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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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 Around 2009, the National Football League (NFL) started catching heat for its outdated concussion policies.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

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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Neuroscience and Society: Traumatic Brain Injury

Whether in the context of sports or the military, stories about traumatic brain injuries have become more frequent over the past several years as attention given to these injuries has grown. In October 2012 the AAAS and the Dana Foundation held a joint event on current TBI research and potential treatments, as part of the public series Neuroscience and Society.

Speakers at the event included Capt. James L. Hancock, M.D., Deputy Commander of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, who suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving in Afghanistan, and researchers Col. Jeffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., and Dana Alliance member Ann McKee, M.D.

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