Honoring Brain Injury Awareness Month

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director

Since HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion Care launched just three years ago, we’ve already seen the tide turn about the public’s understanding of concussion (mild Traumatic Brain Injury or mTBI). We’ve gone from hearing “It’s a only a mild concussion,” and “You just got your bell rung a bit,” to an acknowledgment of the severity of this silent injury.

Locally here in the Capital region, HeadFirst has been extremely active in hosting educational seminars for coaches and parents, and participating in dozens of community outreach programs.

In 2014 alone, HeadFirst’s team of professionals participated in more than 80 community events reaching more than 180,000 people. These events included partnerships and sponsorships with the Brain Injury Association of Maryland, Hockey for Heroes (benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project, USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program and Disable Veterans of America), Sports Legacy Institute, Touchdown Club of Annapolis, as well as educational seminars for school and county recreational coaches and athletic directors, presentations for school nurses on concussions and mental health, and attendance at community health fairs.

These groups have welcomed our educators with open arms to help their coaches and athletic trainers understand the right protocol in managing a suspected head injury, from those critical first moments to long-term treatment for proper healing.

Our outreach programs are one of our cornerstones, we’d like to think they’ve helped change the traditional way of thinking about concussions.

HeadFirst is also a gathering point for professionals from around the region to share their expertise. Our monthly Concussion Consortium pulls together physicians, neurologists, neuropsychologists, physical and vision therapists, and other specialists, school administrators and nurses, athletic trainers and coaches, who discuss scientific research and resources for concussion treatment and protocols.

The Consortium often hosts a respected guest speaker who shares information about specific topics and issues related to concussion. Next week, we’re welcoming Sarah Loeffler, LCSW-C, of The Neuropsychiatry Program at Sheppard Pratt Health System in Baltimore, Md., who will discuss mTBI’s connection to anxiety and depression.

Also next week, HeadFirst Chief Executive Officer Robert G. Graw, Jr., M.D., and HeadFirst Program Director Tony Doran, Psy.D., are presenting their lecture, An Integrated Community Model for Concussion: Update, at the Brain Injury Association of Maryland’s annual conference.

Of course, all of this is in addition to our 11 clinics throughout the DC-Baltimore region, which is our reason for existence. From the thousands of neurocognitive ImPACT® tests we’ve administered to the patients for whom we have cared, we’ve heard amazing, heartfelt stories of the trials of living with a concussion and the willpower to overcome it. These serve as our inspiration to push ever forward.


We continue to read emotional articles in the news about concussion awareness, including yesterday’s announcement of San Francisco 49er linebacker Chris Borland’s decision to retire due to the high potential of long-term brain injury from playing. Turning away from a lucrative career in the name of your health surely must be one of the most incredibly difficult decisions to make, and we applaud this young man for having the guts to make this choice.

HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion Care is proud to honor March’s designation as Brain Injury Awareness Month, as well as Brain Injury Awareness Day today, March 18. Looking back, it’s been a fulfilling journey, albeit a short one. The starting line is still in our sights and we know the finish line is a long way off—and very likely will continue to move even as we do.

Concussions can and do happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The non-discriminatory nature of this injury is what continues to motivate us to do our work.

Brain Injury Awareness Month is Winding Down

by Tony Doran, Psy.D.
HeadFirst Concussion Care Program Director

Brain Injury Awareness Month is drawing to a close. I hope that you have taken the time to look at a few websites, read a journal article or attend a talk or two to learn more about concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries. The Brain Injury Association of Maryland’s conference last week was a tremendous success. Attendees told me about some exceptional presentations: Brianna Scurry’s personal story of recovery, Dr. Jeff Barth’s research data on concussion as people age, HeadFirst’s own Dr. Robert Graw’s presentation on a community-based concussion clinic and Dr. Kevin Crutchfield’s talk on cervical injuries.

Sadly, we are reminded all too often that brain injuries can affect anyone, at any time, even those close to home. Close to us here in Maryland are two midshipman from the U.S. Naval Academy who have been affected. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers MIDN William McKamey, a Naval Academy football player suffered a neurological event while at practice three days ago and succumbed to his injuries at University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore on Tuesday, March 25th. Also please keep in your thoughts MIDN Hans Loewen, who sustained a severe brain injury while skateboarding and is being treated at the same medical center. We pray for the McKamey and Loewen families, the Naval Academy football coaches and team, and their Naval Academy Family.


