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Monday, Jan. 23, 2017: Doctor portrayed in 'Concussion' to speak in Sec. 5

   Leading off today: Well, it looks as though this has turned into an all-health- and-safety edition of the NYSSWA blog.

   Big-name headliner: Dr. Bennet Omalu, portrayed by actor Will Smith in the movie Concussion, will headline "Brainstorm," an upcoming educational event in Rochester focusing on concussions, organizers announced.

   Omalu, a forensic pathologist and neuropathologist, is known for his work on the relationship between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and American football players while working in Pittsburgh, based in large part on his autopsy of former Steelers lineman Mike Webster in 2002.

   "Brainstorm" will also include an appearance by former Buffalo Bills player Steve Tasker and a panel of Rochester Regional Health experts.

   Two days of activity begin March 2 at St. John Fisher College with "Heads Up! A Community Conversation on Concussions and TBI." The evening event aimed at parents, athletes, coaches and trainers will include a panel discussion as well as a Q&A.

   Activities move downtown to the Hyatt Regency the following morning with Omalu delivering the keynote at "Breakfast with Friends" and joining a panel discussion with local experts that will be followed by a presentation from Tasker.

   Crumb-rubber study: There's no evidence that playing on crumb-rubber sports fields has caused cancer in soccer players, the Washington State Department of Health reported last week in an announcement that's unlikely to settle an ongoing controversy about artificial turf.

   The state health department undertook the study after Amy Griffin, a University of Washington soccer coach, compiled a list in 2009 of people who played on the artificial turf and who were later diagnosed with various cancers including leukemia, and non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma. The state study examined 27 of the 53 people identified by Griffin through 2016.

   The investigation also ruled out that any one position is at higher risk on the soccer field. There was a specific concern about goalkeepers, given how often they come in direct contact with the surface of the playing field.

   Health officials acknowledged that a study they conducted about the issue was limited in scope. A separate national study is now under way.

   "As a result of our investigation, we found that the number of players ... was less than expected, given rates of cancer given Washington residents of similar ages," said Dr. Cathy Wasserman, state epidemiologist for noninfectious conditions.

   The study did not include any testing of fields.

   Vote slated for Friday: With the spring season drawing near, representatives of 11 NYSPHSAA sections will come together Friday for a regularly scheduled meeting that includes a vote on proposed pitch-count standards for the 2017 baseball season.

   I haven't written about the proposal in any meaningful way since shortly before last October's meeting of the Executive Committee, and the numbers they discussed back then have changed somewhat, as have some of the related processes and regulations.

   Here are the details on pitch totals from back in October, with required nights of rest in parentheses:

Varsity JV/Frosh Modified
105 (4) 85 (4) N/A
81-104 (3) 61-84 (3) 51-70 (3)
56-80 (2) 36-60 (2) 31-50 (2)
31-55 (1) 26-35 (1) 16-30 (1)
1-30 (0) 1-25 (0) 1-15 (0)

   If you stack that information up against what will be voted on by the Executive Committee on Friday, you'll see several differences in what is allowed during the regular season:

Varsity JV/Frosh Modified
96-105 (4) 76-85 (4) 61-75 (4)
66-95 (3) 46-75 (3) 41-60 (3)
31-65 (2) 31-45 (2) 21-40 (2)
1-30 (1) 1-30 (1) 1-20 (1)

   Right off the bat, you notice that the option for zero nights of rest has been removed since that's not actually possible. (See below for the distinction between pitches per game and per day.)

   A second change to the proposal is an allowance for more pitches during the postseason, an acknowledgement that warmer weather and accumulated conditioning over the course of the league season should allow a player to safely stay on the mound longer. Rather than having to come out after 105 pitches, hurlers can throw as many as 125 pitches in a playoff game.

   A few things to keep in mind:

   (1) What's being regulated is pitches per day rather than per game, so it will continue to be possible for hurlers to appear in both halves of the occasional doubleheader. Remember, though, that the most important doubleheader of the year -- the NYSPHSAA semifinals and finals being played on the same day -- is going away; the NYSPHSAA recently voted to turn its final fours into two-day events.

   (2) The old caveats about balks, pickoff throws and warmup pitches not counting continue to be in effect. And a pitcher reaching the maximum in the middle of an at-bat can finish throwing to that batter.

   (3) Significantly, the latest proposal does away with the proposed progressive discipline against coaches for allowing hurlers to exceed pitch limits or appear on the mound on less than the prescribed rest.

   Gone is the provision that the first two violations would result in suspensions of one and two games, respectively, for the head coach and a third offense would mean a one-year suspension and the game being declared a forfeit.

   Instead, the current proposal relies upon the penalties applicable under the old system when innings per week were monitored: A pitcher appearing in violation of the rules becomes an eligibility issue that triggers a forfeit, and any disciplinary action taken against the coach will follow the process that the school and/or section already has in place for comparable infractions in other sports.

   More on the baseball proposal: I was caught off guard last week as the Section 5 Athletic Committee reviewed the revised pitch-count rules and then put the proposal to a league-by-league vote to guide its two representatives as to how to vote on Friday.

   The leagues were overwhelmingly opposed to the new numbers, with considerable concern about modified baseball. The sentiment was that small schools are going to have a difficult time identifying and developing enough suitable pitching candidates to play a full schedule.

   I don't know if there's similar sentiment from other sections or what their recommendations are for Friday's vote, but seeing such wholesale dissatisfaction last week was not what I expected with the start of practice for spring sports bearing down on us.

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