Stories about: sports

Studying the effects of multiple concussions

By William P. Meehan III, MD, director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, director of the Sports Concussion Clinic and director of Research for the Brain Injury Center at Children’s Hospital Boston. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Football League and the Center for the Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology. Meehan is author of the book Kids, Sports, and Concussion: A Guide for Coaches and Parents

On June 6, 2011, the Boston Bruins were playing the Vancouver Canucks in game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. Bruins forward Nathan Horton had passed the puck to his teammate Milan Lucic when he was blindsided by the Canucks’s Aaron Rome, who buried his left shoulder into Horton’s face. Horton’s head was spun backwards, down towards the ice. The back of his head was the first part of his body to make contact with the ice. He was knocked unconscious. His arms became rigid. His eyes rolled back in his head. He had a convulsion.

Nathan Horton was concussed.

Concussion is all too common in sports, particularly those, like ice hockey, that involve body-to-body collisions. Yet it’s still somewhat of a medical mystery. Until the last 10 to 15 years, most medical professionals didn’t think concussions posed enough risk to warrant much research. Thus, we know very little about it today.

Although the signs and symptoms of a concussion can be serious, as seen in the case of Nathan Horton, it can be hard to see them when you look at images of concussed brains; CT scans and MRIs often don’t clearly show how a concussed brain has been injured. There’s no bruising, no bleeding and no swelling.

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Bruins forward scores one for Children’s patients

Bad weather kept Marc Savard from watching last night's game in his donated box, so teammate Brad Marchand came up to hang out with Children's patient Patrick and family.

Snow No! I was super excited to watch TV yesterday so I could check out press coverage of Bruins forward Marc Savard, who was scheduled to publicly announce an AMAZING donation he’s giving to the kids of Children’s Hospital Boston.

Unfortunately winter storms in Toronto grounded his flight to Boston and Savy’s big announcement was postponed. The weather may have stolen some of Savard’s thunder, but it can’t take away the great things he’s doing for kids. Marc recently purchased an entire luxury suite at TD Garden, the home of the Bruins, and is donating it to Children’s patients for every home game of this and next season.

Children’s Child Life Services will be awarding the tickets to various patients throughout the hospital, with a special focus on children suffering from the medical and psychological effects of head trauma. It’s a cause dear to Savard, who has had to temporarily stop playing with the Bruins after suffering two concussions last season during play.

“Marc Savard understands firsthand the challenges faced by children suffering from the effects of head trauma,” said Beth Donegan Driscoll, director of Child Life Services at Children’s Hospital Boston. “The partnership with him is an exceptional opportunity for Children’s Hospital Boston patients and their families to experience the thrill of a Bruins game at the generosity of this very special man.”

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Our patients’ stories: Casey leaves limitations on the sidelines

By Christen Evans

Casey as an infant
Our daughter Casey was born on August 13, 1996, weighing 8 pounds and 13 .5 ounces and measuring 22 inches long. It was a smooth delivery, but soon after birth the doctors noticed “something different” about her. In an instant, what was supposed to be a joyous occasion turned into a dark, scary moment.


It was soon discovered that Casey had unilateral craniosynostosis, a condition in which the fibrous joints between the plates of the skull fuse too early during a development. From that day forward I was told I would need to get used to having a daughter with disabilities and limitations. People said I should prepare myself for disappointment and that mothering a “different” child was no walk in the park. I was shocked, confused and scared. My baby had a birth defect that I had never heard of. I spent many nights wondering why this happened and what was I supposed to do?


It’s been hard, but we haven’t had to do it alone. Since she was born Casey has had many doctors, but her two favorites are the one’s at Children’s Hospital Boston. Over the years Dr. Mulliken, co-director of Children’s Vascular Anomalies Center and Dr. Mark Proctor, her neurosurgeon, have been great sources of support for our family. Without their help I can’t imagine where Casey would be today.

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Concussions hit local head(lines)

Would you let your child ride on an old, dilapidated carnival ride with a busted safety bar? How about buckle them into a second-generation car seat with fraying, nylon straps?

When the examples are this extreme, the answers are obvious. But what about those situations where safety equipment’s reliability is less clear-cut? For instance, did you know that the age of your child’s helmet may drastically effect its ability to protect the wearer?

Addressing these concerns (and others), the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association recently issued new sports safety guidelines for the 2011-2012 season. Noticeable changes include stricter standards regarding the age and safety of players’ helmets, players that suffer a hit to the head will need medical clearance before returning to play and improved training for coaches, trainers and other adults involved in youth athletics.

William Meehan, MD, director of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Sports Concussion Clinic says the guidelines represent an increased public awareness about the dangers of concussions and will hopefully go a long way in making local youth sports safer for everyone involved. “The new guidelines are definitely a step in the right direction,” he says. “It’s a huge development for the state of Massachusetts.”

To discuss these changes Meehan was recently interviewed for Fox News.

Preventing concussions in High School sports:

Meehan says helmets, like any other piece of equipment, suffer wear and tear over time, which eventually affects performance. “The inside layer of foam in many of these helmets compresses with every impact,” he says. “Over time the springiness and density of that foam changes. It’s get worn down and eventually doesn’t diminish the force of the hit like a newer helmet would.”

For more information on the subject, please join Dr. Meehan, Marc R. Proctor, MD, director of our Brain Injury Center, and a multidisciplinary team from Children’s, as they discuss concussions in pediatric patients during a live, interactive Webcast. Catch “Tackling Concussions Head On” September 12th at 6 PM ET. To sign-up for the presentation and receive a reminder email, please click here.

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