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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

A hug is duct tape for the soul.

From The News Star:

Far too many veterans are homeless in America — between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night. The represent one-fourth to one-fifth of all homeless people.

Three times that many veterans are struggling with excessive rent burdens and thus at increased risk of homelessness.

Further, there is concern about the future. Female veterans and those with disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.

Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country. Still, I cannot put my finger on a person or department who can answer — why?

Approximately 40 percent of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population.

The VA says the nation's homeless veterans are mostly males (4 percent are females). The vast majority is single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45 percent suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems. America's homeless veterans have served every war since World War II plus anti-drug operations in South America. Forty-seven percent of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era.

After their contract was completed with the military, why were they released from the military in such a sad state of health? With all of the programs provided by the VA, thousands of homeless veterans are falling through the cracks.

We can only assume that when the job is completed and the military cannot retain those soldiers, they are released with minimum assistance with the attitude of "out of sight, out of mind."

Continue reading.

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From Top News:

A recently conducted research by experts at the National Institutes of Health has reported that talking on a cell phone for 50 minutes can change cell activity in your brain. Though, it is not yet clear whether the increased activity ends up causing damage.

Talking about the study, one of the authors Dr. Nora Volkow, NIH, informed that the study basically used glucose metabolism to show the increased cell activity in brains during the prolonged usage of cell phones. She further expressed surprise about the fact that electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones can affect activity of cells in the brain.

The report has already appeared in the publication known as the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Volkow and her colleagues assessed brain scans of people who had undergone the diagnosis after talking on the phone for 50 minutes. Researchers did not find any specific changes in brain activity. However, they did find that there was a 7% increase in brain metabolism of people in the region that was closest to the cell phone.

Talking about the research, Professor Patrick Haggard, of the University College London, felt that the conclusion of the study was quite intriguing especially as it suggested that cell phone signals did have an impact on brain activity of people. Though, he did opine that such fluctuations in the brain can even happen when people are thinking.

See original article here.

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In our state, from Capitol News Service:
Every year, 100-thousand Floridians suffer a traumatic brain Injury. Many of them are high school athletes that feel pressured to get back in the game while still feeling the effects of their injury. As Whitney Ray tells us, state lawmakers want a health official to intervene in cases where high school athletes suffer a blow to the head.

Sixteen year old soccer player David Goldstein is taking his story to the state capitol.

“In January 2010, I had a head to head collision with another soccer player, during the district finals for my school’s soccer team,” said David.

Even though David felt dizzy that day he choose to keep playing; the game was too big, the pressure too great.

“This opportunity comes up and I didn’t want to let it go and I got hurt,” said David.

After collapsing at practice a day later, and passing out at school, David decided to get help. He found out he suffered a brain injury from his injury and his choice to keep playing.

Unfortunately David’s story is all too common. Every year thousands of high school athletes suffer concussions. Many of them never get treated.

The Brain Injury Association of Florida is launching an informational campaign to help parents and athletes better understand the issue. State lawmakers are also pushing guidelines that would leave the decision to get back in the game up to health officials.

“We want to have doctors to be the ones who give the final ok. Not just kind of the coach on the sideline saying go ahead get back in the game. It could be doctors, it could be nurses that are trained in these issues,” said Bill Sponsor Anitere Flores.

The NFL is backing the legislation. The league suffered a loss last week when a former Chicago Bears safety committed suicide. Before he shot himself in the chest he texted loved ones telling them to have his brain examined. He believed his life struggles were brought on by concussions he suffered playing football.

Part of the legislation would require schools to give parents information about traumatic brain injury and have parents give their consent before their children could play high school sports.

Original story is here.

And in our own back yard via the Tallahassee Democrat:
Leon County Schools ahead of proposed concussion legislation
Two lawmakers hope to make Florida the 10th state to create mandatory programs that educate high-school student-athletes, coaches and parents about concussions and also provide parameters for how athletes with head injuries can be cleared to return to competition.

But any laws passed at the state level would already be playing catch-up to what's happening in Leon County, where five public high schools as well as FAMU High, Florida High and Maclay have already implemented a far more comprehensive concussion program.

