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Works-in-Progress: A concussion debate

Works-in-Progress: A concussion debate

Picture of Hank Crook

I have completed one of my projects for The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship. Last Wednesday, I produced an hour-long segment on These Days about the short- and long-term effects of concussions. The segment featured a neurosurgeon and a psychiatrist from the UCSD School of Medicine, and a ton of phone calls from our listeners.

My goal for this segment was mainly to inform the audience about what a concussion is, how people most often get a concussion, and the dangers associated with multiple concussions. I knew that concussions was a hot topic in the news, but I was surprised to see the volume of phone calls we got from listeners on this topic. All seven of our phone lines were filled for the entire hour. I love to see the phone lines fill up because that tells me we are discussing a topic that our audience is really interested in.

I think we had two strong guests on the show and gave our listeners a lot of good information about the health risks associated with concussions. One of the most interesting things I learned during the segment, was how the definition of concussion is changing from the old definition of "a brief loss of consciousness" to the new definition of a blow to the head that causes some kind of brain dysfunction.

I might also have another concussion-related topic idea in the works. While doing research on the concussions topic, I learned that there is a debate going on over whether soccer players should wear some kind of head protection (we touched on this briefly during the segment). Apparently, youth soccer players (especially young women), suffer from concussions often, but rarely wear head protection. So, there is a movement going on to get both youth and professional soccer players to wear head protection.

However, one of the doctors I had on for the concussion segment, Dr. William Perry, the psychiatrist, said that there is still some debate in the medical community about whether head protection is needed in soccer. That's when I knew I had another good segment idea on my hands.

So, now I'm going to work on doing a segment about the arguments for and against having soccer players wear head protection to prevent concussions. There is a local company called Full 90 that manufactures head protection for soccer players. I spoke to the owner, a guy named Jeff Skeen, about his motivation for starting the company. Apparently, Jeff's daughter suffered a few concussions when she played soccer in high school. So, Jeff, who has a background in making helmets and other head protection for bicyclists and skiers, manufactured a protective head band for his daughter to wear during games. As you can imagine, Jeff is a huge advocate for soccer players wearing head protection.

I'm hoping to also have doctors on the show to discuss the arguments for and against having soccer players wear head protection. I'd also like to get a sportswriter on the show to talk about the debate going on within the soccer community about this issue. I'm really excited about this soccer topic because I know it is a really popular youth sport, and it seems like this head protection issue is something the soccer community will be discussing over the next few years.


Picture of Rebecca Plevin

That soccer angle sounds very interesting!! I've read/heard quite a bit about concussions, but had not heard about the push for soccer players to wear helmets. Look forward to hearing more about that developing story!

Picture of Star Lawrence

This is an interesting video...if you have 45 mins or so...Don't worry, there is not too much Bryant Gumbel.

I also blogged on this subject at

on June 17, 2010.  I wrote about it for the Costco Connection, too, and may

do an ebook. The CDC material is good. 



Picture of Angilee Shah

Hank did that segment on soccer and helmets. You can find it at

Picture of Stephanie Yamkovenko

I know this post is rather old, but I've been following the topic of concussions for a while and just saw the breaking news of former NFL player Dave Duerson's brain test results. The NFL is very slowly starting to admit that repeated head traumas can be severely detrimental to its players. Duerson's results illuminate that even more! Thought you might be interested.


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The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 Symposium on Domestic Violence provides reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The next session will be offered virtually on Friday, March 31. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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