A Harris Poll had been commissioned to gauge the level of understanding adults have about concussions, and Dr. Micky Collins was both sobered and frustrated by the results he was reading.
Among those numbers: 24 percent of adults think a concussion will change your life forever; 72 percent believe the damage to the brain is permanent; 80 percent believe you can only lessen symptoms and that you never fully recover; 25 percent will not allow their kids to play contact sports due to the fear of concussion; and 81 percent are not comfortable that they would know the steps to manage and treat a concussion if they were to sustain one.
As Collins said, "It's not the reality of what's going on."
And so, on Thursday, April 7, at Heinz Field, UPMC Sports Medicine will present a concussion education program that's to be hosted by the Steelers. Every high school in the WPIAL was invited to attend this free event, and 58 accepted the offer for a day-long program offering a variety of educational presentations from UPMC researchers and clinicians, and Steelers personnel.
The Harris Poll wasn't the sole reason behind a seminar titled, "High School Sports and Concussions: From Awareness to Prevention to Advancements in Treatment," but its findings will be discussed during the session, and Collins hopes to use the event to begin the process of changing what he sees as a misperception.
"That concussion is s a manageable and treatable injury are the messaging points we need to share," said Collins, the Executive and Clinical Director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. "I don't know that a lot of these coaches and athletic directors understand that. There's a lot of confusion right now about this injury. This is an opportunity to get the right information in the hands of the coaches, who obviously are the first-line responders. They need to know this stuff."
Born of a shared vision between the Steelers and the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program that's headed by Collins, Thursday's seminar will offer attendees access to a variety of perspectives from experts in the field as well as to people who have first-hand knowledge and/or experience with concussions.
"Our clinic is a very robust place, we see a lot of people, we have touched a lot of people from this city and from around the country, and the Steelers understand what's going on down here," said Collins. "The Steelers have educated themselves on the advances being made, and I don't think there's ever been a greater need than right now to put the correct information in the hands of people, and really start to de-mystify concussion for people. Concussion really is a pretty coherent injury – we can evaluate it, we can assess it, we can treat it, we can get kids back to play safely. Concussion doesn't have to be feared. I'm hoping that eventually this injury becomes much like an orthopedic injury: This is what you have; this is how long it's going to take; this is the rehab you're going to do; and we're going to get you back to play safely. That's how I feel. That's what we do. And we see it every day."
During the seminar, the high school coaches and athletic directors attending will hear from Coach Mike Tomlin; from Ed Passino, the East Coast High School Regional Manager of USA Football on the Heads Up Program; from Dr. Josh Bloom on the on-field evaluation of concussion; and from Dr. Anthony Kontos on distinguishing facts from fiction regarding concussion. For his part, Collins' presentation will touch on the current treatment procedures at the UPMC Concussion Clinic, with the hope of educating people about the injury and what can be done to treat it.
"I would like to see this built. I would like to see this expand beyond the WPIAL and into other levels of sport, and nationally even," said Collins about these types of educational seminars. "I believe we have a lot of important information to share and become known. I would be disappointed if this didn't grow beyond this one meeting.
"Awareness with no solution is called hysteria, fear, and concern. Awareness with a solution is where we need to go to as a field. Because that's really what is happening. We have made progress."