The local program, created through a partnership with Leon County Schools and Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic, includes baseline testing of brain activity on athletes that can be used as a comparison when a head injury occurs. (The same program Jack started and funded at Episcopal High School in Virginia years ago.) An athlete cannot return to competition until a second "post test" matches the results from the original test.

"(Leon County is) definitely several steps ahead in this," State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said. "Those baseline tests are cost-effective and they are easy to administer. They are easy to administer on the sideline as well.

"That's where we eventually want to get to," Flores added. "This bill is just the first step in that process."
Continue reading
(available only if you have a subscription to the paper).

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From Red Orbit:

"Feed Your Head" -- Who knew these Sixties’ song lyrics would still resonate today, albeit with a decidedly different message: brain healthy nutrition.

Not only among those who came of age in the Sixties – now in or approaching their own 60s today -- there is widespread keen interest in how to protect and enhance neurologic function, particularly as we age.

The one million people living with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S., their carepartners and families, and the sixty thousand new diagnoses each year, are no different. There is evidence based support that not only re-focused nutrition, but exercise, and healthy emotional coping strategies may play roles in maintaining optimal health while living with PD.

An unusual new how-to book, "Take Charge of Parkinson’s Disease: Dynamic Lifestyle Changes to Put You in the Driver’s Seat," presents practical ways to boost physical and emotional resilience through brain healthy nutrition, exercise, and enlightened caregiving. For starters, more than 80 original recipes and menus are presented by author Anne Cutter Mikkelsen that combine the widest variety of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich ingredients, and culinary herbs and spices known to favorably impact the brain. Classically trained in French cooking, Anne is a chef, a Master Gardener, a writer -- and a Parkinson’s carepartner.

Powerfully, Anne tells the personal story of how she and her husband Mike – an award-winning potter and sculptor – learned to live vibrantly since his 1993 PD diagnosis . Passionate advocates, the couple wishes to foreshorten the learning curve for others facing down a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. According to Anne, food has been her most effective tool in her quest to create an atmosphere of optimism and anticipation for “whatever is coming next” through the stages of Mike’s PD.

Loss of control underscores Parkinson’s disease and other movement and neurodegenerative disorders like multiple sclerosis. "Take Charge" espouses making the most of what we can control: what we eat, how we choose to think about our circumstances, and what we bring to our relationships.

In her "Take Charge" recipes, Anne uses familiar ingredients and introduces new key ingredients – among them, “curcumin,” a component in the spice “turmeric,” heavily researched for potential neuroprotective properties, and the piney-scented herb, rosemary, shown to improve circulation and stimulate the brain.

Continue reading.

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Boxing Training Gym Aids Parkinson's Patients
A boxing gym with a unique purpose opened a first-of-its-kind facility [in Indianapolis] over the weekend after five years as a growing underground movement in the fight against Parkinson's disease.

Rock Steady, a nonprofit foundation, was created by Scott Newman, a former Marion County prosecutor and public safety director, providing nontraditional therapy in the battle against the debilitating disease, 6News' Rick Hightower reported.

The program utilizes no-contact, therapeutic boxing training and techniques to improve brain activity. The gym is inside Peak Performance, a gym at East 62nd Street and Binford Boulevard.

The gym, which offers 10 sessions per week, is already working with dozens of Parkinson's patients who are seeking something more than medication and traditional therapy.
Continue reading.

And in Bellingham, Washington:

Dance class helps people with Parkinson's, MS try to move more freely

In the ballroom of the YWCA, 10 people sat in a circle and waited for choreographer Pam Kuntz to direct them in their next dance moves.

"Big expansive ... and small in," Kuntz said while sitting in a chair. She demonstrated by reaching up with her arms and stretching out with her legs, before curling into herself.

Sitting in their chairs, the students followed her movements in the dance class created for people with Parkinson's disease, multiple scleroris and other movement and neurological disorders.

It's the second time Kuntz has offered the nine-week course, which she started with Bellingham resident Rick Hermann, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1998.

Kuntz, 40, teaches modern-dance techniques and creative dance skills from sitting and standing positions. The classes last an hour.

