A few months ago I had the privilege to interview Dr. Yelverton Tegner.
Dr. Yelverton Tegner aka Mr Concussion, born 1946, is a doctor and professor in sport medicine who has been working most of all in the Swedish town Luleå as a team doctor with Luleå ice hockey team. Yelverton has also been working with different national teams within football, basketball, ice hockey among other sports. His main focus has been on sport related concussions and brain injuries.
Early years as a doctor
After he graduated from Med-school in Lund in south of Sweden he moved to Luleå, working with their adult hockey team, where he among his colleagues noticed how common it was that the players sustained concussions while playing. From there, they worked on a program to prevent these injuries as best as they could.
"In the 1980s you could only find 12-15 articles on concussions. Today there are thousands." - Yelverton said.
When asked what the greatest problem is today regarding concussions Yelverton said:
- People don´t think it´s dangerous. They don´t know how dangerous it can be and how bad it can get.
Instead of using the term "concussion" (in swedish "hjärnskakning") I use the term "brain damage", because it is a brain damage, no matter how small people might think it is.
- The most dangerous part about concussions are the sub-concussive blows that the players are recieving. Those hits to the head that dosen´t feel dangerous but are hard enough to shake the brain inside. Even a person who says that he or she have never sustained a concussion can might aswell have injuried their brain through repetitive blows to their head during games and practices. After studying ice hockey players before and after their game season we have noticed that they have a worse brain activity afterwards.
INCREASE or DECREASE?
I wanted to know if the amount of concussions have decreased or increased during the last 10-30 years per player and game time. Yelverton answered:
- There is no question about it. The answer is yes!
Players today are faster, stronger and more fit. This makes it more likely for them to produce more force in there tackles, punches and kicks. People do not respect the injury either.
Yelverton says he has overheard a lot of players telling their team mates to go for the head and harm the other players.
I wanted to know what Yelverton thought about the growing sport culture of MMA and boxing. I got a very historical and well thought answer:
- Boxers and MMA-fighters are our times gladiators. There has been a red line between when the gladiators fought in the arenas in Rome, the tournaments in 14th century Europe to the underground fighting clubs in England during the 18th and 19th century. This continues today in the form of boxing and MMA.
The National Football Leauge
Mostly through the 2015 movie Concussion with Will Smith in the lead role where Will Smith playes Dr. Omalu who discovers a never seen brain disease in dead NFL-players, the questions about concussions in sport has rised rapidly in the United States.
I asked Yelverton about the situation in NFL and if they knew long before the players did that there was a lot of sport related brain injuries in the NFL
- We never discussed it before the question erected with the new discovered disease in American football players. Those articles from the NFL that you could find before that proposed that concussions was not dangerous or that they didn´t occure at all in the NFL.
Future doctors in Sweden
Yelverton also thinks that concussions aren´t discussed enough in Med-school:
- The only ones who seem to have knowledge about it are the experts, fx neurologists, but they are usually working with more difficult brain traumas than sport related concussions. When I was lecturing AT-doctors their jaws almost hit the floor when I told them how serious the situation really was.
This was Part 1 of our interview.
To be continued.