Tackling the issue of concussions

By on May 18, 2016

Penn Cinema to host presentation

Todd Rucci knows all about game plans.

As a former Penn State University lineman and a retired player for the NFL’s New England Patriots, Rucci has sat in countless meetings designed to strategize against the opponent.

Nowadays, however, his thoughts aren’t on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or the Buffalo Bills.

Rather, they are focused on learning more about a health issue which is increasingly grabbing headlines.

That is, concussions.

To that end, Rucci plans to monitor a concussion presentation and panel discussion which will be held next Thursday night, May 26. Bryn Mawr Hospital will present “Concussion: An Interdisciplinary Approach” at Penn Cinema from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Seating capacity is limited to 225 people, so those interested are encouraged to register at concussionlititz.eventbrite.com.

Panel members will consist of a neurologist, neuropsychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and speech language pathologist representing Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital.

And as Rucci hopes, it will be the perfect setting to, well, game plan against concussions.

“In athletics, when you’re trying to play another opponent, you get together as a team and coaches and you talk about what you’re seeing and how do we defend it,” he said. “I think this is the same approach. Let’s put the smartest people in a room and let’s talk about how do we defend against this, how do we learn what it is, how do we put our athletes and folks in the community in the best position to be prepared for it and how to treat it.”

Currently, Rucci is active in Lititz as a Warwick school board member and a Warrior assistant football coach. His motives, though, aren’t to promote the pigskin.

He is quick to point out that concussions aren’t singular to just football, or athletics in general. People everywhere in all walks of life are vulnerable to the malady, whether it be falling down a flight of stairs or suffering trauma from a car accident.

“I’m just trying to get everyone to make the valid, responsible decision, whether that’s work, play, parent, coach, athletic director,” Rucci said. “We’re all in this together and we’re just trying to gather as much information as possible on May 26th, because on May 27th the research and things are going to be different. And on May 26th of 2017, I think we’re going to be further ahead on this. We hope to. I know we’re not going backwards on this.”

Rucci recently got a first-hand look at the research that is being conducted at Bryn Mawr Hospital. In addition to listening to doctors talk with other doctors about concussions and what they’re encountering, he was able to tour the facility.

“I sat down with the president of the hospital and some of their therapists, and I said, ‘As a guy that played the sport, is coaching the sport, I’m certified in concussions through the PIAA every year, I probably learned more in an hour and a half than I have in the last 10 years about concussions,’” Rucci said. “I wasn’t aware of how far things have come.”

Bryn Mawr personnel were receptive to the idea of coming to Lancaster to share their knowledge, and Penn Ketchum was gracious about opening the doors at Penn Cinema for the event, which is free of charge.

“I’ve been overwhelmed,” Rucci said. “When I talked to Penn Cinema and Penn Ketchum, I said we need a space to hold this, and Penn, without any hesitation, said, ‘You’ve got it.’ He donated the space to have it. He sees the benefit in talking about this issue because it’s not a Manheim Township issue, it’s not a Warwick issue, it’s not a CV issue, it’s not a sports issue. This affects all of us.”

As scary as the topic might be, Rucci is just hopeful that those attending gain the same kind of knowledge he received during his visit at Bryn Mawr. He talked about the goal of having fruitful discussion between people on all levels — health care professionals, parents, school administrators, athletic directors, therapists and the like.

“I just think knowledge is power in everything we do,” Rucci said. “And the more and more that we talk, the more and more that we’re comfortable talking with one another about the issue, then people can make decisions with the information that’s out there. That’s the goal.”

Following a 45-minute presentation, the second half of the event will be reserved for discussion and Q&A’s.

“This is a scary topic,” Rucci said. “For those parents that are thinking about putting their kids in organized sports, you need to make a decision. The concern is that we also need to talk about some of the good things that organized sports do as well. So we recognize the risks, but we also recognize the benefits of organized sports, and when you are informed by both, then you can make rational decisions and not be fearful because you understand at least where it’s going.”

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