Tag Archives: Dr. Bennet Omalu

“League of Denial” (Part 2)

8 Oct

Coming to a bookstore and TV near you today is “League of Denial” a book and documentary about one of the dirty little secrets the NFL has been avoiding for some time.  Fortunately, I have been provided with advance copies of both; the Frontline film was easy to digest, as for reading a book, well we can just say I am trying to read as fast as possible.

I was reminded quickly, yesterday via Twitter, that I may lack valuable perspective when it comes to concussion information (and that I am not normal – this is not breaking news).  Will Carroll of Bleacher Report let me know that this information will be new to a lot of people out there.  He is exactly right, not only that, this documentary will be easily digestible for the fan of football.  For any person just wading into this, when you tune into PBS tonight to view “League of Denial” you will be absolutely hooked from the start.

The sounds of the crowd, visuals of big hits grab your football part of the brain IMMEDIATELY, over those sounds you will quickly discover the problem NFL players have faced with brain injuries playing their sport.  Harry Carson saying “and then they are gone” when talking about former players.  A bold statement that the level of denial was “just profound.”  An NFL lawyer saying “we strongly deny those allegations that we withheld information or misled the players.”  And more video and sound of punishing hits that used to fill the highlight reel bring the opening curtain of this very important documentary.

This problem is real – it’s not just real for the professionals – and from the get go Frontline makes you understand, vividly and personally, why this is.  After listening to old radio calls of the Steel Curtain it all begins with the story of Mike Webster and the forensic pathologist who studied his brain, Bennet Omalu.

The discovery of a possible reason one of the most respected and lauded players in Pittsburgh sports pantheon fell from grace and eventually found and early demise.  If the football portion of your brain does not connect to what is being presented then I would haphazardly guess that you are not ingrained within the fabric of football.

As Harry Carson explains how the game was played and to some extent how it’s still played you can begin to understand the issue at hand.  This is hammered home when Robert Stern, PhD tells the audience blows to the brain are at forces 20 times greater than the force of gravity (20 G’s); or as he so eloquently put it “driving into a brick wall at 35mph”, 1,000 times or more in a season.

In the first 11 minutes of this 2 hour presentation you are at full attention and want to understand the “whats”, “whys” and “whos”.  If you are not engaged and ready for further explanation I can only say that you don’t care or want to bury your head in the sand.

Contributions in the film include Continue reading

UPMC Blazes Trail… Comes up with curious results

7 Jun

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh did something that has not been done up to this point; an intensive study on youth football.  Using geography as its selector the prestigious group looked into Pop Warner football and concussion rates.  The sample size is impressive, over 11,000 athletic exposures over an entire season of play (2011).

However, instead of heralding the work more questions have been raised about the conclusions drawn by lead researcher Micky Collins, PhD.  I don’t want to “lead the witness” before you had the chance to hear yourself, watch Dr. Collins below;

Interestingly enough Dr. Collins’ points regarding the depth and breadth of this investigation are spot on, it was both needed and welcome.  It is good to have a starting point and something to say “this is where we came from” at all levels of sport – with regards to concussions.  After that, I personally Continue reading

Bennet Omalu Recent Talk

8 May

For a long time the “father” of CTE, the first pathologist to find/identify the disease in an American football player, Bennet Omalu has been relatively quiet; going about his normal business and continuing his work with CTE.  Last week he was highlighted on the ESPN Outside the Lines/PBS Frontline story about the Junior Seau death aftermath.

Even more recently Dr. Omalu was invited to speak at the 2013 Football Veterans Conference – a sport specific event put on by Dave Pear and his blog;

Well, we just wrapped up our 2013 Football Vets’ Conference in Las Vegas at the South Point Resort and it was our best yet! In two packed days, we covered everything retired football players need and want to know, from concussion lawsuits to CTE to visual rights and everything in between. Our sessions were packed and no one wanted to miss a single discussion. And thanks to the amazing Jennifer Thibeaux, all of our discussions from Friday are already processed and uploaded so you won’t have to miss a minute of it either!

Thanks to Dave we can bring you the entire talk by Omalu – although over an hour its worth your time.

……….

UCLA Tau PET Study

23 Jan

If you paid attention yesterday you saw that a very preliminary study was unveiled about identification of tau proteins in the brain.  This is significant on two fronts

  1. up until now this has been non-existent with current imaging technology
  2. tau is the #1 culprit in chronic traumatic encephalopathy

If, in fact, this PET scan can find and map out the tau in living brains this would be a “watershed” moment in the treatment of CTE.  This would be because we have not been able to treat CTE, the only way to find CTE is via a posthumous examination.

