With the issue of injuries and concussions in sports becoming more prevalent at all levels of the game, U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer partnered together to conduct a trailblazing Medical Symposium, which was held Jan. 15-16 during the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Convention in Philadelphia.
Medical professionals from U.S. Soccer and MLS got together to conduct the two-day event that focused on player health and safety issues related to youth, amateur and professional soccer, as well as the topic of concussions.
Those participating in the symposium were: Dr. George Chiampas, U.S. Soccer Chief Medical Officer; John Gallucci Jr., MLS Medical Coordinator; Dr. Larry Lemak, MLS Medical Director; Dr. Margot Putukian, U.S. Soccer and MLS Primary Care Sports Medicine; Dr. Matthew Martinez, MLS Cardiac Consultant; Holly Silvers MPT, Director of Research Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation FIFA Center of Excellence; and Dr. Ruben Echemendia, U.S. Soccer and MLS Neuropsychologist.
Chiampas, who was part of the “Emergency Action Plan – The Coaches Role” presentation and was the moderator of the final panel, said the symposium was a crucial initiative to get everyone in the soccer community on the same page.
“Overall, I would say that it was a great initiative,” said Dr. Chiampas. “Having the ability to share information with coaches across the country allowed us to provide best practices in areas such as emergency preparedness to soccer specific injuries, as well as provide some educational opportunities to the management of concussions and the coaches’ role.
“I think it’s a responsibility of all of us – players, coaches, parents, medical staff and administrators. It’s most beneficial to work together and collectively be on the same page, so that we all understand the same process and procedures in managing concussion injuries. I think with that being said, communication by awareness and education is key for all of us to understand each other’s roles more fully.”
The event provided an opportunity for the soccer community to review the latest research, identify best practices, develop additional strategies for enhancing safety and reducing injuries, and chart a course to further understand soccer-related medical issues.
Among those in attendance was Shannon Hartinger, a soccer coach at FC United in Chicago. Hartinger works primarily with girls’ teams and has almost 10 years of coaching experience under her belt. She was tremendously impressed with the level of knowledge that was shared during the event, believing much could be gained from it, not only for coaches like herself, but for athletes and even parents.
“I thought the symposium was fantastic,” she said. “I was excited to head down there and wanted to see what it was all about. I was very impressed with the professionals that were presenting and I loved the research part of it. I’m also a physical therapist and I work with kids with developmental disabilities, so it was great to have the research that has been done and the evidence as part of the presentations. It has a lot of value so as to not over burden a lot of parents with information, but to have studies that we can refer to, and show the numbers and be able to explain why we do what we do.”
The second day of the symposium focused on the issue of concussions. Several professionals met to provide a benchmark for diagnosing them, dealing with them and eventually resuming play.
“There was some great stuff, particularly the ‘return to play’ information,” Hartinger shared about the concussion presentations. “We as coaches can only do a certain amount of evaluation on the field, but I loved how we were encouraged to seek medical attention and how this helps us take back information for parents and show them, ‘This is the person who is the medical professional for MLS and this is how they treat athletes, so why would we look at our kids any differently?’”
A final panel wrapped up the symposium and included all of the physicians, as well as athletes sharing their experiences of injuries and how to succeed after them. Hartinger commented that this final wrap-up was particularly valuable.
“Having the athletes there made it even more real when you hear their stories,” Hartinger said. “It was great to have that aspect – not only the physicians, but also the players talking about how injuries may have shaped their careers.”