Proven Strategies for Concussion Safety and Prevention

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Dr. Nik Verma  from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush discusses proven strategies for safety and prevention of concussion.

nikhil vermaDr. Verma specializes in treatment of the shoulder, elbow and knee with an emphasis on advanced arthroscopic reconstructive techniques of the shoulder, shoulder replacement, knee ligament reconstruction and articular cartilage reconstruction and meniscal transplantation.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Dr. Verma completed his orthopedic residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center. He then completed a fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in sports medicine and shoulder surgery. While in New York, he served as an assistant team physician for the St. John’s University Athletic Department. He also received specialized training in treatment of shoulder and elbow disorders in the overhead throwing athlete.

Currently, Dr. Verma maintains an active clinical practice performing over 500 procedures per year. He is Director of the Division of Sports Medicine and Director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship Program. In addition, he serves as a team physician for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls, and Nazareth Academy.

In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Verma is actively involved in orthopedic research with interests in basic science, biomechanics and clinical outcomes, and has recently received funding for his work from Major League Baseball.

He has authored multiple peer-reviewed manuscripts in major orthopedic and sports medicine journals, numerous book chapters, and routinely serves as teaching faculty for orthopedic courses on advanced surgical techniques. He frequently serves as an invited speaker or guest surgeon for national and international orthopedic sports medicine meetings.

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Ask the Doctor!

This regular segment of ‘Ask the Doctor’ addresses questions submitted by Sports Medicine Weekly followers. Dr. Nik Verma from Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush will be discussing:

  • The definition of BMI
  • Snack ideas for efficient recovery following a workout
  • Strategy for prevention of concussions

Sports Medicine Weekly on 670 The Score

If you have a question to be addressed on an upcoming show, please click here to submit your question.

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Why study the brains of sports players?

The Drake Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation committed to improving understanding of concussion injuries in sport, based on scientific research and collaboration. Launched in 2014, they have already committed over £2 million in research funding and invested in open access education resources. By bringing together the brightest minds from neuroscience and sports to facilitate collaborations and research, they aim to bring to light how to improve sports safety and provide a valuable insight into the processes underlying neurodegenerative diseases.
This timeline pinpoints the milestones in The Drake Foundation’s work so far, including their ongoing research and completed studies, along with events that they have partaken in with the hope to progress their establishment with more projects that work to answer these key public health concerns.

The Drake Foundation aims to improve understanding of concussion in sport and its effects on long-term brain health.

For more information about The Drake Foundation, visit


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A Yale football player quits to save his brain

Andrew Grinde was not just another football player. As a running back at C.M. Russell High School in Great Falls, Mont., he rushed for 2,180 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2014, leading the Rustlers to the state title game, and was named Montana’s Gatorade Football Player of the Year.

Swift, stocky, powerful and fearless, he outran some defenders and bowled others over. His highlight video is worth watching. Find it at

With a 4.0 grade-point average, Grinde (rhymes with Lindy) was recruited by Ivy League schools, as well as the University of Montana and Montana State. He headed off to Yale before deciding to take a year off from school and football. His return to the gridiron the next summer merited a story in the Great Falls Tribune. “I miss it, for sure,” he told the reporter. “I love playing.”

Grinde, who goes by Drew, returned to Yale and in his first collegiate game carried the ball four times for 45 yards and a touchdown. But in practice the following week, he had a bruising collision while pass blocking against a 240-pound linebacker.

The next morning in class, another student asked him whether he was drunk. “I was slurring my words,” he told me by phone from New Haven, Conn. He immediately went to the university health clinic and found he’d suffered a concussion.

He sat out for a week and a half, but when he resumed practice, something was wrong. “I got very lightheaded and could barely feel my legs,” he recalls. That was enough. “I cleaned out my locker that night.”

Grinde had been playing tackle football since he was in fifth grade. He had been a high school star. But he could no longer accept the risk to his cognitive function and mental health.

Even before that episode, he had begun to worry. His brother was studying neuroscience at the University of Montana and told him that playing football “was probably the worst thing you could do for yourself as an adolescent.”

He wasn’t deterred, but every time he got hit in practice, he would think about concussions and the cumulative damage he might be doing to his brain. “Playing football wasn’t the same,” he says.

He had cause for concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, an incurable degenerative brain disease, “is believed to be caused in part by exposure to repetitive head impacts, including concussions as well as subconcussive trauma.” It adds, “The greatest risk factor for CTE is the number of years of exposure to repeated head or brain injuries.”

Football involves exactly that sort of exposure. A Boston University study found CTE in 110 of 111 brains of deceased NFL players. Of the 53 brains from college players who didn’t make the NFL, the disease was detected in 48 of them — 91 percent.

Scientists examined the brains that the Mayo Clinic had preserved from patients with neurodegenerative disorders. CTE was present in 1 in 3 of those who had played contact sports — and none of those who hadn’t.

The NFL resisted the evidence about the effects of the game but eventually had to admit reality. It reached a settlement covering some 20,000 former players, which is expected to cost $1 billion. The NCAA also is facing lawsuits and last summer settled one from a University of Texas player’s widow who sought $1 million.

Grinde spent years meting out and incurring hits to the head. He now has to live with the fear of developing symptoms of CTE.

Last year, I wrote a column arguing that Harvard and Yale, as two of the world’s premier educational institutions, should stop subjecting their undergraduates to the danger of irreversible damage to their excellent brains. Grinde read it recently and emailed to tell me, “This article aligns with what I have been preaching to many of my peers at Yale, both football players and non-players.” That email led to our conversation.

The Ivy League has tried to curb the problem by banning tackling during in-season practices and moving kickoffs from the 35- to the 40-yard line to increase the number of touchbacks. But these changes can’t fix a sport designed to batter brains. Reducing the number of alligators in a lake wouldn’t make it safe for swimming.

Drew Grinde has ensured that one Yale undergraduate won’t be at high risk of brain damage every fall Saturday. Yale could ensure that none are.

By Steve Chapman for the Chicago Tribune

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