For some time the thought was that the mTBI, TBI and concussions suffered on a playing field were different from what was being experienced on the battle field. The mechanisms may be different (collisions versus blast injuries) in nature but the resulting devastation may be similar. Again we can look to the northeast to Boston University’s brain bank and researchers for this new finding;
Scientists who have studied a degenerative brain disease in athletes have found the same condition in combat veterans exposed to roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, concluding that such explosions injure the brain in ways strikingly similar to tackles and punches. […]
“Our paper points out in a profound and definitive way that there is an organic, structural problem in the brain associated with blast exposure,” said Dr. Lee E. Goldstein of Boston University’s School of Medicine and a lead author of the paper, which was published online Wednesday by the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine.
The paper provides the strongest evidence yet that some and perhaps many combat veterans with invisible brain injuries caused by explosions are at risk of developing long-term neurological disease — a finding that, if confirmed, would have profound implications for military policy, veterans programs and future research.
As I have stated before I feel the military has been on the cutting edge Continue reading →
Thirteen days before Junior Seau was found dead in California with an apparent gun shot wound to the chest there was another former NFL player who ended his own life. His name was obviously not as “powerful” as Seau’s however, Ray Easterling left in his wake just as much trouble and turmoil over the issue of head injuries.
In an article written by Mike Tierney of the New York Times it is tough to shrug off all that we have come to know over the past few years, just read about how Mary Ann Easterling, Ray’s widow, is handling and plans to go forward with her life and her husbands legacy;
For Mary Ann Easterling, the prudent and less painful options, it might seem, are to move away and move on.
Relocate from the home where she found the body of her husband, Ray, a handgun nearby, and the neighborhood where Ray, a former N.F.L. safety, would become disoriented on long-distance jogs, sometimes prompting one-woman search parties at 2 a.m.
Withdraw his name from the class-action lawsuit that accuses the league of improperly caring for retired players with head injuries, a consequence that she contends turned Ray’s last two decades into a living, foggy hell.
Instead, Mary Ann, 59, plans to go nowhere. She won’t leave the brick ranch house on Continue reading →
I had missed this article but thanks to an email I think everyone should take a look at this op-ed piece from the New York Times by Joe Nocera titled “The Cost of Football Glory“. He begins with discussing his initial thoughts after reading a 36 year-old article by Clark Booth. If you would like to read it as well here is Clark Booth at the Super Bowl: Death & Football.
But no one had ever written an article like that before Clark Booth went to Miami. I remember being thunderstruck reading it. D.D. Lewis of the Dallas Cowboys talked about having nightmares and his fear of breaking his neck. Lee Roy Jordan, a veteran Cowboys linebacker, was asked by Booth why he kept playing with a sciatic nerve condition.
“By the time I’m 55, I feel they’ll have learned enough to medically treat me,” he said. “If they can’t, I can accept that.”
Booth asked sportswriters and ex-players about the worst injury they had ever seen. Continue reading →
Taken together, the suits filed in courts across the country amount to a multifront legal challenge to the league and to the game itself. While the retired players, including stars like Jim McMahon and Jamal Lewis, face a time-consuming and difficult battle, the N.F.L. will have to spend heavily on lawyers to fend off the chance that juries might award the retired players millions of dollars in damages.
The league must also grapple with unflattering publicity as former players claiming to be hobbled by injuries and, in some cases, suffering from financial problems sue their former employer, the steward of America’s most popular sport. The stakes will only get higher if any of the cases go to trial, where details may emerge about what the N.F.L. knew about concussions and when, how it handled that information, and whether it pushed manufacturers to make the safest helmets possible.
Belson makes some valid points on behalf of both the players and the league; Continue reading →
Recently there has been a spike in awareness and number of concussions in the National Hockey League. Last year we began compiling the injuries in our database to see where the sport stands (we also do NFL, NCAA football, and Aussie Rules Football). When Sidney Crosby sustained his initial concussion in the Winter Classic last year it seemed that NHL has begun to take notice.
It was refreshing to see The Star of the NHL deal with the brain injury with some transparency, although he endured some criticism what Crosby did was set into motion the awareness of concussions. Last season prior to the new year it was very difficult to find actual listed concussions; they were veiled in “upper body” or “undisclosed” listings. In some cases the injury was improperly reported as a neck or shoulder injury; a sign that the concussion was either a) not understood (unlikely) or b) needed to be hidden.
Before you read on it is important to understand the position of the blog and this author about concussions.
