Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Days 19-21 Finding the Real Germany

Saturday Day 19

Meetings with German Team Docs

This morning our first stop was to Dr. Wego Kregehr, a top sports medicine doctor who works with multiple teams. This conversation was revealing. He said that doctors in Germany are taught that unless an athlete has a headache AND amnesia AND nausea, then they don’t have a concussion (!!). If they do have all three, they are immediately taken for an x-ray, and if the symptoms don’t clear within 48 hours, a CT as well. Then if the player is still symptomatic, they might get an MRI. As you probably know, all 3 of those tests will be negative when an athlete has a concussion, so it is bad medicine. To compound the problem, it doesn’t appear that the German medical community is aware of how useless the tests are for concussion, so when all the tests come back negative, the athlete is told that they are healthy , and that the problem must be psychological. It’s shocking in the days of the internet and the Zurich guidelines that this world exists. And it’s not just that the teams or team docs that are wrong – sports teams are insured by a workman’s compensation-type system here. I was told the insurance apparently refuses to continue paying players when there is no evidence of physical injury. Dr. Kregehr said he’d be happy to help try to change the system.

We then met with Dr. Jurgen Schultz, another team doctor. He really connected with the issue from the public health side, and was interested to think about how we expose children to brain trauma. He is hopeful the German government gains interest.

Drinking and Shooting Guns

The end of the day was one of the trip highlights. Marco took us all to his village’s Sch├╝tzenfest, which is an annual festival held by the local gun club. When I was told that the gun club had invited us to boozefest, I had my doubts about my ability to make it back alive, but I trusted they knew what they were doing. It was something – a tent in a field with all the members wearing light green jackets with all sorts of medals. There was schnitzel as far as the eye could see, beer, and old German songs being sung. We were far enough outside of Hannover that the big American and the Canadians at the event were a big point of discussion – which meant many strangers buying me beers.

They did have a ‘shooting range’ which was a carnival trailer, and I took on the princess of Schutzenfest in target competition, and lost. Like many post WW II cultural community organizations, whether in Europe or the states, they were having difficulty attracting younger membership, which meant I danced with many 50 year old women to a combination of local songs and 80’s American music. It will be one of my favorite memories of the trip.

Sunday 20 & 21

Drive to the Baltic Sea

The Goulet family and I drove up to the northern coast of Germany for some brief R & R. We stopped in Lubeck just to see an amazing old church dating back to the 13th century. The most remarkable thing is the church bell. The church was bombed in World War II, and the enormous church bell fell hundreds of feet to the ground and broke into pieces. The bell has not been moved since.

We then went to visit an old friend of Kerry’s who is the top professional hockey photographer in Germany. He and Kerry swapped concussion stories, but perhaps the most interesting was until Kerry started working on the concussion issue, he thought he’d had one concussion in his life. Since he’s become more aware, the numbers continue to go up. He discovered one when the photographer sent him a picture from fifteen years ago of Kerry on his back on the ice, bleeding from the mouth with his eyes half closed. He remembered getting slammed into the boards, but didn’t recognize that he was clearly out of it. It’s amazing how we remember old concussions.

We then drove up to Timmendorf Strand (beach) where we stayed in a resort town that Kerry “owned” for about ten years. He even generously took us to the arena where his jersey hangs in the hockey arena. Unfortunately he was not signing autographs that day…

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