Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 17 & 18 - Ich bin Ein Berliner

This morning I went to see Dr. Birgit Wetterauer of the BMBF (Federal Ministry for Education & Research), an administrator in the Referat 615 Gesundheitsforschung (Health Research). She discussed the newest European Commission Joint Programming Initiative JUMPAHEAD. JUMPAHEAD is designed to coordinate EU research activities on neurodegenerative diseases. 23 of the 27 EU countries will be participating. It is unprecedented for the EU to coordinate activity of such a narrow field (other Joint Programs include energy and the environment), but they realize if we don’t get the neurodegenerative diseases problem solved we’ll bankrupt healthcare. We discussed the various influences and expectations on the program, and it gave me a good appreciation for coordinating something that size.

Next I went to Parliament to meet Beate Hasenjager, a Parliamentary Official now working with the budget committee. Beate was an Eisenhower Fellow back in 1999, where she went to learn more about how a single currency, the Euro, would affect international trade. We toured the government buildings including the historic Reichstag Building, where parliament meets, where we had an amazing view of Berlin. It’s amazing how everything is discussed as pre and post 1945, and pre and post the Berlin wall falling. It’s hard to imagine what this place was like.

After taking me to lovely lunch that still includes no lettuce, cucumbers, or bean sprouts, she dropped me off with Rudi Mollenhauer and Dirk Jacobsen of the Sportcommittee of the German Parliament. Yes, they have a sport committee – that’s great. However, in all of their years of experience, no one had ever raised the concussion issue with them, which is shocking. After I presented, they were extraordinarily receptive. Dirk mentioned intervening with a youth soccer coach earlier this year to tell him to stock practicing headers with the 7 year-olds so much. After reflecting, he said it is interesting to think he spent the day prior on a conference call with the World Anti-Doping Agency, the EU, and Interpol to decide the amount of legal performance enhancers one can carry on their person (apparently it’s some), but no one had ever raised concussions and CTE. They will be sending around a packet of information from me to every member of their committee, and we shall see where this goes…

I had enough time to hit one museum, so I stopped by the Museum of Medical History on the Charitie medical campus. It used to be the Museum of Pathology, so they had every disease known to man in a jar. It was quite unsettling. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

Day 18

Today started slowly. I had a meeting with the German Olympic Committee pushed back to next week in Frankfurt, so I rented a bike and rode around the Tiergarten, the main public park in downtown Berlin. It’s also interesting to consider what Berlin was like before the wall came down, and the pains that have been taken to reunite the city and the country. It was most interesting to see the marks that war leave on a city – nearly all the statues of the Tiergarten are ravaged with bullet holes. The signs say that while many repairs have been performed on the statues, they’ve left the bullet holes – I imagine as a reminder. It’s a stark contrast to Dublin, where a taxi driver made sure to point out the Dublin post-office, where there are a handful of bullet holes from a major clash with the English. But that was about it. There are so many bullet marks in Berlin they are scarcely worth mentioning.

Midday I took a train to Hannover for a tour based on the friendships of Kerry Goulet of Kerry, a Canadian based out of Toronto, was a big time professional ice hockey player in Germany a few years back playing until he was 40. He became very close to the current General Manager of the Hanover Scorpions Marco Stichnoth, and Kerry is actually here with his girlfriend Toni, he brother Lawrence, and his nephew Brendan in Hannover for Marco’s daughter’s christening. Marco and Kerry set up some meetings with all the top sports medicine doctors in Hannover.

I was picked up by David Dale, the Scorpion’s athletic trainer. David grew up in Britain and came to Germany at 17 as a soldier and stuck around. He is a very helpful guide through the German sports world. When we began planning meetings, he said it was tough to find anyone because, “We don’t have any concussion experts in Germany.” First we went to see Dr Axel Partenheimer who works for the Hannover 96 soccer team of the first division. He said that concussions are not recognized in Germany. He agreed that based on our evidence that brain trauma should be looked at further, but he was not at all confident that, for instance, we would be able to convince soccer teams to offer guidelines for headers like America has pitch counts for baseball. However, we had a great conversation about all the organizations and mechanisms in place to create change, and he said he would be happy to help raise awareness in any way possible. It’s interesting to consider that changing the culture of American football was aided by the fact that all the thought leaders in the sport are in America. With hockey, most thought leaders are in North America – and the ones that needed culture change definitely are, as in Europe hits to the head are not allowed. Soccer and rugby will be much more difficult, as there are so many countries and languages involved.

1 comment:

  1. Nice way to decorate your walls. I have never done that. My effort to beautify the walls in my house was to order big-sized canvas prints from, from images of western art. I use the same angel motifs in all of the rooms painted by different painters, such as this one by very interesting English artist Stanley Spencer,