Grantland Article – Jonah Lehrer

10 Jan

I tweeted about it and want to put a link here on the site for those looking for information.  This article by Jonah Lehrer does a wonderful job of not only explaining the concussive injury but also explaining why there may be an issue going forward with the sport of football.  Here is an excerpt;

But we do know what happens once it’s broken. In the milliseconds after a concussion, there is a sudden release of neurotransmitters as billions of brain cells turn themselves on at the exact same time. This frenzy of activity leads to a surge of electricity, an unleashing of the charged ions contained within neurons. It’s as if the brain is pouring out its power.

The worst part of the concussion, however, is what happens next, as all those cells frantically work to regain their equilibrium. This process takes time, although how long is impossible to predict: sometimes hours, sometimes weeks, sometimes never. (The latest guidelines suggest that most concussed subjects require at least 10 days to recover, with adolescents generally needing a few days more.) While the brain is restoring itself, people suffer from a long list of side effects, which are intended to keep them from thinking too hard. Bright lights are painful; memory is fragile and full of holes; focus is impossible.

The healing also has to be uninterrupted. In the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury, the brain remains extremely fragile. Because neurons are still starved for energy, even a minor “secondary impact” can unleash a devastating molecular cascade. All of a sudden, brain cells that seemed to be regaining their balance begin committing suicide. The end result is a massive loss of neurons. Nobody knows why this loss happens. But the loss is permanent.

Teenagers are especially susceptible to these mass cellular suicides. This is largely because their brains are still developing, which means that even a slight loss of cells can alter the trajectory of brain growth. Football concussions are also most likely to affect the parts of the brain, such as the frontal lobes, that are undergoing the most intense development. (The frontal lobes are responsible for many higher cognitive functions, such as self-control and abstract reasoning. The immaturity of these areas helps explain the immaturity of teenagers.)

We have stated over and over here that the injury is not the issue, something this article does not address, what the major flaw is with all the concussions is the proper care.  Although Lehrer does get into the management portion of concussions what needs to be understood, is that the lower levels of football take their cues from above.  If the NFL or other major sanctioning bodies would take the time to listen to the experts and do what is necessary for recovery a lot of issues will resolve themselves.  This can at least be a band-aid until more innovations can come along and help with concussion attenuation.

The population most affected by concussions, is not the professionals, rather the adolescents – as pointed out by Lehrer.

I suggest that you take the time to read the article, it is well worth your time.

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One Response to “Grantland Article – Jonah Lehrer”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Great article about teenage concussion | Broken Brain – Brilliant Mind - January 11, 2012

    [...] The Concussion Blog, a great article about teenage [...]

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