Dr. Christine Greiss and NJ Spine and Wellness Host Inaugural Central New Jersey Concussion Forum
Battleground Country Club opened its doors to the public as NJ Spine and Wellness hosted coaches, parents, and medical professionals at the inaugural Central New Jersey Concussion Forum. The night started off with a delicious dinner and a silent auction of sports memorabilia, in which a portion of the proceeds went to the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey.
Dr. Christine Greiss, Concussion Program Director, JFK Hospital Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, opened the forum by breaking down what exactly a concussion is, the signs and grading of concussions along with the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
“Concussions are becoming more prevalent as we raise awareness, just like all new things we learn about,” Greiss said.
She spoke about the new testing possibilities such as Oculomotor testing and Impact testing, which are available in the NJ Spine and Wellness offices. Greiss also discussed the importance of studies that are being conducted daily for up and coming tests, knowing that numbers are going to going up as more concussions are reported.
It is recommended that each athlete gets the Impact test before and after their season so that you can see the effect one season may have on your brain. “The average high school football player has about 650 impacts per season, which adds up over 4 years,” She said.
Greiss explained that the statistics breakdown to 5 kids per team per year will get a concussion.
The thing that Dr. Griess emphasized the most to the group is that sleep and rest are the most important to a full recovery. “Allow the person to rest, let the body heal,” She said. “Let them fall into the stage 3 and stage 4 of deep sleep, don’t wake them up to check on them, we don’t do that anymore.”
NJ Spine and Wellness Athletic Trainer, John Baker, shared real life pictures as well as videos to show what happens down the road after suffering numerous amounts of head traumas or concussions. Baker explained CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
“When people age, they or their doctors mistake or misdiagnose CTE as Alzheimer’s or Dementia, when really it’s the long time effect of CTE,” Baker explained. He discussed the symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, memory loss and impaired judgement and that these symptoms often begin years or after the last brain trauma.
The final guest speaker of the night, Kevin Saum founder of Heads N’ Tails Project, took the floor to share his own story. After experiencing a few concussions while playing sports, Saum, suffered a specific type of traumatic brain injury while playing football called “Second Impact Syndrome (SIS).” SIS is a generally fatal and often debilitating brain injury. SIS occurs when an athlete sustains an initial head injury and then suffers from a second head injury before the symptoms associated with the first head injury have cleared.
Saum presented a power point presentation filled with pictures in order from the exact moment he faced his first concussion in which he experienced severe headaches from, to being air lifted to the hospital after collapsing into a grand mal seizure on the field after the second impact, to where he is now; life after football.
At the age of 17, Saum was told, he would never play football again. He began to feel lost, had no motivation and felt he was missing his identity. He shared pictures of his team celebrating after a win, every single player expressed joy and happiness, as he posed on the end in his sweatpants and varsity jacket with no expression.
He hung up his cleats and found passion in working for Rutgers football with people who changed his life. “I was there, in MetLife stadium, Rutgers vs Army when Eric Legrand got hurt.” After witnessing that, he thought to himself,” I suffered through one of the worst things anyone could ever go through and I just saw one of the worst things that could happen in football.”
Saum has since lived by the motto that “you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.” He is not an advocate and an inspiration. He doesn’t tell parents and kids to run away from the game, but to not make the same mistakes he did. For example, if you have a headache, tell your coach, sit out. Say something.
Since then, Saum graduated from Georgetown with a Master’s degree in sports industry management in hopes of raising concussion awareness. Kevin established the Heads ‘N Tales organization to share inspiring stories of perseverance in sports and in life to help others overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them.
Vincent Santorelli, NJSW Sports Medicine, closed the night with a challenge for everyone in the room to join their movement to create a healthier athletic community for our youth.
NJ Spine and Wellness is looking forward to hosting another Concussion Forum this fall.