In one exercise on a recent Thursday, Kuntz instructed students to move parts of their bodies in circles.

"Try tougher spots, ribs," she said while demonstrating. "Your ear, that's hilarious, try your ear, jaw."

Live guitar music accompanied her and the students, who included Hermann.

"They help me because they're fun, and they're challenging. Pam does a great job. I appreciate that she doesn't dumb it down, she's teaching a dance class," said Hermann, 59.

Doing the movements helps relieve his symptoms, he said, although he still has problems with balance.

"It does help," he said. "I tend to forget about my Parkinson's symptoms."

Continue reading.

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From Science Daily:
New research shows men and women who regularly eat berries may have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease, while men may also further lower their risk by regularly eating apples, oranges and other sources rich in dietary components called flavonoids.

(According to WebMD, "men who ate the most foods rich in a group of antioxidants known as flavonoids were 35% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those who ate the least. Major dietary sources of flavonoids include berries, apples, tea, red wine, chocolate, and citrus fruits.")

The study was released February 13 and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu April 9 to April 16, 2011.

Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits and are also known collectively as vitamin P and citrin. They can also be found in berry fruits, chocolate, and citrus fruits such as grapefruit.

Continue reading.

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Sometimes it's hard to believe the change in society's awareness of brain injuries. Actually, it's more than a change; it's a seismic shift.

It wasn't too many years ago that our blog posts despaired of ever seeing a meaningful increase in TBI research, improved safety features in football helmets, baseline brain scans for athletes, TBI news in major media on a regular basis. We wondered where the funding would come from that's so necessary to medical advancements. Little did we know at the time that it would take a war and the NFL to change things.

How ironic that the war in Iraq, where so many lives have been altered or lost, would emerge as the greatest gift to advancements in brain injury research, treatment and knowlege ever seen. And who would have believed that the NFL, that bastion of the suck-it-up mentality, would help lead the way in research and major safety improvements to football at all levels? Now, calls for change are everywhere. It's rare to read a major news site and not learn that someone somewhere is trying to make [choose activity] safer for our brains. We do indeed live in strange times.

From The Vancouver Sun:
So, another rousing night of hockey; another brain-injured young man left quivering on the ice like a poleaxed seal.

Yes, yes, I know, why choose a term like brain-injured when a less gruesome word such as "dazed" is available?

Canucks' defenceman Dan Hamhuis now joins the growing gallery of "concussed" hockey players. We use genteel words such as "concussed" so we don't need to say brain-injured.

At my last count, 16 National Hockey League players were sidelined with brain trauma. They range from superstars to salary men.

Yet despite its rule change to reduce head injuries, the NHL's own data show such injuries are following a trend up, not down.

Meanwhile, the hockey brotherhood retreats into its comfort zone of platitudes and excuses.

"Unfortunate accident; part of the game; it's physical, these things happen; bad luck; it was a clean hit; I didn't see it; he should have protected himself; he had his head down: " The exculpatory list drones on.

Continue reading.

And from Discount Vouchers News of all places:
Researchers in the British Medical Journal say helmets should be included in equipment rental packages at ski resorts. The group says research has shown them to significantly reduce head injuries. They said that among adults injuries were reduced by 35 per cent and 59 per cent in children.

The researchers also argued that awareness of brain injuries from accidents would also increase helmet use. However, some instructors claim helmets are unnecessary. The Austrian team examined a number of previous studies for their research.

One group found that between 9 and 19 per cent of all skiing injuries reported were head injuries. They also found that traumatic brain injuries from accidents were a leading cause of death in winter sports. Another group found that those wearing helmets were significantly less likely to report an injury.

Continue reading.

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As love-struck couples shower their special someones with cards, gifts and flowers for Valentine's Day, a trio of researchers at Rutgers University have taken up the task of unlocking the mysteries of love and human sexuality that have perplexed men and women since the beginning of time.

Helen Fisher of New York City, a research professor and member of Human Evolutionary Studies in the anthropology department in New Brunswick, has done extensive research on romantic love and brain chemistry. She also has written five books on the subjects.

Among her findings: People can remain in love long term, and sometimes opposites do attract.

