Aspen Disruption Summit features leader in effort to reduce brain injuries in sports
Ryan Summerlin July 20, 2014
Chris Nowinski is just the kind of disruptive force that Kevin Ward wants for his inaugural Aspen Disruption Summit.
Nowinski is on the front lines of the effort to solve what he calls a crisis on the sports-concussion front. As co-founder and executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, he’s leading efforts to study the long-term consequences of concussions and efforts to limit concussions among children.
The critical mission for Nowinski is to change sports so that the next generation of athletes doesn’t suffer from post-concussion syndrome and other issues raised by too many blows. He will provide insights Sunday on progress made in the past decades and current efforts to further reduce brain injuries in sports. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. at the Aspen District Theatre. There will be a buffet lunch at noon.
Ward, an Old Snowmass resident and co-founder of the Aspen Science Center, created the event to provide perspectives from people he considers truly disruptive thinkers. The speakers are advancing revolutionary ideas in science, engineering and even culture.
Nowinski’s biography on the Disruptive Summit website touts his work in “disruptive neurology.” “Sports concussions are Pandemic; Time to Expose Them,” it says.
Research by organizations working with the Sports Legacy Institute has used sensor devices to determine that there are over 1.5 billion impacts to the heads of youth and high school football players over the course of a season, Nowinski said.
The institute launched the Hit Count Initiative to try to reduce those hits by half. Many of them are unnecessary and occur in practice, he said. Eliminating half of the hits could potentially eliminate half of the concussions, he said.
The program uses certified sensors in the helmets of football players as well as hockey and lacrosse players. It also establishes a hit-count threshold for the force of a blow set by scientists. Coaches, medical officials and parents can use the information to track the blows suffered by youth to prevent brain injuries.
A study by Virginia Tech and Wake Forest showed three youth football teams with players between ages 9 and 12 had between 61 and 145 hits above the threshold over the course of a season. The sensors can be used by teams to see where they fall in that range and, hopefully, reduce them, Nowinski said.
He also is encouraged that the National Football League has reduced its practices with hitting to once per week.
Nowinski is one of nine featured speakers at the summit. Learn more at www.aspendisruptionsummit.com.