Concussions, brain injuries, are an inherent part of collision sports. There is very little in the way of equipment that can prevent concussions, the only way to impact a positive change (see decrease) is to address the culture and mechanics of sports. This does not mean that professional sports should be outlawed, rather subtly changed to protect those that play, not only for the immediate time, but for the long-term health of the athletes. With this; Continue reading →
Dorsey Levens has produced a video titled “Bell-Rung” (video preview previous post). This documentary takes a look at some Atlanta area NFL’ers and their battle with the brain injuries associated with football. Along with the video you will see in the USA Today article that players are more concerned about awareness and long-term health help from the league;
“The lawsuit is more about raising awareness on concussions and trying to light a fire under the NFL to help these guys who are struggling,” said Levens, a Comcast Southeast NFL analyst. “I found there’s a great need for guys, especially with health care.
“You envision playing pro football for however many years; making some good money; retiring and enjoying life. And the quality of life is not what it needs to be for a lot of these guys.
“I’m just trying to get them the medical help they need — sooner than later.”
In case you have missed it the New York Times has been publishing a comprehensive look at Derek Boogaard, in a three-part series. Not only the circumstances surrounding his death, but the wonderful life he had. With the revelation that Boogaard was confirmed to have CTE all of this information is relevant to the concussion front.
The Times began the series with a look at Boogaards rise to the NHL, from an awkward skater with little scoring prowess to the massive man on skates that would fight anyone at any time, “A Boy Learns to Brawl“;
Boogaard rarely complained about the toll — the crumpled and broken hands, the aching back and the concussions that nobody cared to count. But those who believe Boogaard loved to fight have it wrong. He loved what it brought: a continuation of an unlikely hockey career. And he loved what it meant: vengeance against a lifetime of perceived doubters and the gratitude of teammates glad that he would do a job they could not imagine.
He did not acknowledge the damage to his brain, the changes in his personality, even the addictions that ultimately killed him in the prime of his career. If he did recognize the toll, he dismissed it as the mere cost of getting everything he ever wanted. Continue reading →
There is one person in the media that can be classified as the pioneer of “concussion coverage”, his name is Alan Schwarz. Since roughly the mid-2000’s Schwarz has been on the beat of national stories involving concussions. He was recently nominated for a Pulitzer for his work in the area and now he has moved on. According to Irv Muchnick, Schwarz’s title has changed to “national education reporter.”
I echo the sentiments of Muchnick; Schwarz opened up the national dialogue on concussions, he is one of the main reasons people have begun to pay attention. Just think without him and the New York Times we may have never heard about Chris Nowinski, Bennet Omalu, the Boston University Brain Bank, etc. No matter where anyone stands on the current protocols/research/assessment for concussions, A LOT of this discussion should be attributed to Alan Schwarz.
To be honest it was a huge “bucket list” goal that I was quoted in a Schwarz article Continue reading →
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 →
After being ignored for far too long, concussions and brain injury seem to have been rightfully recognized as the most important issue in contact sports. However, even the medical community is quick to note the dearth of good information about brain injuries. After my cycling accident and subsequent coma almost 8 years ago, the information my family was given had them constantly bracing for the worst. My mom tells me that when she was a kid and she’d ask her dad a question, the answer would invariably be, “Look it up.” That explains her career choice (librarian) and her never-ending search for more information. Yet, even she had a very difficult time finding information that would give her solace or at least an idea of what problems her son would face. Even though my brain injury was more acute and severe than a concussion, both are brain injuries. I think that an extremely important point about concussions is being lost in the extra-subjective and passionate world of pro sports.
It’s fortunate the newspapers like the Globe and Mail and the New York Times were quickly on the issue as it came to the fore in their health and sports sections. As would be expected, the Globe and Mail centres most of their attention on hockey, while the New York Times focuses primarily on football. They’ve obviously done an outstanding job of bringing the brain injury issue forward. An issue will not become important to the public by starting with explanations and definitions, but once an issue goes from afterthought Continue reading →
The New York TimesFor the work of Alan Schwarz in illuminating the peril of concussions in football and other sports, spurring a national discussion and a re-examination of helmets and of medical and coaching practices.
As we mentioned going into the Winter Board Meetings of NOCSAE, renowned reporter on head injuries, Alan Schwarz of the New York Times, was in attendance. Yesterday we posted parts of the press release from Arizona, in this article Schwarz dives deeper, and using his incredible knowledge about this issue went much deeper than a presser;
“We ultimately came to the conclusion that yes, it would be desirable to look and study and try to understand if we can come up with a meaningful youth football helmet standard,” said Cantu, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University. He added that a lower-force standard (which Nocsae requires for lacrosse helmets) and tests for more complex rotational forces would be pursued, but said, “The science that tells us where we should set it is not available today.”
