has been validated when the test administrator is a medical professional or a lay person [coach, parent or athletic trainer] that is on the sideline. We could educate the athletic trainers on how to properly administer these tests without a physician required to be there.”
Toldi hopes to expand to more schools in Mobile and Baldwin counties along with the surrounding area.
“Arming trainers with the access to these tests and how to perform them is a powerful tool that could limit further injury and create a safer environment for athletes.”
This is not USA Health’s first experience with concussions. In 2014, Dr. Anthony Martino, a professor and chair of neurosurgery, and Ashley Marass, a pediatric nurse practitioner, decided to participate in an educational challenge aimed at changing concussion safety.
Martino, Marass and a team at Encore Rehabilitation created an educational video to help athletes learn more about concussions. The educational portion of the program included a pre-test, a video and a post-test to measure knowledge toward concussions.
Toldi said he wanted to make the program more comprehensive. “In addition to the education piece, I wanted to add on concussion assessment tools that can be used on the sidelines when there is an injury,” he said.
There are appointments available for athletes who have experienced sports-related concussions, to allow for proper follow-up and a plan for recovery with Toldi and staff. The appointments are every Monday on the second floor of the Strada Patient Care Center on Center Street in Mobile. For information on the program, call 251-460-6101 or visit usahealthsystem.com/concussions.
Tri the Gulf
The fourth annual Tri the Gulf event is set for this Saturday on Dauphin Island. Brought to you by the Mobile Bar Foundation (the charitable arm of the Mobile Bar Association that uses the event to provide funding for a variety of civic and charitable endeavors in southwestern Alabama), the sprint triathlon will take place at the Isle Dauphine Golf Club located at 100 Orleans Drive.
According to the race organizers, the race will feature an Aqua-Bike consisting of a 600-yard Gulf swim and 16.7-mile island and bridge bike ride, and a Bike-Run consisting of a 16.7-mile island and bridge bike ride and 3.1-mile island run (short course section “off-road” on a golf course fairway).
Awards will go to the top three overall male and female contestants. There is no relay team option for Aqua-Bike or Bike-Run courses.
In accordance with feedback from previous years, the course has been altered. The bike course and the run course will both be using a portion of Orleans Drive. The overlap of the two courses will necessitate athletes on bikes being more cautious during the short stretch that the two courses overlap. The courses will be clearly marked with appropriate traffic cones and personnel.
The final section of the run course will be on the fairways of the Isle Dauphine Golf Club. Officials say to consider this portion “off-road” and plan accordingly.
There will be a Novice First Timers category for male and female athletes. For additional information, visit trithegulf.racedirector.com.
USA men claim golf title
Four individuals placed among the top 15 in the final standings to help the University of South Alabama men’s golf team get into a playoff at the Lone Star Invitational. After posting a 2-under-par total on those extra holes, the Jaguars walked away with the title.
The Jags finished in a three-way tie with Houston and the University of Texas at Arlington with a 54-hole 873 score. Yannick Schütz paced the team with a 1-under-par 215 two-day total, highlighted by a 5-under-par 67 over the opening 18 holes, to finish in a tie for fourth in the individual standings.
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