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Costas accepts Cronkite Award

October 30, 2012

Award-winning sportscaster Bob Costas praised the “timeless virtues” exemplified by Walter Cronkite as he accepted the 2012 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at Arizona State University Tuesday.

“Even … if the means of communication changes, what matters is the quality of the presentation and the reliability of the information,” he said. Download Full Image

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, presented Costas with the 29th annual award, given each year by the school to recognize a distinguished journalist who embodies the values of the school’s namesake – excellence, integrity, accuracy, fairness and objectivity.

“Walter started his career as a sportscaster, and he was a tremendous admirer of Bob’s work,” Callahan said. “Bob has set the standard for sports broadcasting, and he truly inspired our students during his visit to Walter’s school.”

Costas was honored at a luncheon attended by nearly 1,100 students, media leaders, business executives, civic leaders and Cronkite School supporters at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.  

At the luncheon, Costas encouraged students to hold fast to the standards set by Cronkite.

“The dedication to truth, to fairness, to quality – that’s what Walter Cronkite was about, (and) that’s what I hope the young people in this room and at this university are taking to heart,” he said.

Costas, who interviewed Walter Cronkite on his late-night interview program “Later with Bob Costas,” said it was “exciting and tremendously humbling” to receive recognition that bears Cronkite’s name.  

“This is an honor that is hard to understate,” Costas said. “Everyone in broadcasting reveres Walter Cronkite.”

Costas joins the ranks of past award recipients including TV journalists Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw; newspaper publishers Katharine Graham, Al Neuharth and Otis Chandler; television executives William Paley, Frank Stanton and Ted Turner; and newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward.

Prior to the luncheon, Cronkite students gathered in the school’s First Amendment Forum for a question-and-answer session with Costas hosted by Associate Professor Joseph Russomanno.

Costas advised students to distinguish themselves as journalists by taking advantage of every opportunity to develop their craft.

“Good work is what’s going to set you apart,” he said. “Be willing to go to the 126th (media) market just to learn your craft and put another notch on your resume.  

Costas, a 24-time Emmy Award winner, currently hosts NBC’s “Football Night in America” studio show. He also co-hosts NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Open, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and serves as primetime host of the network’s coverage of the Olympic Games. In addition, he is the host of MLB Network’s “Studio 42 with Bob Costas” and serves as lead play-by-play announcer for the network’s “Thursday Night Baseball” games.

He has been honored a record eight times as “Sportscaster of the Year” by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in June of this year.

Reporter , ASU Now


Researchers develop more reliable concussion tests

October 31, 2012

It could happen during a nasty spill on the ski slopes, a hard tackle at football practice, or even a car accident. ASU nursing student Sarah Hollowell sustained her concussion playing intramural softball, when she took a hit from a ball right between the eyes.

“I had a bad headache, short-term memory loss, late reactions, was unbalanced and sometimes I would confuse words,” says Hollowell. Download Full Image

After toughing out her symptoms for a week, Hollowell decided it was time to see a sports medicine doctor. There, she completed tests such as remembering a few words and repeating them, and walking back and forth in a straight line. It didn’t take long for her doctor to diagnose a severe concussion.

Since there is no treatment for concussions, doctors rely on the “wait-and-see” approach. Hollowell was told not to drive or exercise as long as she had symptoms. She also took weekly online assessments to gauge her memory and reaction time.

After about a month, Hollowell’s test scores had improved and she felt better. By current medical standards, this constitutes a full recovery. But the absence of symptoms can be misleading when it comes to concussions, explains David Dodick, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic.

“We know from highly specialized imaging of the brain that there is a lag or a delay from the time people report their symptoms are gone and the time the brain has actually metabolically recovered from a concussion,” Dodick says.

Concussion patients can experience a diverse array of symptoms. Some, like Hollowell, have bad headaches and short-term memory loss. Others say they feel “fuzzy” and irritable, or have trouble sleeping. These vague symptoms don’t always point to an obvious culprit, which can result in undiagnosed concussions.

“There is no objective, physiological marker for concussion that’s reliable, cost-effective and efficient,” like the blood test used to diagnose diabetes, Dodick says. Neither is there a simple, reliable test to determine when the brain has recovered. This can be particularly dangerous for people at high risk for experiencing multiple concussions, like athletes.

“When concussions occur repeatedly, over time they have a cumulative effect, which can be quite devastating,” says Julie Liss, a professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science, part of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Dodick has seen this disturbing effect firsthand.

“I just saw one 23-year-old patient today who had experienced three concussions playing basketball, recovered nicely from all of them, but the fourth concussion she had two years ago has rendered her unable to work the past two years,” he says.

Cases like this have spurred recent legislation requiring medical clearance for student athletes to return to play after they’ve suffered a concussion. That means health care providers could face legal liability if their patients get back in the game too soon.

“I don’t want to be responsible for returning your child to play competitive sports prematurely, because the next concussion they get could either kill them or permanently disable them,” Dodick says. “School districts are nervous now, athletic trainers are nervous, coaches are nervous, physicians are nervous, and well they should be.”

Concussions are a contentious topic on the professional level, as well. Right now in the United States, more than 3,500 retired National Football League players are suffering from the effects of multiple cumulative concussions.

Together, they are filing a class-action lawsuit against the NFL.

Liss and Dodick want to find a solution to ensure the safety of concussion patients. Combining her expertise in the speech and hearing sciences with his medical background, the researchers have teamed up to develop a sensitive neurological test for diagnosing concussions and determining when a patient’s brain has truly healed. They are currently testing their method on patients from the concussion clinic at Mayo.

Liss and Dodick fit a patient’s scalp with an array of electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes. The electrodes pick up on very low-level electrical activity the brain gives off as neurons are firing. With the electrodes secured, a patient listens to statements spoken by a computer and must determine whether those statements are true or false. For example, the computer might say, “apples are fruits.”

In some trials, the computerized speech is clear and easy to understand. But on other trials the speech is distorted, making it more difficult or even impossible to understand. This type of speech-recognition task requires the integration of multiple brain functions that occur in different regions of the brain.

“Listeners have to concentrate really hard and pull together all these pieces of information so they can understand what’s being said. It requires a lot of brain activity,” Liss explains.

Tools doctors use routinely, like a CAT scan or MRI, can’t pick up on subtle disruptions in metabolic or structural brain integrity. That’s why Dodick and Liss chose the more sensitive and precise EEG electrodes, which feed into a computer program and provide a kind of map of the brain.

Patients will be tested within the first couple of weeks of their concussions, then again when they report feeling better, which is referred to as clinical recovery. About six weeks after that, Liss and Dodick will use another form of testing to verify that the patient’s brain has actually healed. Then they will run the speech test again to see if the new results correspond with the patient’s brain recovery. If there is a meaningful difference, Liss and Dodick will know their test works as it should.

Over the course of a year, the researchers will collect data from 20 to 30 subjects and compare those results to non-concussed individuals. If the speech recognition test proves to be effective, it will provide doctors with a simple, objective and cost-effective tool for diagnosing concussions and declaring patients healed.

“Identifying biomarkers of recovery will give us a better idea of when intervention should happen and possibly even the nature of intervention,” Liss says. “Understanding concussions allows us to potentially ward off a whole epidemic of cognitive and emotional problems in, for example, kids who play soccer and those kinds of things.”

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development