Fisher and her colleagues scanned the brains of about 60 people to study the brain circuitry of romantic love. They examined 17 people who had just fallen madly in love, 15 who had just been rejected in love and 17 people in their 50s who were married an average of 21 years and said they are still in love with their partner.

"We found out that dopamine is central to the feeling of romantic love," she said. "It gives you a feeling of elation, the focused attention and the craving for the person."

While she found activity in the brain's dopamine system, Fisher said there were significant differences.

Those rejected in love had activity in the part of the dopamine system, but the part associated with addiction.

Continue reading.

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From The New York Times:
When a parent or youth-sports official decides which helmet will protect the head of a young football player, hard information ducks for cover.

All results from manufacturers’ laboratory testing are kept tightly confidential by industry agreement. The graphs and percentages that make it into marketing materials — and are often embellished by sales representatives — have become questionable enough that the Federal Trade Commission has been asked to investigate helmet companies for misleading safety claims.

An engineer at Virginia Tech, Stefan Duma, is working to pull back the curtain on the true performance properties of helmets. He is conducting tests and compiling an online database of results, through which one will be able to look up the protective qualities and star rating of every helmet model, much as one can for cars and child booster seats. But even people who applaud Duma’s intent fear that such information could still impede the confounding process of concussion protection.

Currently, new and refurbished football helmets for players of all ages and positions take the field with only one objective safety statement — they have passed the test required by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (Nocsae), which since 1973 has ensured only that helmets protect against the high-level forces that had fractured young skulls. Regarding concussions, Nocsae officials and many independent experts insist that the forces that cause that injury are not yet understood enough to develop a trustworthy safety standard.

Nocsae, a trade group staffed partly and financed largely by the helmet industry, forbids the dissemination of test data, contending that the numbers can imply safety properties that may not exist. Duma said that his approach, which will use no industry data but incorporate ideas from helmet manufacturers and other experts, would generate the most meaningful information to date.

Read the entire article.

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This is an interesting and encouraging article that was first posted in November. The author, David Perlmutter, M.D., a Board-Certified Neurologist and author of the upcoming book, "Power Up Your Brain," gives us four simple and potentially life-changing tools we can use to recharge our brains.

From The Huffington Post:
"In adult centers the nerve paths are something fixed, ended, immutable.
Everything may die, nothing may be regenerated."
-- Santiago Ramon Y Cajal,"Degeneration and Regeneration
in the Nervous System," 1928

This long-held tenet, first proposed by Professor Cajal, held that brain neurons were unique because they lacked the ability to regenerate.In 1998, the journal Nature Medicine published a report indicating that neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells, does indeed occur in humans. As Sharon Begley remarked in her book, "Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain," "The discovery overturned generations of conventional wisdom in neuroscience. The human brain is not limited to the neurons it is born with, or even the neurons that fill in after the explosion of brain development in early childhood."

What the researchers discovered was that within each of our brains there exists a population of neural stem cells which are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. Simply stated, we are all experiencing brain stem cell therapy every moment of our lives.

Keep reading to find out how to use physical exercise, caloric restriction, curcumin and DHA to regenerate your brain cells.

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Jack is a big proponent of touch therapy and hugging. He believes that touch is beneficial for many conditions and in ways we don't fully understand yet. It is not our practice to endorse products unless it's something from which Jack himself has obtained benefit, and we are not endorsing this one. We simply found the concept intriguing, and decided to showcase it as an example of one of many therapeutic devices available outside the mainstream medical establishment. As always, exercise due diligence and perform your own research before purchasing anything you find on the Internet.

From a brochure for a device called The Squeeze Machine:

This ingenious system is used for deep touch stimulation and produces a calming effect on hyperactive and autistic individuals.
The Squeeze Machine consists of two padded side boards which are hinged at the bottom to form a Vshape. The user steps into the machine and lies down on the inside of the V-shaped crevice-like space. The inside surfaces of the device are completely lined with thick foam rubber. Deep touch pressure stimulation is applied along both sides of the person’s body, with lateral pressure pushing inward onto the body. The V-shaped space supports the body fully from head to toe, so that the users can completely relax. The contoured padding provides an even pressure across the entire lateral aspect of the body without generating specific pressure points. The foam-padded headrest and padded neck opening are covered with soft fake fur.

