Articles Posted in Brain Injury

brain scanGiven the enormous attention to sports-related concussions and the long-term implications of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) for professional athletes, it should not come as a surprise that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) developed a brain injury study. What has come as a surprise, however, are allegations that the NFL “improperly attempted to influence the grant review process” for that study, according to a recent report from NFL.com. The allegations came through a report issued by New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone following concerns about bias.

Do the recent allegations suggest that certain studies may not be providing accurate information about the dangers of NFL concussions and rates of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among ex-football players? To better understand the implications of Pallone’s report, we should take a closer look at the specific allegations levied against the NFL.

Details of the Congressional Report

brain scanJust how pervasive are concussions and other forms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among professional athletes? According to a recent article in MedPage Today, a recent study determined that more than 40% of all former NFL players show signs of having experienced TBI. In other words, many—if not all—of those former players could be at risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain that results from a “history of repetitive brain trauma,” according to an information sheet from the Boston University CTE Center.

Will these new findings impact the ways in which players approach the game? Or do we need even more evidence of the severity of football injuries in order to change the way the sport is played?

MRI Scans Showed Signs of Brain Injury

brain scanWe know that multiple concussions can result in irreparable, long-term damage. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain, is now a condition that we know results from sustaining repeated traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), both in contact sports and elsewhere. But what about “seemingly mild, concussion-type head injuries” that happen only one time? According to a recent news release from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers now acknowledge that sustaining what we might call a mild TBI actually can “lead to long-term cognitive impairments surprisingly often.”

Brain Protein Discovered That Signals Cognitive Impairments


According to the news release, researchers have discovered a brain protein known as SNTF. It can show up in the blood after a patient sustains a mild TBI, but it does not show up in all cases of concussions. Researchers believe that the presence of SNTF “signals the type of brain damage that is thought to be the source of these cognitive impairments.” A team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Glasgow (in the UK) recently reported these findings.

brain scanHow is the NFL handling increasing pressure to take preventive measures when it comes to sports-related concussions that occur with surprising frequency in professional football? According to a recent article from CNBC, the NFL “believes one of the best ways to ensure the longevity of its sports—as well as all sports—is to make sure athletes are equipped with the latest and most advanced technologies to prevent traumatic brain injuries.” In other words, the NFL’s answer to sports safety advocates is that we need more science and better technological innovations to keep players from sustaining life-threatening head trauma. The answer to concussion concerns, the league suggests, is not an end to the game of football.

New Technology and the Head Health Challenge


Last year the NFL along with GE and Under Armour sponsored a “Head Health Challenge,” which gave researchers an opportunity to “invent ways to improve safety in sports by helping to prevent head injuries.” This year the NFL partnered with GE and Under Armour for the second year of competition. According to Jeff Miller, the NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy, the Head Health Challenge II emphasizes the league’s commitment to keeping players on the field safely by applying new technologies and scientific innovations to head-injury prevention.

_DSC6907Eight high school football players in the country have already died from sports-related injuries sustained this season. With increased focus across the nation on the risks of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and high school sports, officials in California have decided to take a closer look at the future of high school football in our state. According to a recent article in the Contra Costa Times, in response to football fatalities, “the administrator who oversees high school athletics in California raised concerns this week about the sport’s future.

Critical Juncture in High School Football

Does high school football have a future in the San Diego area? Or do the risks of traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries (SCIs), and other serious wounds outweigh student and parent interest in allowing the sport to continue? Roger Blake, the executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), suggested that we may not see football being played at high schools in a handful of years: “I think honestly—and I say this in all sincerity—I think high school football, we’re at a critical juncture in the next two to three years.”

FootballOver the last five years or so, new research on sports-related concussions and the long-term effects of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) has yielded startling results. According to a recent article from CNN News, a team of researchers just reported findings that may suggest chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) occurs more often than we previously suspected. As a brief reminder, CTE is a degenerative brain condition that can ultimately produce debilitating and life-altering effects.

Majority of Former NFL Players Suffered from Degenerative Condition

The new study concluded that 87 out of 91 former NFL players studied—96% of all former players examined—suffered from the degenerative brain condition known as CTE. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed with certainty after death. As such, the recent research focused on the brain of 91 former NFL players who had donated their brains to science for the purpose of learning more about the long-term effects of head trauma on athletes.

A recent article in The New York Times asked whether a ban on heading in kids’ soccer games might prevent traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) altogether. While parents across the country would like to see changes to the sport that make it safer for children and teens, a heading ban might not be the answer to the problem. Although some advocates argue that “ridding youth soccer of heading . . . would virtually rid the sport of severe head injuries,” medical experts suggest this likely isn’t the case at all.578570787_d8b82bef46

Relationship Between Heading and Head Trauma

In response to safety advocates’ arguments that youth soccer should ban heading, Dawn Comstock, an associate professor of public health at the University of Colorado, decided to undertake a study on the relationship between heading and head trauma. They ultimately published their findings in JAMA Pediatrics, but their research began with the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study. This is an online database that Dr. Comstock administers, and it collects reports from across the country.

Do helmets really help to prevent children and teens from sustaining serious and life-threatening traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)? According to a recent report from Fox 5 San Diego, a teen athlete at Torrey Pines High School recently shared how wearing a helmet while skateboarding could have changed his life by preventing the severe head trauma he sustained.4388608397_ebb4de8f49

Head Injury Left Teen in Coma, Required Multiple Surgeries

Brian Applegate, a 17-year-old former star athlete and water polo player in Southern California, was forced to “relearn everything after a skateboarding accident in May left him with a severe brain injury.” Indeed, Applegate “spent 5 weeks in a coma and underwent several surgeries.” Now that his life is no longer in danger, he “spends hours in daily rehabilitation, relearning everything from walking, to talking, to basics like catching a ball.” And he knows that his life-threatening injuries could have been prevented if he had only worn a helmet.

While the NFL concussion lawsuits have made many Californians aware of the risks of sports-related head trauma, it’s important to remember that these injuries aren’t limited to professional sports. Indeed, a recent article in Consumer Affairs reported that “high school players are at much higher risk than youth- or college-level players” of sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) on the field. And when do most of these injuries take place? According to the article, it’s not during the games. Rather, a majority of concussions occur during regular practices.

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Call for Action in High School Practices

Did you know that more than 50 percent of all concussions sustained among high school and college players take place during practices? That’s the conclusion drawn by researchers in a new study in JAMA Pediatrics, which examined data from more than 20,000 athlete seasons. If so many TBIs are taking place during practices, should coaches and other officials be doing more to prevent these serious injuries?

Youth football leagues have paid attention to the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), multiple concussions, and the risks of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). To be sure, one Pop Warner football program in northern California now requires its players to wear helmets that have “special brain sensors” installed, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle.american-football-155961_1280

Brain Sensor Technology Sends Alerts

California youth sports leagues appear to be leading the way in brain injury prevention. The Southern Broncos are the first Pop Warner team in California—as well as the first team in the country—to require helmets with brain sensors. According to the article, “they launched a three-year pilot program with sensors manufactured by a Maryland company called Brain Sentry.” The device is just about the size of a USB drive, and it’s placed in the back of each player’s helmet. When a player suffers a potentially dangerous hit, “the alert light turns solid red.”

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