Thursday, October 28, 2010
Can some football injuries be prevented?

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

A lot of concern has been raised recently about the types of tackling in professional football. The concerns relate to one player leaving his feet and hitting another player in the head with his helmet. The result is often a concussion for the player receiving the blow. The discussion has centered on several factors. The most ridiculous discussion is that football is a violent game. Fans enjoy the violence and will quit watching the game if precautions are put in place. The few fans who watch the game purely for the violence can tune out any time they want. They can go watch boxing where the goal is to hit the other fighter in the head and knock him out. The goal in football is to score points not injure the other players. Another factor being discussed is what would be the correct punishment for the individuals who make these kinds of tackles. There are two punishments currently handed out. The first is a 15 yard penalty at the time of the tackle. The second is a fine that might be handed out later. As a behavioral pediatrician, I can state one thing clearly. Those two penalties are insufficient to change the way players tackle. I have heard several players comment about the fact that they don't mind a fine. It is often only a small part of their salary for that particular game. Penalties are common in football so they do not make the kind of difference that is needed. So what is the correct penalty? The answer is simple. The correct penalty is the one that will make a player change his behavior. We do not change anyone's behavior. Only the individual can change his behavior and they have to be motivated to do so. There are people who favor suspension. Others favor bigger fines or ejection from the game. The important thing is that whatever is chosen, it needs to be viewed by the player involved as reason enough to change his behavior. This is behavior modification in its simplest form. A third point is related to the teaching of tackling. The weekly football show Inside the NFL had a discussion on this. The players made it clear that there are no tackling drills on professional football teams. That is something that is supposed to be taught at a younger age. The author of a current football book says the same thing. For that reason, tackling skills need to be taught at the PopWarner, high school and college level. There are ways to do this. Every baseball pitcher knows that there is a specific strike zone. It is the same for every baseball game. There is no reason that there cannot be a specific tackle zone that excludes the head area. Behavior is learned. It should be learned from the beginning. There will likely never be a perfect solution because of the speed of professional football. There will be situations where a player is going to make the correct tackle but the receiving player moves in a different direction. The result will be a different hit than intended. However, when a player leaps in the air and goes helmet first into the helmet of another player, that can be dangerous. We need to realize that safety is important in a violent game. Safety can be taught and behavior can be modified. I do not think any of us would like to be the relative of the player who gets paralyzed or dies because of something that we might have prevented.

Mammography Van back on the road The Women's Mobile Health Screening van, newly retrofitted with state-of-the-art digital mammography equipment, was re-dedicated on Oct. 4 at Legislative Hall in Dover.State Senator Nancy Cook and the Delaware General Assembly sponsored the upgrade. The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) manages and operates the van, which provides free or reduced cost mammograms to eligible uninsured or underinsured women. Digital technology (Hologic Lorad Selenia) replaced x-ray film equipment on the 2002 Airstream Commercial medical vehicle. Digital technology provides greater image resolution, while allowing health providers to access mammograms from any workstation. Digital records are also easier to store. The Delaware Cancer Consortium recommends annual clinical breast exams for all women, with mammograms by age 40, and annual mammograms and clinical breast exams afterwards. Women at greater risk for breast cancer may need earlier and more frequent screenings, and should discuss those options with their doctors. For more information about arranging a screening mammogram, call DBCC at 1-888-672-9647 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Van staff works some Saturdays and early evenings. Women should have a mammography prescription from their doctor and if possible, a copy of their previous mammogram films for comparison. Van staff will help those without a prescription or a primary care provider.

NHS Tribute awards Nanticoke Health Services has announced the recipients of the 6th Annual Nanticoke Tributes for Healthcare Leadership. Nanticoke Tributes awards individuals who have made significant contributions to the provision and improvement of health care in the communities of Western Sussex County.The awards will be presented at a dinner and reception on Thursday, Oct. 28, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Heritage Shores in Bridgeville. The Founders Award will recognize two new inductees, Sister Rosita Alvarez and the Soroptimist International of Seaford. The Charles C. Allen, Jr. Philanthropy Award is being presented to Rex L. Mears who is being recognized for his dedication and commitment to Nanticoke Health Services.

The Nanticoke Tribute Awards also recognizes a new inductee into the Nanticoke Physicians Hall of Fame. This year, Louis F. Owen, Jr., MD will be presented with the Hall of Fame Award.Tickets are $100 and may be purchased by calling Nanticoke Health Services Foundation at 629-6611, ext. 8944 or

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. The program is facilitated by Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center professional staff - Terri A. Clifton, MS, NCC, Cancer Care coordinator; Mary Brown, RN, DSN, manager Cancer Care Center; and Wendy Polk, nutritionist - with assistance from Lois Wilkinson, DBCC special projects manager, who helps facilitate the program at Bayhealth. Of particular value to newly-diagnosed women is DBCC's Peer Mentor Program through which they are paired with a long-term survivor for one-on-one support. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Cancer Support Group The Wellness Community-Delaware offers a general cancer support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones held at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. The monthly support group meets in the second floor conference room of the Cancer Care center on the third Monday of each month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The next meeting takes place on Nov. 15 at 4:30 p.m. The Wellness Community, an affiliate of the Cancer Support community, is dedicated to helping people affected by cancer enhance their health and well-being through participation in a professional program of emotional support and hope. Facilitators are trained mental health professionals with a master's degree or more. Call 645-9150 for information or to register. All support groups offered at the Wellness Community are free of charge. This program is made possible by the support of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Competition to improve school meals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the Recipes for Healthy Kids Challenge to improve school meals and the health of children across the nation through the creation of exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus. The competition will draw on the talents of chefs, students, food service professionals, and parents or other community members working together to develop tasty, nutritious, kid-approved foods.There will be a grand prize chosen by the judging panel as well as a Popular Choice winner based on public voting. The judges will also choose award winners for the top two recipes in each category. Winning teams will be invited to prepare their nutrition-packed meals alongside White House chefs. The top ten recipes in each category will be published in a Recipes for Healthy Kids Cookbook to share with students and families. To learn more about the First Lady's Let's Move! campaign, visit The deadline for recipe submissions is Dec. 30. For more information, visit

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospice's "New Beginnings" bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program.The location rotates each week of the month according to the following schedule:
  • 1st Thursday: Grottos Pizza, Rte. 26, Bethany Beach;
  • 2nd Thursday: Georgia House, 300 Delaware Ave., Laurel;
  • 3rd Thursday: Millsboro Pizza Palace, Rt. 113-southbound lane, Millsboro;
  • 4th Thursday: Blue Ocean Grill (formerly Milton House), 200 Broadkill Rd., Milton;
  • 5th Thursday (when applicable): Texas Grill (formerly Ocean Point Grill), 26089 Long Neck Rd., Millsboro.
"New Beginnings" luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required.There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Carol Dobson or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.

Survivors of Suicide Day program Delaware Hospice and Exceptional Care for Children will host the 12th Annual Survivors of Suicide Day Program on Saturday, Nov. 20, with a program at the Delaware Hospice Center, 100 Patriots Way, Milford, from 10 a.m. to noon. A panel of local survivors of suicide loss will begin the program, which will be followed by the 12th National Survivors of Suicide Day Video Conference, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There is no fee for this program, but registration is required by Nov. 10. Register online at:, or contact Vicki Costa, LCSW: 302-478-5707 or 302-856-7717, or Sponsored by the Delaware End-of-Life Coalition and the Mental Health Association.