"It's an important issue," US Lacrosse president… (AP photo )
When the annual US Lacrosse National Convention returns to the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend, a hot topic of discussion among the 5,000 coaches, officials and lacrosse enthusiasts expected to attend will be how to deal with concussions.
The subject has drawn enormous media attention lately, mainly because of new guidelines set by the NFL that require players who exhibit concussion symptoms to be removed from games and practices.
Because lacrosse is a contact sport and one of the fastest-growing team sports in the United States - youth participation reportedly has grown by more than 500 percent since 1999 to nearly 250,000 - educating coaches and parents about concussions is seen as critical.
"It's an important issue," said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse, the Baltimore-based national governing body of the sport. "Injuring your brain is different from spraining your ankle and should be treated as such."
A panel discussion on concussions will be led Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. by Dr. Margot Putukian, director of athletic medicine at Princeton and the chairwoman for US Lacrosse's Sports Science and Safety Committee.
"Concussion is a growing problem in all sports," Putukian said Tuesday. "We're trying to speak to the coaches about ... concussion awareness and management, and the signs and symptoms of concussion."
Stenersen and Putukian said they don't think the number of concussions suffered by lacrosse players has increased dramatically in recent years.
Putukian said that according to NCAA published data, concussions account for 5.6 percent of all injuries in men's lacrosse and 6.3 percent in women's lacrosse.
But pro football's efforts to deal with head injuries have heightened scrutiny of the issue in other sports.
The NFL's previous policy on concussions permitted players to return to action as soon as their symptoms abated.
But that policy was roundly criticized by medical experts, who pointed out that symptoms of concussions can reappear days after the injury was first noted.
The macho culture surrounding sports such as football and lacrosse can also put players at risk if they've suffered a head injury.
"If you have a kid who you think has a concussion, you don't tell him to suck it up or push through it," Putukian said. "You remove them from practice and play and make sure they're evaluated by a physician. We're trying to be proactive with this issue."
Among the 100 or so vendors expected at the convention will be representatives from ImPACT, described as a "user-friendly computer-based testing program specifically designed for the management of sports-related concussions."
Stenersen said US Lacrosse has entered into a "strategic alliance" with ImPACT.
"It's essentially a baseline neuro-cognitive test comprised of all these questions that measure response from different parts of the brain," he said.
Using ImPACT, he said, a healthy player is tested and the results noted. Then if that player suffered a concussion, he would be tested again and the results of the two tests would be compared.
"It helps doctors understand where the injury occurred and the extent of the injury," Stenersen said.
The US Lacrosse National Convention will begin Friday at 8 a.m. with registration and on-site check-in and ends Sunday afternoon with two coaching education programs.
Fan Fest, sponsored by The Baltimore Sun Media Group, will run Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.
Fans will be able to view field demonstrations sponsored by Warrior and Brine, obtain autographs from members of the U.S. men's and women's national teams, and see the latest lacrosse equipment and apparel.
Former Notre Dame and South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz, an author and ESPN analyst, will be the keynote speaker.
2010 US Lacrosse National Convention When:
Where: Baltimore Convention Center
Friday: 8 a.m.-6 p.m., registration and check-in; 10 a.m.-6 p.m., general sessions; 1 p.m.-6 p.m., Expo Hall open; 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m., keynote speaker Lou Holtz
Saturday: 7 a.m.-noon, registration and check-in; 9 a.m.-8 p.m., general sessions; 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Expo Hall open; noon-4 p.m., Fan Fest
Sunday: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., coaching education program levels 1 and 2