The user has complete control over the amount of pressure applied. A lever-operated pneumatic valve, which is connected to an air cylinder that pulls the side boards together, allows the user to self-regulate the amount of pressure applied.

The advantage of the Squeeze Machine over other forms of deep pressure stimulation, such as rolling in blankets or mats, is that the machine can apply greater amounts of pressure over larger areas of the body, much greater pressure than a blanket, yet still be comforting and soothing to an individual.

Another advantage is that the amount and duration of the pressure can be precisely controlled by the user. The user can apply the pressure to his or her self, yet the maximum pressure that can be applied can be easily controlled by the therapist adjusting the pressure regulator on the Squeeze Machine. The user’s active
control of the amount of touchpressure he or she receives is of the foremost importance. Since the Squeeze Machine is designed to feel very much like being held by another person, the device might help the user to accept, and perhaps enjoy, being held or touched by another person.
Learn more about The Squeeze Machine here.


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From Smart Planet:
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has about a 50 percent chance of developing Parkinson’s disease, the degenerative central nervous system disorder that impairs motor skills and speech.

The revelation comes through a touching profile by Thomas Goetz in Wired magazine, which shows how Brin has tried to “move the needle” of research for the disorder by contributing $50 million and talking to, well, everyone.

According to the article, Brin discovered that he carried a mutation of a gene called LRRK2, which sits on the 12th chromosome. The mutation increases the chance that the disease will emerge sometime in the 36-year-old’s life, “between 30 and 75 percent.”

The risk for the average American is one percent.

But Brin is not the average American, and he’s used his clout as co-founder of one of the biggest tech companies in the world to, well, do good. (Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil.”)

Helped by his own stature, as well as that of his wife, Anne Wojcicki, who founded genetics company 23andMe, he was able to nail down a definitive connection between his mother’s experience with the disease and his predisposition toward it.

With a $4 million donation, Brin has funded 23andMe’s online Parkinson’s Disease Genetics Initiative, which involves 10,000 people already diagnosed with the disease who are willing to offer personal information in the collective hope for progress toward a cure. The Initiative was established in conjunction with The Parkinson's Institute and Clinical Center and The Michael J. Fox Foundation.

In so many words, the aim is to create a massive database for the greater good. Currently, 23andMe’s database has genetic information from 50,000 individuals. Increasing that can only help the results become more reliable.
Read more.

Jack became interested in having his remaining family's DNA tested, as well as his own, when he discovered (almost simultaneously) that he himself has Parkinson's and that 23 and Me offers DNA testing (currently $199 plus $5/month) as well as a searchable genetic database. According to 23 and Me:
With a simple saliva sample we'll help you gain insight into your traits, from baldness to muscle performance. Discover risk factors for 95 diseases. Know your predicted response to drugs, from blood thinners to coffee. And uncover your ancestral origins.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has taken a cautious approach to the recent increase in public access to genetic testing:

Despite the many scientific advances in genetics, researchers have only identified a small fraction of the genetic component of most diseases. Therefore, genetic tests for many diseases are developed on the basis of limited scientific information and may not yet provide valid or useful results to individuals who are tested. However, many genetic tests are being marketed prematurely to the public through the Internet, TV, and other media. This may lead to the misuse of these tests and the potential for physical or psychological harms to the public. At the same time, valid and useful tests, such as those for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer or for Lynch syndrome, a form of hereditary colorectal cancer, are not widely used, in part because of limited research on how to get useful tests implemented into practice across U.S. communities. Individuals can learn more about specific genetic tests by visiting the Web sites listed below or by talking with their doctor.

Find out more at CDC's site.

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From The Telegraph:
Until the mid 1990s the neurological disorder {Parkinson's Disease} was believed to be caused almost exclusively by environmental factors, lifestyle and a person's age.

However, now scientists have discovered five more genes that influence its development.

The research, published today (WED) in The Lancet, has been hailed as "an exciting step forward" towards understanding the disease.

