A photo of Muhammad Ali and his boxing gloves.


Standing Brain Injury Awareness on Its Head

March 29, 2018

Pictured: Boxing gloves autographed by the legendary Muhammad Ali were among the items auctioned for head injury awareness. It is believed Ali's Parkinson's disease was caused by traumatic brain injury.

In recent years, headlines about athletes and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, commonly known as CTE, seem to be never-ending. While the serious effects of head injuries in professional sports have gained attention, misunderstandings about concussions and head injuries in school-aged children continue to persist. In an effort to bring this issue to the forefront, NYIT Center for Sports Medicine teamed up with former celebrity athletes and the Head Injury Association of Long Island for the annual Head Injury Awareness Sports Forum on March 21. The event included a panel of notable speakers and silent auction to raise awareness and funds for the cause.

Speaking before a crowd at the Fox Hollow in Woodbury, the presenters urged parents, athletes, coaches, and students to consider the dangers of concussions, as well as prevention and treatment for these serious injuries. Advocating for baseline concussion testing, Hallie Zwibel, D.O., director of NYIT Center for Sports Medicine, and Christina Finn, assistant professor of occupational therapy at NYIT School of Health Professions, discussed advancements to injury detection, as well as the center’s partnerships with local schools and health networks.


Christina Finn, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy, and Hallie Zwibel, D.O., director NYIT Center for Sports Medicine.

The keynote address was given by National Football League (NFL) Hall of Famer Harry Carson, who joined eight sports “heavyweights” on the panel, including:

  • Randy Cross, former San Francisco 49er
  • Ramon Dominguez, former professional jockey
  • Max Gomez, Ph.D., CBS News medical correspondent (event moderator)
  • Ann Liguori, New York sports radio and television personality
  • Barry Miskin, M.D., medical director, Joe Namath Neurological Research Center
  • Curtis Martin, former New England Patriot and New York Jet
  • John Nitti, former New York Jet
  • Wesley Walker, former New York Jet

Many of the former athletes on the panel played professional football and noted that the diagnosis of CTE given to deceased former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez has drawn much attention to the danger of the sport. They also acknowledged that risk of head injury exists across all contact sports–not just football.


From left to right: Media personality Ann Liguori, former San Francisco 49er Randy Cross, former New England Patriot and New York Jet Curtis Martin, former New York Jet John Nitti, former New York Jet Wesley Walker, and former horse racing jokey Ramon Dominguez.

One of the more severe cases occurred on the race track. Horse racing jockey Ramon Dominguez was forced to retire in 2013 after he was thrown from his mounted horse at Aqueduct Racetrack when his horse scraped heels with another steed. After falling, Dominguez was further injured when he was kicked by a trailing horse and sustained damage that resulted in three weeks of hospitalization and rehabilitation.

“It is so nice to see parents, coaches, athletes, scientists and physicians getting together with the important common goal of sharing information about head injuries while raising awareness,” said Dominguez, who now sits on the NYIT Center for Sports Medicine Advisory panel and advocates for increased awareness for head injury in youth sports.

“Whether playing football, hockey, basketball, boxing, or another contact sport, any athlete who’s suffered a head injury is at an increased risk for neurodegenerative disease. An injury to the head may not be a concussion—it could be even more serious, so an evaluation by a physician is necessary before returning to play,” said Zwibel.