Football And Concussions In Rhode Island

Oct 16, 2013

Have you watched any of the PBS Frontline series "League of Denial?" If so, has it changed how you feel about letting your kids play football, watching football, or football in general?

A few years ago, Rhode Island took steps to change the way it handles student athlete concussions, as my illustrious predecessor Megan Hall reported in this story. Athletes must have a doctor's permission to return to the field after a concussion, and there's better testing to see whether they're still suffering from the effects.

The reason for the new approach, as Megan wrote: "It's all a part of an effort to prevent the more severe consequences that can occur when players get a second or a third concussion before they've healed from the first. Even a mild second impact can cause brain swelling and in rare cases, death."

Turns out it's still not a clear cut thing to diagnose a concussion. Brown researcher and physician Dr. Peter Quesenberry and colleagues are working on a possible fix. On a lab bench in the Coro Building downtown Providence, they're trying to find a biomarker in saliva for evidence of a concussion.

The hope is that one day you could collect a player's spit right on the field and determine whether or not he or she is concussed. But then it's still up to doctors and parents to decide whether or not that player is fit to return to the field - and whether it's worth it.