It is a progressive disease - meaning it gets worse over time - characterised by uncontrollable shaking and loss of co-ordination of muscles. It affects about 120,000 people in Britain, or one in 500.

The study brings to 11 the total number of genetic regions of the human genome now associated with Parkinson's.

The study - the largest of its kind in the world - mapped and compared the DNA of 12,000 people with Parkinson's and more than 21,000 without it.

The researchers found that the fifth of people with the highest number of genetic "risk variants" were 2.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson's than those with the lowest number.

They concluded: "This study provides evidence that common genetic variation plays an important part in the cause of Parkinson’s disease.

"We have confirmed a strong genetic component to Parkinson’s disease, which, until recently, was thought to be completely caused by environmental factors."

Keep reading.

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Continuing the New Yorker story on the NFL: What we now know, from reading Schwarz, is that retired N.F.L. players are five to nineteen times as likely as the general population to have received a dementia-related diagnosis; that the helmet-manufacturing industry is overseen by a volunteer consortium funded largely by helmet manufacturers; and that Lou Gehrig may not actually have had the disease that bears his name but suffered from concussion-related trauma instead. (Since 1960, fourteen N.F.L. players have had a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is about twelve more than you would expect from a random population sample.) In the manner of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Dr. Maroon has delineated four stages in the N.F.L.’s reaction to the reality of brain damage: active resistance and passive resistance, shifting to passive acceptance and, finally, in the past few months, active acceptance. “What we’re seeing now is that major cultural shift, and I think Alan took a lot of barbs, and a lot of hits, initially, for his observations,” Maroon said.


Two weeks after Black and Blue Sunday, on October 28th, an honor student in Spring Hill, Kansas, returned to the sidelines after making an interception at his high school’s homecoming game and told his coach that his head was hurting. Soon afterward, he fell to the ground, suffered a subdural hematoma, and died. The next week, Jim McMahon, the ex-quarterback, confessed at a twenty-fifth reunion of the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears that his memory is “pretty much gone,” and that he often walks into a room without knowing why. “It’s unfortunate what the game does to you,” he said. I was reading about McMahon during a commercial break in the “Monday Night Football” game between the Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals—a commercial break that included a surprising Toyota promotion involving football. It began with a woman discussing her worries, as a mother, about her son playing the sport: “Which is why I’m really excited, because Toyota developed this software that can simulate head injuries in an accident. . . . So, you know, I can feel a bit better about my son playing football.”

A few days later, a Cleveland Browns linebacker collapsed at his locker-room stall, after practice, in the presence of reporters, and was taken to the hospital. Shortly after that, two high-school players died on the same day—one on the field, in Massachusetts, of a heart stoppage, and the other, in North Carolina, by suicide, five weeks after suffering a season-ending concussion. The same week, two Division I college players announced their retirement, out of concerns relating to concussions, and team doctors at the University of Utah “medically disqualified” a sophomore from continuing his career.


Between 1982 and 2009, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Injury Research, two hundred and ninety-five fatalities directly or indirectly resulted from high-school football. From 1977 to 2009, at all levels, three hundred and seven cervical-cord injuries were recorded. And between 1984 and 2009 there were a hundred and thirty-three instances of brain damage—not slowly accruing damage, as in the case of C.T.E., but damage upon impact. The injury incidence is far lower in most sports. And in the case of similarly treacherous activities, like gymnastics and boxing, far fewer people participate.

I highly recommend reading the entire, in-depth article. It's fascinating and well worth the time.

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I cannot recommend highly enough this story from The New Yorker's January 31st issue. It's one of the most indepth looks at the evolving awareness of the pervasiveness of brain injury in NFL players that I've seen. I'll publish a couple of excerpts here in the next few days, but I urge you to read the entire piece.