I believe this is very exciting, but remember like all things in life, caution is needed – the study was only five former NFL’ers and to fully confirm the information gathered the researchers could be waiting a long time, hopefully.

A quick side note here, Dr. Bennett Omalu is a co-author on this study, which isn’t ironic as some have suggested, rather a product of his good work in this area.  For those in the “know” surrounding research in concussions and CTE finds this part of the story – Omalu – “interesting”.

What a great start, and I am willing to be scanned if anyone wants to pass that along!  I would even write a blog about my experiences with it.

Another Upcoming Concussion Symposium – January 25th

16 Jan

Time is short on this, I understand, but I just was dropped a note about this symposium being held in Chicago.  Once again yours truly has “commitments”, this time it is a wrestling dual tournament – where my services are needed more.  Regardless, when I looked at the faculty list and the speaking topics my interest was piqued.  BIG NOTE here it is only $25 for athletic trainers to attend ($60 for physicians).

The lecture is going to be directed by Julian Bailes, MD and David Firm, MD, PhD, both unheralded leaders in the field of brain injury.  What is more interesting than that is the fact that two relative “quiet” doctors will be presenting their information.  Both of these men are “controversial”; one is seen as an extreme outsider by the NFL and the powers that be in their corner – Dr. Bennett Omalu the other has had his share of issues, mainly in the press (see Irv Muchnick), for previous perceived mishandling of concussions in the NFL and WWE – Dr. Joseph Maroon.

Unlike the symposium I posted about yesterday, there are no athletic trainers on the speaking panel, to me that is a shame as the athletic trainer is the front lines on concussions in sports (mainly HS up).  Here are the topics, Continue reading

Greatest Football Team Ever in Canada – Head Games

14 May

The Fifth Estate of CBC aired a documentary on the “Greatest Football Team Ever” in Canada, not as a retrospective homage to the good times, rather as an unfolding mystery.  The most peculiar thing about this very good documentary is that it was originally aired, not a year ago, not even two but in 2008.  Much has been discovered about repetitive brain trauma since 2008 the video is haunting just to view it with “today’s” eyes.

They have been called the greatest football team in the history of the CFL — the Edmonton Eskimos of the 1970s and ’80s that won five consecutive Grey Cups. But, for some of the star players on that team, the years of triumph ended ingloriously in early deaths, from heart attack, suicide and misadventure. The tragedy of those early deaths was often compounded by alcohol or drug addictions, probably caused by another, less visible, killer. Recent research by neuroscientists now shows the link between on-the-field concussions and brain damage; a permanent injury that can lead to depression, suicide and severe aberrant behaviour. The damage is so profound, the researchers say, that post-mortem examinations of the brain tissue of five former professional football players can be compared only to the tissue found in the brain tissue of advanced Alzheimers cases.

Unfortunately I cannot embed the piece you can CLICK HERE to see it in full.  You will get to hear from very important people who are not nearly as high-profile as those hailing from Boston; Dr. Julian Bailes, Garrett Webster, son of Mike Webster and Dr. Bennet Omalu.

Family Allows Brain to be Studied

4 May

In the aftermath of the suicide of Junior Seau the most pressing question was if the family was going to allow researchers to study his brain in-depth.  It has now been reported that the Seau family has agreed to this as Michael O’Keeffe wrote last night;

Two research groups — the Brain Injury Research Institute and Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy — made bids to persuade Seau’s family to donate his brain to them within 24 hours after the Pro Bowl linebacker’s death.

It sounds ghoulish for scientists to vie for a beloved athlete’s brain so soon after his death, but the researchers needed to let the Seau family know of their interest before it makes arrangements for his remains. “You can’t do this kind of test on a living person,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, the director of the Brain Injury Research Institute.[…]

“Either they get it or we get it,” Bailes said Thursday before the Seau family told BIRI it would donate Junior’s brain to the Boston researchers. Bailes said it could help researchers determine if genetics play a role in CTE, or whether concussions — as opposed to repeated, but less serious, blows to the head — are necessary to bring on CTE.

“This specimen needs to be examined,” Bailes said. “It doesn’t matter who does it. There are only two groups doing this kind of work.”

