A University of Kentucky research team has identified an immediate and robust forearm response that occurs when moderate forces have been applied to the head, which may help coaches and staff guide return-to-play decisions, says a statement released by the university.

The researchers, led by Jonathan Lifshitz, an assistant professor in the UK Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center (SCoBIRC), discuss the fencing response as an almost instantaneous physical reaction to a moderate-force brain injury in a paper published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, a scholarly journal.

Lifshitz describes the fencing response as forearm posturing that resembles the en garde position in competitive sword fighting, says the statement. It also can appear to be a defensive boxing pose.

Lifshitz and his team reviewed some 2,000 head injury, concussion, and knock-out videos on YouTube for impacts to the head, where the person did not get up immediately. Of three dozen videos, two-thirds showed an athlete’s immediate forearm reaction to an impact involving the head, particularly in football and mixed martial arts, says the statement.

Lifshitz is quoted in the statement as saying the researchers could see that the fencing response frequently takes place before the player even hits the ground.

Among the videos was the collision of Baltimore Raven Willis McGahee and Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Clark on January 18 in an AFC playoff game, says the statement. The players’ head-to-head collision, which left both laying on the field for an extended period, clearly shows McGahee’s immediate fencing response, it says.

The fencing response is indicative of blood vessel and neuronal damage in a critical brainstem region that controls balance, according to the statement.

The results of the research provide coaches and trainers at every level of sports, but especially to those involved in recreational and school contact sports at the elementary, middle, and high school level, with the ability to identify objectively the seriousness of an impact involving the head, Lifshitz said in the statement. The observation of the fencing response can help coaches and trainers make immediate and future return-to-play decisions, he added.


[Source: University of Kentucky]