From The New Yorker:
Throughout most of the Super Bowl era, football was understood to be an orthopedic, an arthroscopic, and, eventually, an arthritic risk. This was especially obvious as the first generation of Super Bowl heroes retired and began showing up at reunions and Hall of Fame induction ceremonies walking like “Maryland crabs,” as a players’-union representative once put it. But a couple of incidents early in Tagliabue’s tenure left him with a sense of foreboding. “In 1991, my second season, Mike Utley went down,” he said, alluding to the paralysis of a Detroit Lions offensive lineman. “A year later, Dennis Byrd went down. Once you see two injuries like Mike Utley’s and Dennis Byrd’s, you begin to see that there are long-term consequences to injuries on the football field.” He meant long-term consequences of a sort that you can’t joke about, while patting your fake knee or hip and complaining that you can no longer navigate stairs or play with your grandkids. Byrd, who was a defensive lineman for the Jets, gradually taught himself to walk again, after being given a prognosis of partial paralysis, and delivered a rousing pep talk to the Jets before their upset victory over the Patriots in the conference semifinals, earlier this month. Utley’s moral is a grimmer one. As he was being carried off the field on a stretcher, he didn’t yet know that he was paralyzed from the chest down. He stuck his thumb up, and the fans applauded.

What was missing from this picture was the effect of all that impact on the brain. You got your “bell rung,” they used to say. You’re “just a little dinged up.” This was not merely macho sideline-speak; it was, as recently as a decade and a half ago, the language of the N.F.L.’s leading doctors. Elliot Pellman, who served until 2007 as the Jets team physician, once told a reporter that veteran players are able to “unscramble their brains a little faster” than rookies are, “maybe because they’re not afraid after being dinged.”

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., is the name for a condition that is believed to result from major collisions—or from the accumulation of subconcussions that are nowhere near as noticeable, including those incurred in practice. It was first diagnosed, in 2002, in the brain of the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster, who died of a heart attack after living out of his truck for a time. It was next diagnosed in one of Webster’s old teammates on the Steelers’ offensive line, Terry Long, who killed himself by drinking antifreeze. Long overlapped, at the end of his career, with Justin Strzelczyk, who was also found to have C.T.E. after he crashed, fatally, into a tanker truck, while driving the wrong way down the New York Thruway.

Credit for the public’s increased awareness of these issues must go to the Times, and to its reporter Alan Schwarz, whom Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Steelers’ neurosurgeon and a longtime medical adviser to the league, calls “the Socratic gadfly in this whole mix.” Schwarz was a career baseball writer, with a heavy interest in statistics, when, in December of 2006, he got a call from a friend of a friend named Chris Nowinski, a Harvard football player turned pro wrestler turned concussion activist. Andre Waters, the former Philadelphia Eagles safety, had just committed suicide, and Nowinski was in possession of his mottled brain. The earliest cases of C.T.E. had been medical news, not national news. Nowinski’s journalist contacts, as he recalls, were in “pro-wrestling media, not legitimate media.” He needed help.

Schwarz, acting more as a middleman than as a journalist pitching a hot story, set up a meeting between Nowinski and the Times’ sports editor, Tom Jolly, for whom Schwarz had been writing Sunday columns about statistical analysis on a freelance basis. Rather than assign the story to one of his staffers, Jolly suggested that Schwarz write it. The result, “Expert Ties Ex-Player’s Suicide to Brain Damage from Football,” wound up on the front page, on January 18, 2007. It described Waters’s forty-four-year-old brain tissue as resembling that of an eighty-five-year-old man with Alzheimer’s, and cited the work and opinions of several doctors whose research into the cumulative effect of head trauma was distinctly at odds with that of the N.F.L.’s own Mild and Traumatic Brain Injury committee (M.T.B.I.), which had been created by Tagliabue. “Don’t send them back out on these fields,” Waters’s niece told Schwarz, referring to young would-be football players.

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From DoctorsLounge:
In patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) who are effectively treated with deep brain stimulation (DBS), the natural progression of the disease's motor symptoms appears to stabilize over time, according to a study published in the November issue of the International Journal of Neuroscience. Michele Tagliati, M.D., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues investigated the long-term progression of PD motor symptoms in 50 patients treated with subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS).

The researchers found that motor scores measured without medication and with DBS off were virtually unchanged compared to the preoperative scores of patients up to five years after surgery. This result was seen in patients with both shorter (less than 11 years) and longer duration of PD prior to surgery. There was also no consistent deterioration from untreated baseline in any of the motor subscores, which included tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia, and axial symptoms.
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