Seahawks’ team physician: Inactivity more concerning than concussions in youth sports

Nov 16, 2016, 3:16 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2016, 9:00 am

Danny O'Neil, Dave Lutes, Dr. Stan Herring and Dave Wyman took part in a Townhall discussion on con...

Danny O'Neil, Dave Lutes, Dr. Stan Herring and Dave Wyman took part in a Townhall discussion on concussions Tuesday at Kentwood High School. (Zach Davies)

(Zach Davies)

Seahawks team physician Dr. Stan Herring posed this question to an audience of hundreds at Kentwood High School in Covington: What is the single most dangerous thing for kids? The thing with the most chance for physical, psychological, cognitive and neurological problems. The thing that leads to the most premature death.

No, it’s not driving. It’s also not concussions.

“The highest level of evidence, the single most dangerous thing we can do to our children is physical inactivity. Not being physically active,” Herring said Tuesday at 710 ESPN Seattle’s Townhall on concussions in youth sports. “Now having said that, high school students: 25 percent get the recommended dose of exercise; 15 percent don’t get any exercise at all. So while people like all of us in this room, and people certainly in my professional career, are very worried about risk and student health and safety, let’s not fool ourselves. The biggest crisis facing all of us is inactivity, the quadrupling rate of obesity, the premature onset of many diseases, diabetes and others.”

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Herring, who is also Co-Medical Director of the Seattle Sports Concussion Program and team physician for the Seattle Mariners, joined former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman and Kent School District Athletic Director Dave Lutes for the discussion, which was moderated by 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil. The frank discussion looked at brain injuries, specifically in youth sports. They tackled questions including whether football is really safe and when the best time is for kids to start playing contact sports?

Listen to the full town hall here. A few of the highlights:

Herring on dangers of concussions for youth: “My entire adult life I’ve been looking for the one thing about getting old. It turns out, ironically, that children, young people, take longer to get over most concussions than most adults do. So there is an age-dependent piece to that. The older you get, at least in early adulthood, the recovery might (happen) more quickly. But I think the important part is that if you’ve seen one concussion, you’ve seen one concussion. They’re all individual, they’re all different. You never manage them by a calendar. Each one must be taken seriously for what it is and managed for the unique situation around that person.”

Wyman on advancements in concussion protocols: “It’s light years ahead now how we handle it. My very first concussion was my freshman year at Stanford. It was a pretty benign play. I fell down, I went to get back up, someone jumped over the top of me and his knee hit the side of my head. And on film, my head just kind of cocked a little bit and that was it. The next thing I remember, I was looking at the scoreboard and there was like 12 minutes or 10 minutes left in the second quarter. And this was the opening kickoff that I ran down on. So I lost all of that time. I was back in the game before the half ended. So I don’t even remember what kind of protocol I was given at that time.”

Herring on risk perspective: “Concussions are not a football thing and they’re not a boy thing. (It’s) all sports and all kids. I’ve seen it in synchronized swimming and I’ve seen it in the people I play golf with – you should never play golf with those people. We have to get over the idea that this is limited to boys or limited to contact or collision sport.

… At a professional football game, there are 27 professional health care professionals on the field. It’s like an AMA meeting: You have to stand in line to help these guys. That’s not the case in middle school and high school, so an insightful athletic director, educated coaches, concerned parents and engaged athletes are critically important for that.”

Herring on precaution: “The analogy I use for my young doctors is that everybody in this room knows what to do if you’re at dinner and the fella next to you starts sweating and grabs his chest. Everybody knows what to do: you dial 911. Now, most of the time it’s just bad food and indigestion. But it’s not always indigestion and you don’t want to miss the time it’s not. We call that a high index of suspicion in medicine. So there is a duty, a true duty, that you not put a young athlete’s life at risk. While it’s rare, it can happen.”

Wyman & Bob

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Seahawks’ team physician: Inactivity more concerning than concussions in youth sports