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Feedback on a youth sports head injury story?

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by ChrisMaza, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. ChrisMaza

    ChrisMaza Member

    Looking for any feedback I can get on a story I thought turned out pretty good. Thoughts? Thanks in advance.

    GREATER SPRINGFIELD — Its perception has evolved from that of an overlooked ailment, to a hot-button issue that was overblown, to the real concern that it is now.

    As doctors learn more about the brain, the issue of concussions in sports has become one of the leading topics of conversation for health professionals, coaches and athletes, alike. Long gone are the days when the general consensus stipulated it was a good thing when a player was willing to play through a concussion.

    For people like Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard, the ramifications of concussions and head injuries are very real. Savard suffered a concussion after an open-ice blindside hit in early March, 2010, that cost him the rest of the 2009-2010 regular season. Since then, he has sustained two more concussions, including one that has sidelined him for the rest of this season and has him contemplating leaving the game altogether at age 33.

    There is an assumption of risk when adults decide to play physical, violent sports, such as hockey as a profession, some say. Even with that argument, professional and collegiate bodies are implementing rules designed to curb the number and severity of concussions sustained by players.

    But what about children who choose to play hockey? The risks of head and brain injury are not discriminatory.

    According to Dr. Julio Martinez-Silvestrini, who runs sports concussion and sports injury clinics at Baystate Medical Center, concussions can lead to serious complications in young people.

    "One difference we see in youth athletes, compared to adults, is that because their brain is still in development, the vascular system that goes to the brain is still in development," he said. "There's a condition that is seen in youth only that is called a second-impact syndrome. If someone who has a head injury or concussion, continues playing sports and they afterwards have a second concussion, there has been some literature to suggest there may be massive brain swelling due to a vascular deregulation."

    Martinez-Silvestrini added that learning and decision-making can also be heavily affected by sustaining a head injury as a young person.

    "If you're still learning and making decisions for the future, these types of injuries, if not diagnosed, may end up in poor academic performance, which may completely [change] the future of the professional career of an athlete, both in sports and their work life," he said.

    In addition to the risks associated with sports, the benefits of enrolling young people in athletics have also been well documented.

    A study called, "Youth Sport Programs: An Avenue to Foster Positive Youth Development," by Jessica Fraser-Thomas, Jean Cote and Janice Deakin of Queen's University in Quebec — published in the February, 2005, volume of "Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy" — illustrated several key benefits to children's development.

    It stated, "Youth clearly experience many positive developmental outcomes through their sport involvement," including positive gains in physical, social, psychological, emotional and intellectual development.

    So how do officials keep children involved and safe at the same time? Martinez-Silvestrini said playing by the rules is a major deterrent.

    USA Hockey, the governing body of youth hockey in the United States, is making an effort to not only prevent injury, but to educate players on how to play aggressive, yet safe at the same time.

    "From an official's point of view, there are rules in place by USA Hockey," Steve Sady, referee in chief for the Western Mass. Blades, said. "If you call these penalties when the kids are younger, like at the pee wee level — ages 11 and 12 — you set the tone and [the players] really get the sense of what they should and should not do on the ice."

    Alex Grisaru, coach of the Blades' Pee Wee Major Selects, agreed. While USA Hockey is toying with the idea of removing hitting from the pee wee game, Grisaru considers learning not only how to hit properly, but also how to take a hit, as a major step in a hockey player's development.

    "There's a lot of talk with USA Hockey from people who are concerned and want to eliminate hitting," Grisaru said. "I'm pro-hitting [at the pee wee level]. It's important to teach those skills now, rather than when they're freshmen [in high school] getting hit by bigger, older players who are 5-foot-10, or 6-feet tall."

    Sady, who oversees all officials and their scheduling for the Blades, the developmental teams for the Springfield Olympics ('Pics) junior league teams, told Reminder Publications that open-ice injuries, such as the one suffered by Savard in 2010 are rare in youth sports because of the slower speed of the game, and that most injuries occur along the boards.

    "Those kinds of injuries on the open ice usually only happen at the pro level because those guys are flying," Sady said. "I've been reffing for 11 years and I think I've only had one penalty like that."

    Grisaru, who said no one on his team has suffered a head injury, largely because of his emphasis in practice on proper techniques for absorbing hits, explained that more often than not, a player suffers a head injury along the boards because of a "fear factor."

    "A lot of kids are scared to be hit, so they duck down," Grisaru said. "They try to make themselves small because they think it will help them absorb a hit, but in reality, it puts their head in line with the dasher [boards], as well as knees and elbows."

    USA Hockey has placed an emphasis on hits to the head and hits from behind, both of which can result in serious injury.