Cantu was followed by David Halstead, Nocsae’s technical director and top expert on helmet physics, who theorized that football concussions derived from forces too numerous and complex for helmets to protect against them any better than they currently do. He said that testing helmets against rotational forces “will not lead to a reduction” in concussions, adding, “We’ve got a lot of information, but we don’t know what to do next.”
Since the early 70’s football helmet standards have remained the same. When NOCSAE (the helmet certifying group) began, the number one issue was skull fractures, so they set up standards to prevent these horrible injuries. This was a very big and important step, but since the standards were implemented, testing for those standards have not changed. Until now, perhaps, thanks to people like Alan Schwarz and those in the concussion community.
Nocsae’s single testing standard, used by all levels of football from pee-wees to professionals, considers only the extraordinarily violent impacts that would otherwise fracture skulls. It has little to do with the complex forces believed to cause concussions, and has not been changed meaningfully since it was first published in 1973.
The Nocsae standard has been criticized by outside experts, and even some Nocsae officials, for being outdated.
Once again Alan Schwarz has published a VERY, VERY good article pertaining to concussions. In this article in the New York Times he has looked at the outdated helmet standards by NOCSAE.
That assumption, made by countless parents, coaches, administrators and even doctors involved with the 4.4 million children who play tackle football, is just one of many false beliefs in the largely unmonitored world of football helmets.
Helmets both new and used are not — and have never been — formally tested against the forces believed to cause concussions. The industry, which receives no governmental or other independent oversight, requires helmets for players of all ages to withstand only the extremely high-level force that would otherwise fracture skulls.
The concussion rate in N.C.A.A. women’s ice hockey is 2.72 per 1,000 player hours. For men’s ice hockey it’s 1.47 per 1,000. Even for N.C.A.A. football, the rate is 2.34 per 1,000 — lower than it is for the women on the ice.
Concussions comprised about 25 percent of the injuries in women’s ice hockey, the highest cause of injury in the sport. In men’s ice hockey concussions account for 9 percent of the injuries (No. 2 in the sport), and in football they account for 7 percent (No. 3 in the sport).
And a little note about woman’s ice hockey, CHECKING IS NOT ALLOWED!!! Go Figure.
If you have a minute check out his other blog posts from the day at the Slap Shot Blog.
A research study delved into the association of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease and head injury, more specific brain trauma. Boston University and the VA published such information in Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology.
Doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., and the Boston University School of Medicine, the primary researchers of brain damage among deceased National Football League players, said that markings in the spinal cords of two players and one boxer who also received a diagnosis of A.L.S. indicated that those men did not have A.L.S. They had a different fatal disease, doctors said, caused by concussion like trauma, that erodes the central nervous system in similar ways.
The findings could shed light on the increased incidence of ALS in contact sports. An Italian study of 7000 professional soccer players from 1970 to 2002 showed 18 of them diagnosed with ALS The study showed Serie players were seven times more susceptible than the non-playing population.
This is a serious issue and important finding, as the life long effects of concussions have yet to be fully discovered, in fact a lot has yet to be discovered on the frontier of the brain.
Two parents in Sequim, a small city northwest of Seattle, criticized how a local hospital handled their sons’ treatment after the boys sustained concussions playing high school football this month, with one player’s discharge papers reading, “May return to sports when able.” The other player received no medical attention on the field because emergency technicians were required only for varsity games, and he was on the junior varsity.
Another player’s mother who asked the Sequim School District to begin a baseline neuropsychological testing program — which can assist in evaluating when a player has recovered and can return to play — was told that such testing, “due to liability and legal issues, is not recommended either by the insurance provider” or the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Many of the concussions had occurred years earlier and at the time of the testing, none of the students felt lingering symptoms. Each was performing adequately in college. In the testing itself, the concussed students scored just as well as the uninjured athletes.
But when researchers looked at the electrical activity of the students’ brains, they found that the concussed athletes showed noticeably less activity in portions of the brain associated with attention. ‘‘They had suppressed attentional resources,’’ said Steven Broglio, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois. He and his colleagues Continue reading →
On Monday we ran a story about how the Philadelphia Eagles handled the concussions of Kevin Kolb and Stewart Bradley. Of note was Stewart Bradley and his “punch-drunk” appearance then returning in two plays to make a tackle.
Per current guidelines for head injuries Bradley should have been evaluated before returning, which the Eagles say they did. However if you put a stop watch on the time Bradley was out it was not over four minutes. I don’t care how good you are at concussions, FOUR minutes is NOT SUFFICIENT enough time to properly evaluate a head injury. Continue reading →