Brain Injuries in Sports

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was found in 110 of 111 (99 percent) brains of deceased former National Football League players that were donated to scientific research, according to a study published in the medical journal JAMA. CTE, a neurodegenerative brain disease, was also neuropathologically diagnosed in 177 of the 202 players studied across all levels of play (87 percent). It was found in three of the 14 high school players and 48 of the 53 college players.

CTE is typically found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma, including veterans and football players. CTE can only be diagnosed with an autopsy. The JAMA study focused on football as the primary exposure to head trauma, whether or not the individual had exhibited symptoms while living. The study acknowledged the lack of a comparison group without which the study cannot offer an estimate on the overall risk of brain injury due to participation in football.

Continue Reading Does Football Increase Risk of Degenerative Brain Disease?

Increasing evidence suggests that professional athletes in contact sports are suffering brain damage as a result of concussions. For many years, doctors believed that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was limited to boxers. In that context, it was referred to as “punch-drunk syndrome.” However, pathologists are reporting similar brain damage among other athletes.

The biological processes leading to CTE may start many years before recognizable symptoms appear; however, there is no reliable test to detect CTE in its earliest stages. Often an athlete’s confusion or memory loss that is related to CTE is only confirmed following an autopsy.

Continue Reading Are Early Signs of Brain Damage Detectable in Athletes’ Speech?

Concussions among children playing sports are not a new phenomenon. In the decade leading up to 2009, an estimated 173,285 children and adolescents 19 and younger were treated during emergency department visits for sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). That represented a 62 percent increase in a decade. It is estimated that sports and recreational activities result in approximately 21 percent of TBIs among children in the U.S.

Continue Reading Kids, Sports, and Concussions

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln released a study involving a new equation used to evaluate post-concussion injuries among high school athletes and its corresponding impact on concussion research.

The Nebraska study outlines a new approach for identifying more athletes who play “impaired” on the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing, or ImPACT. That computerized tool consists of eight subtests that gauge neurocognitive performance. Using the new equation to combine the multiple subtest scores into one evaluative score could make it more difficult for the athlete to “fool” evaluators by providing minimal effort or “sandbagging,” says the recent study.

Continue Reading New Equation for Evaluating Concussion Tests Harder for Athletes to Fool

Have you ever wondered what happens within a person’s skull when he/she suffers a traumatic brain injury?

The New York Times recently published a wonderful interactive article about brain injuries. The article describes and demonstrates what happens within a football player’s skull when he suffers a concussion.

Using a mouth guard developed by bioengineer David Camarillo and his team the KAM lab at Stanford, the information gained from the mouth guard and its sensors enabled the researchers to recreate what happens to a player’s brain in a millisecond from the collision.

Included in the article is an interactive representation of what happens to one’s brain.

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

The theory of neuroplasticity holds that the brain will change and adapt to different conditions including to childhood injuries. This theory is often challenged and sometimes referred to as a “myth.” However, a new study by Seena Fazel and colleagues from the Department of Psychiatry at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom delivered data that supports the claims of neuroplasticity theorists. Fazel’s conclusions reveal that the later a mild TBI is sustained, the worse the health and social outcome is for the patient. The study also found a causal effect between childhood Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and the risk of brain impairment and social dysfunction at later stages in life.

Continue Reading New Study Debunks Claim that Neuroplasticity is a Myth—the Later the Onset of Mild TBI, the Worse the Outcome

A new study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation calls into question whether acute cognitive and physical rest improves concussion recovery times. Thomas A. Buckley, EdD, ATC of the Department Kinesiology and Applied Physiology at the University of Delaware conducted a study to determine if rest after concussion would result in a shorter recovery time in a population of college-aged student-athletes.

This hypothesis was based on the 4th International Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport which recommends rest after injury as “a corner stone for acute concussion treatment” and outcomes. The authors noted that “rest” was achieved by discontinuing “school attendance, academic work, electronics usage and [any] exercise.” Prescribing rest was also believed to reduce the risk of repeated concussion and the “rare, but potentially fatal, second-impact syndrome.”

Continue Reading New Study Questions Whether Cognitive and Physical Rest Improves Concussion Recovery Time

Symptoms of concussions often disappear within 7-10 days of an injury–prompting medical release back to sports play. However, preliminary results of a new imaging study presented at a recent American Academy of Neurology conference showed that brain changes caused by “temporary” concussions may last six months or more after the injury. The study, which is ongoing, used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to exam connective brain tissue or “white matter” in eighteen students with concussions. White matter brain changes are also associated with stroke and Alzheimer’s.

Continue Reading Athlete Concussions: Are Players Returning to the Field Prematurely?

A study by doctors at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine provides additional support that use of Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) may be clinically helpful to patients with mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) because it shows possible evidence of brain repair in post-injury patients. Scans conducted one year post-injury show that patients who exhibited abnormally high fractional anisotropy shortly after injury were “significantly associated” with better overall health outcomes.

The DTI scans were performed on a control group and on 39 injured subjects within 16 days of injury and one year later on 26 returning patients. According to the study, the patients were also tested for changes in cognition and symptomology. The results showed that DTI may be a “marker of compensatory neural mechanisms and an indicator of favorable outcome.” This is supportive data to an earlier study showing positive results from DTI use in pediatric patients, and an important study that used DTI to check the movement of water molecules in the brain of NFL players. In the NFL study the scans showed that those with marked deviations in fluid movement also demonstrated “abnormalities in attention and concentration, executive function, learning/memory and spatial/perceptual function.”

The ability to identify areas of damage and potential for repair are expected to inspire development of new effective treatments for patients with TBIs. Cognitive and physical effects of even mild TBIs may require extensive and long-term treatment from various healthcare providers including doctors, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists. If you or someone you know has suffered a TBI you should consult an experienced attorney to find out if you can seek reparation to get assistance with medical bills—consultations are usually free and services are often offered on a contingency basis.

Francis X. Conidi, M.D. from the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology has issued a new study which examined retired NFL players for signs of traumatic brain injuries using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), and the results were fairly damning. The study found that over 40% of the retired NFL players had sustained a traumatic brain injury. Approximately 40 retired NFL players underwent the exam, which included a Compressive Neurological/Headache history, neurological examination, neurophysiological evaluation, Clinical Dementia Rating Scale, physiological evaluation and DTI MRI were performed. According to Dr. Conidi, this represents “one of the largest studies to date in living retired NFL players.”

Continue Reading Diffusion Tensor Imaging Flags Traumatic Brain Injury in NFL Players