Although the BIRI – Continue reading

CTE Insight from the Bostonia: but take time to remember the real pioneer

3 May

Shortly before this blog began in September of 2010 there was a brilliant article written in Bostonia regarding the work that Boston University was doing.  This article did not fall into my lap until yesterday during the Junior Seau reporting, it was found tweeted out by none other than Will Carroll, @injuryexpert.

We have come to understand a bit more about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) though the work of those in Boston.  It would be an absolute shame to not mention the person who first found this brain issue, Dr. Bennet Omalu.  Dr. Omalu found it but then was unceremoniously Continue reading

The Case Against The NFL – Hruby

29 Feb

Interviewer: Is there any evidence, as far as you’re concerned, that links multiple head injuries among pro football players with depression?

Casson: No.

Interviewer: With dementia?

Casson: No.

Interviewer: With early onset of Alzheimer’s?

Casson: No.

Interviewer: Is there any evidence as of today that links multiple head injuries with any long-term problem like that?

Casson: In NFL players?

Interviewer: Yeah.

Casson: No.

The above is not a made up story, in fact it is on video for everyone to see and make their own judgements.  Patrick Hruby of Yahoo! Sports and “The Post Game.” has written yet ANOTHER very good article about concussions.  This one delves into the hot water the NFL is finding itself in; if not in court then in public opinion – if anyone cares to look at the information. Continue reading

MMA and CTE

20 Feb

The hot button topic in the research world with concussions is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease, twin (fraternal) sibling of dementia pugilistica first found by Dr. Bennett Omalu.  This brain disease is debated and some times discounted (as you will see tomorrow) for its links to repetitive brain trauma, i.e. multiple concussions.  It does however have a place in the discussion with combative sports like MMA.

Recently a former fighter named Gary Goodridge has said he believes to be suffering from its onset.  Steven Marrocco of MMAjunkie.com wrote a piece on Goodridge and the debate of CTE in the sport;

The damage, he noted, was not extensive enough that it had caused irreversible trauma. But had the fighters continued to compete, he believes they would have been candidates for CTE.

“What I’m saying is that mixed martial arts belongs to the high-risk group of CTE,” Omalu said. “I would consider mixed martial arts just like I would boxing.” Continue reading

Political Football: Irv Muchnick

14 Oct

Irvin Muchnick is a writer and investigative journalist who previously mainly focused on the WWE.  Muchnick has changed gears a bit and started Concussion Inc, a website focusing on the head injury issue.

On Friday, on Beyond Chron, Irv Muchnick wrote about the appearance of a conflict of interest between the Centers for Disease Control and the National Football League, in regards to the upcoming panel and recommendations.  In the article Irv was right to point out that the federally funded CDC is taking outside monies for the first time;

A CDC spokeswoman admitted to me that the NFL’s $150,000 grant for “Heads Up” marked “the first time the CDC Foundation has received external funding to help support” this initiative, which has a decade-long history encompassing various outreach to health care professionals and patients, school professionals, sports coaches, parents, and kids and teens. (CDC’s own funding for this program has averaged around $200,000 a year.)

Which brings into question who will be in control of the recommendations?  Will the people shaping the foundation of concussion management, aimed at athletic trainers and doctors, actually have representatives in place?  I am not talking about the usual suspects that may hold a MD or ATC tag – the ones who do Yoeman’s work in the research field – rather some of the “boots on the ground” if you will.  Yes there are some Continue reading

Irv Muchnick: NYT Blacks Out Omalu

21 Jun

Irvin Muchnick is a writer and investigative journalist writing focusing mainly on the WWE.  Muchnick has been heavily involved in the concussion issue in the WWE and its crossover as well.

Irv has been and will continue to be looking at how the media and other entities cover the concussion issue.  Recently he has taken a close look at the New York Times and Alan Schwarz as it relates to concussions (LINK);

An examination of the Newspaper of Record’s coverage over the last six months suggests that the answer is it is leading us to a world made safe for the National Football League and its $9-plus billion in annual revenues.

Pay plenty of lip service to the alleged mental health toll for the thousands upon thousands of professional and amateur athletes employed by the NFL or in its orbit – but also make sure all the opinion-making honor and Continue reading

Matt Chaney: Football-Meida Complex

10 Jun

Matt Chaney is a former football player and even self-described “juicer” during his time in the game.  He used his first hand experience to write a book about steroids in football “Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football“, and now has taken his focus on the concussion issue.  Chaney is what I like to call a “pseudo contributor” to The Concussion Blog, he has helped with finding many articles and topics on this blog.  Behind the scenes Matt is one of the most profound people to spark conversation, and has very “real” views on this issue; not to mention that Chaney is a very good journalist.  (This post is part 2 of an excerpt preview for a pending analysis on Chaney’s Blog, ‘Brain Trauma Stalks Football Players, Dictates Impact Game Reform,’ which will include independent experts’ recommendations for constructive steps imperative to the sport’s survival at public schools and colleges.)

