Newhouse School among the first to offer pilot program in concussion reporting training

By Wendy S. Loughlin

November 20, 2018

Alumnus Bob Costas ’74 and professor of practice Olivia Stomski helped develop the program in partnership with the Concussion Legacy Foundation

The first-ever concussion reporting training program was piloted at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications this fall.

The three-hour Concussion Reporting Workshop, developed to help journalism students learn the best ways to cover concussions, was taught by Newhouse professor of practice Olivia Stomski as part of the Radio Sports Broadcasting course. Stomski is director of the Newhouse Sports Media Center.

Announcing the project at a press conference in New York are (from left): Dr. Robert Cantu, Olivia Stomski, Bob Costas, J.A. Adande and Chris Nowinski

The workshop is part of the Concussion Foundation Media Project, an initiative of the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) that also includes a Concussion Reporting Certificate for working journalists. Stomski helped develop the project in collaboration with legendary sportscaster and Newhouse alumnus Bob Costas ’74; J.A. Adande, director of sports journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism; and Andrea Kremer, Thursday Night Football analyst with Amazon Prime.

The Concussion Foundation Media Project was launched officially by CLF co-founders Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu at a press conference Nov. 9 at Syracuse University’s Fisher Center in New York City.

“The guidelines on covering concussions are changing all the time,” said Costas. “Until now, there has never been a resource for journalists to stay current on the science, the protocols or the appropriate terminology.”

According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, most children from lower income families do not receive formal concussion education, and other research shows most youth coaches have not been trained to recognize or appropriately respond to concussions. Sports media is a way to educate these hard-to-reach groups and help keep children safe in sports.

“Journalists reach millions of people doctors can’t,” said Cantu, a physician who serves as CLF’s medical director. “Most concussions are still not diagnosed, so by identifying the signs of a concussion, talking about the proper response and avoiding words like ‘dinged’ or ‘bell-rung,’ reporters can perform a valuable public service and maybe even save a life.”

Olivia Stomski (right) teaches the Concussion Reporting Workshop at Newhouse

At Newhouse, the Concussion Reporting Workshop will be offered again this spring in the Television Play-by-Play course, taught by Matt Park; in the Sports Reporting course, taught by Steve Infanti; and in the Sports Production course, taught by Stomski.

The workshop will also be offered at Medill, taught by Adande, and at Boston University, taught by Kremer.

Students learn about the correct terminology to use when reporting on concussions, the long-term effects of these injuries and the protocols of different sports leagues, and how they differ. They also review and critique real clips, and practice calling relevant incidents.

“The workshop gives professors cutting-edge tools to teach the next generation of journalists how to report on the nuances of concussions, such as differentiating between concussion signs and symptoms and knowing a concussion is a brain injury, not a head injury,” says Stomski. “We have to know this just as well as we know the players’ names and just as well as we know the rules of the game.”