    "There's a head contact rule, which states that if there is any kind of contact to the head, it's a penalty, as opposed to a few years ago when it wasn't quite so strict," Sady said. "There are also hitting from behind penalties, which have been a point of emphasis for the last 10 years and USA Hockey has said that if there is anything questionable, the official should blow the whistle. If a player can see another kid's number when he hits him, it's a penalty."

    Some leagues have actually taken to putting stop signs on the back of players' jerseys to drive home the point, Sady added, noting that rules are worthless without enforcement.

    "As the scheduler, I won't put a referee on the ice if I feel he can't control the game," Sady said. "You can control the flow of the game, [but] if you put your whistle away at the youth level, someone will get into trouble. But if you set the tone early, you're fine."

    Sady added that coaches must also encourage obeying the rules.

    "To eliminate the risk of injury to other players, I emphasize hitting with the shoulder and not following through with a fist, an elbow, a stick, or anything else," Grisaru said.

    Should a parent suspect their child has suffered a concussion, Martinez-Silvestrini said early intervention is a must.

    "You should seek medical attention within 24 to 48 hours of the injury," he said, adding that early signs of a concussion include confusion, dizziness, headaches, ringing in the ears, depression and balance issues.

    Baystate Medical Center's sports concussion clinic utilizes, among other things, ImPACT, computerized neurocognitive assessment tools which determine the severity of a concussion and when it is safe for an athlete to return. Martinez-Silvestrini said some local schools have started administering the test at the beginning of the year, in order to offer a baseline to which doctors can compare the test administered after a concussion. Even if schools to not administer a baseline test, the hospital has normative data on which it can base recommendations.
  2. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Member

    You've got a lot of flowery prose up top and you don't get close to your main point until the fifth graph. I think you also need to get to the local point and advance to story a little more. It takes a long time to get to the local youth coach/ref who hand some interesting things to say. I think leading with the part about kids trying to avoid getting hit and ducking, which makes it more likely to get concussed was interesting. I would have played that a lot higher before you started bringing in doctors and experts.

    I also would have liked to see more quotes from other coaches/refs or parents and players. I know its hard to get kids to talk, but I think it might have been interesting to hear how an 10 year old who had a concussion would describe what it felt like.

    I know these stories are really hard. I did something similar about neck injuries in high school football players and mine was pretty mediocre. These are important stories but they are hard to make interesting while still getting across the important information.
  3. ChrisMaza

    ChrisMaza Member

    I agree that more local quotes from players/coaches would have made it better, but getting anyone to talk was like pulling teeth. There are several youth hockey organizations in Western Mass. and I could only find one coach from one organization who even returned a phone call to set something up.
    I think I threw all of the stuff up top to kind of try and draw a local angle to a national story, but I think you're right now that I look at it and I muddied it more than anything.
  4. McNuggetsMan

    McNuggetsMan Member

    Getting phone calls returned can be really tough so I always tried to rely on one great piece of advice I received: Just go there. Find out when practice is and just show up. It's a lot easier to ignore a phone message than it is to blow off someone who is face to face. Often times parents are sitting around waiting for their kids for 20-30 minutes before practice actually ends.
  5. ringer

    ringer Member

    This story read like a term paper.

    You could easily re-write it with half the word count. Try it. It will be much easier to do now than it would have been when you wrote it.

    Start by deleting all the obvious statements.
    i.e: "...the issue of concussions in sports has become one of the leading topics of conversation for health professionals, coaches and athletes, alike."
    i.e. "There is an assumption of risk when adults decide to play physical, violent sports, such as hockey as a profession, some say.
    i.e. "In addition to the risks associated with sports, the benefits of enrolling young people in athletics have also been well documented."

    Then slash extra words:
    i.e. [dele: Even with that argument] professional and "collegiate bodies?" are implementing rules designed to curb the number and severity of concussions [dele: sustained by players].
    i.e. Martinez-Silvestrini added that CONCUSSIONS IN YOUNG PEOPLE CAN AFFECT learning and decision-making [dele: can also be heavily affected by sustaining a head injury as a young person.]

    Then replace generalities with details:
    i.e. "professional and "collegiate bodies are implementing rules..." Who? The NCAA and NHL? What rules?

    And so on...
  6. MartinonMTV2

    MartinonMTV2 New Member

    It's also missing words in a couple of places. There's a glaring spot near the end.

    And if you ever find yourself using the word "pedagogy," even in quotes, seek counseling immediately.
  7. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    According is for statements on paper, said is used when you're told something.
  8. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Good advice. Wish I'd been able to get it through to a former colleague.
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