A couple of months after Matt Chaney took a hard look at Neuropsychological Testing he now looks at how the media has been handling the issue.  Matt holds nothing back as his analysis and opinion make people take a look at how things are being done.  Chaney has even given The Concussion Blog some of his feedback and we listen to every point.  Some of his points are clear but yet seem to be overlooked;

Despite the contemporary campaign of “concussion awareness” and “culture change” for tackle football, as game officials and media promote, America essentially remains insensitive to brain disorder in victims and especially athletes.

“Generally speaking, mankind does not empathize with brain diseases as well as with physical ailments; there is this negative response, culturally, for diseases of the brain,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who first discovered cerebral damage in an American football player, deceased NFL lineman Mike Webster.

“If you talk about having mental disorder, psychological disease, people wouldn’t empathize with you,” Omalu said. “Rather, they would Continue reading

Matt Chaney: Concussion Testing

25 Apr

Matt Chaney is a former football player and even self-described “juicer” during his time in the game.  He used his first hand experience to write a book about steroids in football “Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football“, and now has taken his focus on the concussion issue.  Chaney is what I like to call a “pseudo contributor” to The Concussion Blog, he has helped with finding many articles and topics on this blog.  Behind the scenes Matt is one of the most profound people to spark conversation, and has very “real” views on this issue; not to mention that Chaney is a very good journalist.  (This post is an excerpt preview for a pending analysis on Chaney’s Blog, ‘Brain Trauma Stalks Football Players, Dictates Impact Game Reform,’ which will include independent experts’ recommendations for constructive steps imperative to the sport’s survival at public schools and colleges.)

In his most recent post on his blog concerning concussions, Chaney takes a run at neruopsychological (NP) testing and the issues that he and others, including myself, have had with them.  As I told Matt and still believe; NP testing serves a vital role in the spectrum of concussions such as assessment, management and even some awareness regarding the injury.  The issue that I personally have is one of reliability and the “standard of practice”, each NP test can be done and analyzed differently.  How these tests are used is the biggest issue and Chaney says it in his style;

Current purveyors of the theory, led by Chris Nowinski and Dr. Robert Cantu of the Sports Legacy Institute, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell—who funds the Nowinski nonprofit with $1 million—propose action reminiscent of the plug-in electric football game, with plastic players bumping across the vibrating surface, hooking at shoulders in ring dances.

And that’s only the beginning of hocus-pocus remedy for rampant head injury in American football.

While mysteries are daunting for the problem, like positive diagnosis of concussion, mere clinical intuition guides the varied protocols of diagnosis and judgment for when players are fit to compete again. No random clinical trial of legitimacy has been attempted.

“It is scary,” said Dr. Lester Mayers, concussion researcher of Pace University athletics, who joins experts like Dr. Bennet Omalu in sounding alarm over football’s touting concussion testing, which is parroted by media.

These critics warn football conducts dangerous “concussion management” based on incomplete research for assessing symptoms, and many brain-injured players are prematurely returning to contact, all ages, typically within days.

Chaney takes clear aim at ImPACT during the article; Continue reading

Recent ABC Story

26 Feb

ABC has run a very extensive story about head injuries in sport (see football) in light of the Duerson suicide.  The article is good but what is striking are the videos associated with it.  Not only the embedded video on the first page, but the sourced videos below it, mainly about Mike Webster (Driven Mad?).

Neuropathologist Bennet Omalu, MD, who was the first to identify the condition, told MedPage Today, “There is no reason, no medical justification, for any child younger than 18 to play football, period.”

As we should know Omalu is the godfather of CTE, he first found it with Webster and subsequently other former NFL’ers, once called a “doctor of Voodoo medicine” Omalu has some of the best perspective on this injury.

“People said then, and still are saying today, that when former athletes deteriorate into depression, drug abuse, and even violence and criminality, it’s because they don’t compete well on the field of life after competing well on the field of football,” Omalu said in an interview with MedPage Today. Continue reading

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