Recently, a lot of attention and concern has been placed on concussions and head injuries among athletes of all sorts, ranging from little league to professional players.  After attending a presentation by Chris Nowinski, writer of the featured book, and subsequently watching the film, Sportworks Field Design expert, Craig Honkomp came back to the office and shared the 2012 documentary Head Games with the design team.  ”As a person and a father, it was an emotional movie.  As a sports field designer, it was very educational, thought provoking and insightful.  If you have kids, or know kids that play in any sport; not just football or wrestling, but soccer, lacrosse, gymnastics, hockey, etc., you should watch this film, if for nothing else, the medical science aspect of what happens to the brain in an impact of any severity.”

Research has linked several neurodegenerative diseases to head injuries, but the primary focus of the documentary Head Games are concussions and the link to and development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  Symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicide, and progressive dementia.  CTE is not a newly discovered disease.  Commonly known in the 1920′s as punch drunk syndrome, CTE has been associated with boxers for decades.  However, little is known about development of this disease.  Today, CTE can only be confirmed after death.  There are no known methods of diagnosis using brain imaging technology.

What can a room full of Civil Engineers do to help?  In part two of the presentation process, Craig hosted a learning session where he displayed various padding materials that could be specified in the design of the field that would assist with shock absorption and lessen the impact of a head to surface blow.  He discussed GMAX testing of synthetic turf fields, what the tests show, and how field owners could use the information to help provide a safer playing surface for the athletes that use the venue.  The presentation and learning session were an eye-opening experience for all who attended.  It provided yet another inspirational example of how the Sportworks Field Design team can help to make the world a better place, one field at a time.