A message from Kelley – Am I alone?

“One of the most frustrating things I’ve dealt with this past year regarding my concussion is that no one can physically see or understand the pain that goes on inside of my body. I wasn’t even sure if my parents could even fully understand that I was so desperately alone in this struggle. I didn’t have a giant neon sign over my head that read ‘concussed person here’ or a band aid with a ‘broken brain’ sign wrapped around my head to show people I was hurting. It was frustrating to feel like no one could feel my pain.

Sure, people were sympathetic, but they couldn’t really understand. I think that is one of the hardest parts about going through a concussion; the isolation of an invisible injury. My concussion had no outward signs. I wasn’t in a coma and I didn’t have a giant gash on my head. All I had was a terrible headache that limited my social and academic functions. But nobody could see inside my head to tell I had a headache. All they had was my word, and to some people – that wasn’t enough. I received comments from ‘friends’ that I was “milking it for all it was worth” or that I shouldn’t complain so much about something that was so little. I couldn’t do anything to convince people otherwise. It was difficult to deal with these attitudes from others.  What I have learned from this is that I have no control over other people and their opinions and there is no way to make them understand what I’m going through.

I can only control my own actions and how I respond to this brain injury. I will respond by helping to educate and encourage others to be compassionate and caring to those suffering with this silent, often bandage-free brain injury.”

Medical Myths BUSTED!

We spend so much time talking to people about how they can protect their brain but feel equally obligated to educate everyone on the gray matter between our ears.

It’s no surprise that many of us are keenly curious about how the brain works. Unfortunately, some aspects of brain function are still poorly understood, and a few misperceptions about the brain have long been perpetuated as myth.

We’d like to help put some of those myths to bed.


MYTH 1: The average person uses only 10% of their brain. 

FALSE: High-tech brain scans including PET and fMRI show that much of the brain is engaged even during simple tasks.

MYTH 2: We have five senses.

FALSE: Sure, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also have a sense of balance, body temperature and even acceleration and the passage of time.

MYTH 3: The two sides of the brain operate independently.

FALSE: While the cerebral cortex (the main portion of the brain) does have two sides, or “hemispheres,” that control different functions, research has shown us that both sides of the brain are constantly active in most situations, especially when you’re learning.

Stay tuned!  We’ll have many more myths to shatter in future posts.

Does Riddell Have a Duty to Protect Players?

Whose responsibility is to make sure an athlete remains concussion free? The player? The coach? Parents? Well, at least 2,500 people believe it should be the helmet manufacturers.

Right now 2,500 plaintiffs are seeking damages against Riddell because they believe the sports equipment company had a duty to protect NFL players against the long-term risk of concussions, yet defaulted on that obligation.  

Further, the plaintiffs believe that Riddell falsely marketed their helmets as having the ability to reduce the risk of concussions by a substantial percentage. Plaintiffs refer to Riddell’s Revolution helmet in their Master Complaint, pointing out that Riddell marketed the helmet as reducing concussions by 31%.

In response to this accusation, all Riddell Football Helmets now include concussion awareness hang-tags with information from USA Football and the CDC.

Whose responsibility is it to educate the sports community about the dangers of concussion? In our estimation, everyone.

HeadFirst Hosts ImPACT Symposium

HeadFirst Sports Injury and Concussion Care, a program of Righttime Medical Care, hosted its first ImPACT Workshop on Saturday, May 5, at the Severn School in Severna Park, Md. Jamie Pardini, Ph.D., neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, discussed the ImPACT neurocognitive assessment program as a tool to diagnose concussions. Also presenting at the workshop were Milford H. Marchant, Jr., M.D., orthopaedic and sports medicine specialist at MedStar Harbor Hospital, and Christopher G. Vaughan, Psy.D., pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s National Medical Center. More than 50 physicians, physical therapists, certified athletic trainers and other professionals attended the workshop to learn about helping students and their families navigate the road to recovery and make a safe return to play following a sports-related concussion.

For information about potential upcoming educational events, please email contact information to HeadFirst Program Director Amy Knappen.

HeadFirst Concussion Workshop

ImPACT workshop presenters Dr. Jamie Pardini (left), of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Dr. Milford H. Marchant, Jr. (right), of MedStar Harbor Hospital, are joined by Dr. Robert G. Graw, Jr., CEO of Righttime Medical Care, at the first event sponsored by Righttime’s new program, HeadFirst Sports and Concussion Care.