The prevalence of concussions in sports has been growing in recent years. A study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that concussion rates have doubled in the past decade amongst high school sports participants. Boys’ sports accounted for about three-quarters of all concussions, with more than 50 percent of those coming from football. The American Journal of Sports Medicine says that high school athletes sustain an estimated 300,000 concussions per year.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) says that up to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreation-related activities annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that U.S. emergency rooms treat about 173,000 sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (including concussions) annually. The actual number of concussions each year is difficult to discern. A recent small study by ESPN showed that about one-third of college football players have lied about having a concussion, presumably to not affect their position in the game.
Last month, attorneys suing the NCAA over its practices in handling head injuries asked the courts to allow the lawsuit to be expanded to thousands of plaintiffs. The case began more than two years ago with lawyers representing a few athletes filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Chicago. If the court allows the case to be expanded, the lawsuit could mirror a class action case in which about 4,000 of former players and wives are asking for millions of dollars in damages from the National Football League (NFL) for head injuries that possibly could have been prevented with stricter policies and greater attentiveness.
On Tuesday, the national law firm of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP said it filed a lawsuit against Bowling Green State University on behalf of Cody Silk, a former BGSU student-athlete, alleging that the school failed to protect Silk from multiple concussions and residual head trauma and improperly revoked his academic scholarship.
Pro sports have made changes in recent years, imposing harsher penalties for hits to the head to try and protect athletes. Further, the consensus is now clear that a player suffering a concussion in a game will not return to play that day. In fact, in most cases, they won’t play again until they can pass a series of tests to receive medical clearance to return to the field.
So what’s this got to do with the stock market? Maybe nothing to a certain extent, but there are companies that are recognizing the rising concussion rates and looking to do something about it in one way, shape or form.
For example, in March, the NFL, Under Armour (UA) and mega conglomerate General Electric Co. (GE) announced a new partnership in a $60-million effort with neurologists to expedite research on brain trauma and new technologies that could better protect athletes, the military and the general population. GE and the NFL are covering the lion’s share of the initiative with Under Armour kicking-in $5 million to develop new materials and technologies to better protect the brain as well as technology to assess head impacts as they happen.
Separately, Take Care Clinics at more than 370 Walgreens (WAG) locations recently introduced a new concussion education component of its back-to-school and sports physicals that it sells for $60 (but can be had on special for $39 through Sept. 30). The plan is to educate children and parents recognize symptoms of concussions and when to take immediate action.
ESPN reported that an application by tech giant Apple, Inc. (AAPL) will be used to help team doctors diagnose if a player has suffered a concussion. The app essentially creates “a scoring system to determine if there are large discrepancies between a player's baseline score and his gameday score,” according to the ESPN article. Large discrepancies in scores would signal that the player has sustained a concussion.
There are a few micro-cap companies, such as Amarantus BioScience Holdings, Inc. (AMBS) and Vicor Technologies, Inc. (VCRT) , that are also pursuing research on concussions as well, but, on the whole, the space still seems relatively underserved compared to many other indications.
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