Football Addresses Head Trauma

CTE sports

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With a new professional football season on the horizon, there will be a lot of changes to the rules in an effort to reduce head trauma. The most significant change is the new use of “helmet rule,” which will be effect. The rule states that it is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. This rule pertains to all players on the field and to all areas of the field.

Among other changes:

  • An impact seizure will be treated as a loss of consciousness and force removal of a player from the game.
  • A player who stumbles or falls to the ground trying to stand, unrelated to an orthopedic injury, will be sent directly to the locker room for examination. If a player passes the exam, he could be allowed to return to the game.
  • Injured players are to be taken directly to a medical team member for a concussion assessment.
  • All players who undergo any concussion evaluation in games will have a follow-up evaluation conducted the next day by a member of the medical staff.

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Gladwell Podcasts Examine Brain Issues

Dana_podcastIMAGE_finalAs neuroscience enthusiasts already know, there are countless podcasts out there about brain-related topics. To inform my Cerebrum podcasts, I’ve sampled many of them to pick up tips on how to explain research that can often be complex and difficult to understand.

One such podcast that does a masterful job of explaining both chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and false memory is Revisionist History, a podcast by Malcolm Gladwell, a former New Yorker staff writer and the author of Tipping Point, Blink, and other New York Times best seller nonfiction works. The podcast labels itself as a “journey through the overlooked and misunderstood.”

The CTE episode, entitled “Burden of Proof,” focuses on Owen Thomas, a captain of the University of Pennsylvania football team who committed suicide several years ago. Gladwell builds the episode from a talk on the topic of “proof” that he gave to students at Penn in 2013. He used CTE, a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries, to make his point.

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Winter Sports Concussion Prevention Tips

Concussion - Winter Sports.jpg

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With the XXIII Olympic Games set to take place in a few weeks in South Korea, the issue of concussions is front and center, thanks largely to well publicized concussion management protocols established as an outgrowth of a tragic history of traumatic brain injuries among professional football players.

For winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, sledding, hockey, and ice skating—where high speeds and slippery surfaces are the norm—falls and collisions involving the head may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive, degenerative disease that has been linked to a litany of life-changing symptoms such as memory loss, impaired judgement, insomnia, dementia and depression so deep it pushed some retired football players, such as Junior Seau, to take their own lives.

With the high stakes that are involved in competing on a worldwide stage—there is concern that athletes may disregard reporting hits to the head as he or she pushes to the podium. For many athletes, the Olympics represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and they may fear getting sidelined in a sport where fleeting success rewards very few.

But whether you’re an Olympic athlete—or not—here are some injury prevention tips (from brainline.org) to make your winter sports experience a little safer:

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The Blitz is On

Earlier this month, the senior vice president of the National Football League’s health and safety policy spoke at a hearing in Washington, D.C., where he was asked if there is a link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. Jeff Miller replied, “The answer to that is certainly, yes,” moving the ball down the field in a longtime debate among independent researchers, former athletes, and the NFL.

McKee_2012

Ann McKee, M.D.

Alongside Miller stood Dana Alliance member Ann McKee, M.D., whose latest study was just referenced in a story on CTE in the New York Times on Sunday, March 27. At the hearing, McKee presented findings from her ongoing research on the relationships between traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disease, and contact sports. As director of the Brain Bank for Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, she has been making headlines over the past several years for revealing that “deceased athletes, including at least 90 former NFL players, were found to have had [CTE].”

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Concussion Movie Reignites Important Issue

football CTEIt is fairly remarkable that Concussion, the movie, exists. Ten years ago, the public did not know much about concussions and other forms of brain trauma. People weren’t watching football games and thinking about the long-term neurological effects of the brutal hits. Around 2009, the National Football League (NFL) started catching heat for its outdated concussion policies. In 2013, a book and corresponding documentary that tackled the issue, League of Denial, were released. And now, at the end of 2015, Hollywood has brought us a major motion picture that stars Will Smith as a neuropathologist fighting to reveal the truth about head trauma in football players.

The film’s mere existence will hopefully mean even more public discussion of an important issue. It is based on a wonderfully researched 2009 GQ feature, which later became a book, by Jeanne Marie Laskas. She profiles Bennet Omalu, who was working as a forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh in 2002, when he performed the autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Mike Webster. Omalu’s initial evaluation of Webster’s brain showed no abnormalities. Continue reading

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