World Cup Reignites Talk of Concussion Safety

We’re going to the finals! Tuesday night, the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated top-ranked Germany to score a place in the Women’s World Cup finals. But national pride and enthusiasm aside, this summer’s tournament has reignited talk about the dangers of concussions and chronic traumatic encephalothopy (CTE) in soccer. Just 28 minutes into Tuesday night’s game, American player Morgan Brian and German player Alexandra Popp’s heads collided on a free kick near the U.S. goal. Both players spent a few minutes writhing on the ground afterwards (Popp with a noticeably bloody head wound), and after a few minutes on the sideline, both were examined by team physicians and returned to the game. FIFA was criticized for not having an independent neurologist on the sideline to evaluate the extent of the head trauma, and the incident prompted a number of articles about player safety.

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Aphasia Awareness Month

shutterstock_94532341When a close friend of mine first started telling me about her mother’s sudden odd changes in behavior, my immediate thought was that they must be signs of Alzheimer’s. Hers seemed to be a gradual decline, one that began no more than two years ago, and as I saw her every now and then, I noticed more and more how she was withdrawing, depriving us of her warm, sociable disposition. Continue reading

Michigan Mishandles Concussed Football Player

Credit: MGoBlog

Morris needs help to stay upright after a blow to the head. (Credit: MGoBlog)

The scene at Michigan Stadium on Saturday was not what we’ve come to expect in 2014, and that’s a good thing. In the fourth quarter of a college football game between the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota, Michigan quarterback Shane Morris was knocked to the ground by a helmet-first tackle directly under his chin. Morris exhibited signs of a concussion: he winced and walked gingerly towards the sideline before collapsing into a teammate’s arms. Apparently Michigan’s coaches and medical staff didn’t see, or figured his behavior was the result of a leg injury sustained earlier in the game. Either way, Morris returned to the game for the next play. “This seems a little dangerous to me,” the announcer said of the decision. Morris was then sidelined after that, but a few plays later re-entered the game. In the aftermath, Michigan has been roundly criticized by for its handling of the situation.

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Keeping Our Eye on the Ball: NFL Concussion Crisis

CTE-February

Media coverage of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and other lesser known National Football League (NFL) players involved in domestic abuse cases have pushed the larger problem facing the game—chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—to the back burner.

In a recent New York Times column, writer Michael Powell notes that barely anyone noticed “the John Abraham sideshow down in Phoenix.” Abraham, a 36-year-old veteran linebacker, suffered a concussion in the season’s first game. Afterward, ESPN reported that he had been struggling with memory loss for more than a year.

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Prying Open the Window of Treatment for Acute Stroke

The global burden of stroke is immense and growing, a new report suggests, making it one of the biggest public-health problems worldwide in terms of both death and disability. Experts have called for a three-pronged approach encompassing prevention, acute treatment and recovery/rehabilitation to stem the tide. Yet despite billions of dollars invested in research over the last few decades, little progress has been made in preventing or treating stroke. Perhaps nowhere is this failure clearer than in the emergent treatment of stroke.

The clot-busting drug known as tPA (tissue plasminogen factor) was approved in the U.S. in 1996, and remains the only treatment for acute ischemic stroke (strokes caused by a blood clot or narrowing of a blood vessel–see image). tPA has been shown to be highly effective in sparing brain damage and reducing disability when used appropriately in the right group of patients, but the drug is widely underused.

Brain clot image. nih.gov

Brain clot. Image credit: NIH.gov

That situation is slowly improving–a study published in 2013 found nearly twice as many stroke patients received tPA in 2011 than in 2003. Still, only about 7 percent of stroke patients receive the drug. A growing chorus of experts are saying that’s because of outdated guidelines that are too restrictive in delineating which patients are eligible for tPA therapy.

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