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So, Whaddya Think? . . . . . . . . . We Must All Be Advocates for Brain Injury Awareness

So, Whaddya Think?

We Must All Be Advocates for Brain Injury Awareness

by

Beth Kidd Koziol

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

so-whaddya-think-brain-th-4Having been a diehard NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) fan for 50+ years, I’ve seen fatal injuries, career-ending brain injuries, and loss of job, spouse, or self – just part of the damage a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause. Once NASCAR realized the need, it made major changes to the requirements of all safety gear used on the driver and to the inside and the outside of the car. Great strides have been made with “soft”

Hans Device

Hans Device for Racing

walls, the HANS (head and neck support) device, a five-point harness system, crush panels in the sides of the car, and so much more. Bobby Allison’s racing career was ended years ago due to a brain injury – before so many changes were made. It wasn’t until the sport lost Dale Earnhardt, Sr. in a horrific Daytona crash that NASCAR really took safety to a higher level. They are still working on safety.

Kidd Koziol, Beth Survivor 2

Beth Kidd Koziol – Brain Injury Survivor

The brain injury community also has a major need. I wish there were more people in schools talking to young children to make them more aware of TBI. (Most children now learn about TBI if they have it themselves.) We want the public to be exposed more to and to be more aware of TBI. The public needs to know how to best try to prevent TBI. The knowledge could also lessen the damage if something happens – a fall, an accident, or whatever might happen.

Racing Cars 1288639-nascar-002_06172006

Awareness is vital. I’m sure that, like me, many survivors have had much trouble getting family and friends to understand what TBI has done to the person. I’m so tired of hearing, “You look fine. You talk OK. It’s just an excuse.” (I’ve heard those very words so many times that I decided to withdraw contact with those who hurt me.) I want to socialize, to have fun, and to be who I am now (ten years later). Recently, a neurologist told me that, due to my brain injury, I’m very high risk for early dementia. This was the first time I’ve ever been told this! So, what are we doing about the problem?

We must all be advocates for brain injury awareness in whatever ways we can to try and make a difference.

Kidd Koziol, Beth Survivor 3

Beth Kidd Koziol – Brain Injury Survivor

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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So, Whaddya Think? Opinion: Rethinking the Design of Football Helmets

So, Whaddya Think?

 My Opinion: Rethinking the Design of Football Helmets

by

David Lloyd

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4The reason for a hard helmet in American football is to prevent deaths from skull fractures. The attempts to make bigger and thicker helmets have been based on trying to absorb linear impact force, but that’s based on the faulty notion that linear impact force is related to brain injury (Condi, 2015).

It is the sudden rotation of the head that actually causes brain injury (Meaney, Morrison, & Bass, 2014). A bigger helmet “leverages” rotation, increasing the likelihood of brain injury (2016, January). We need to rethink helmet design entirely. I suggest using an artificial scalp (Aare, 2003), like the leather helmets from the 1930s (Stamp, 2012, October), with a springy, lightweight, carbon-fiber framework to absorb linear impact. The design should include guarding the mouth and chin.

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David Lloyd – Brain Injury Survivor

Another possibility would be a variation of the so-called “invisible helmet” (Haupt & Alstin, 2016), which is like the airbag in a car. Players would wear invisible-helmet-collars, which instantly expand to cushion the head upon impact. (While I think this could be a great idea for bicyclists, I suspect it would not work for football, but since it occurred to me just now, I thought I would include the idea.)

I would also put a couple of strategically placed, clear, and inexpensive disposable gelatin capsules in the helmet. These gelatin capsules would contain a bright-colored liquid dye in the center. When an impact is sharp enough to cause the gelatin capsule to release the dye, the capsule turns bright red (assuming a red dye was used) to indicate a possible brain injury. The moment a player’s dye-capsule breaks, that player is out of the game (possibly along with the opponent who hit the player). A light-sensor could trigger an electronic ID number to be broadcast instantly to officials, so an appropriate response could happen immediately. Every incident in which a dye-capsule is broken is recorded as a possible sub-concussive injury. Players with too many sub-concussive injuries can no longer play, regardless of apparent brain health.Gelatin Capsules.jpg

In addition, a smart phone-based application (Lathan, Spira, Bleiberg, Vice & Tsao, 2013) is used to test the player’s response times to a short series of tests, with scores compared with a baseline. Concussion is diagnosed on the field when the player’s test score is significantly different from his baseline. If a concussion is diagnosed, the player does not return to the field, and, at the discretion of the physician, the player may be treated with a neuroprotective drug, such as NeuroStat® (Campbell, Elmér, & Bronnegard, 2015), to prevent the death of neurons, which generally occurs before the symptoms of concussion are apparent.

th-1I think the Kevlar insert sounds like a very good idea. Put that layer next to the head, below the artificial scalp I suggested. This in turn is to be below a light weight, springy framework, which I imagined would absorb linear impact by rapidly changing shape and then dissipating the energy by vibrating. The artificial scalp layer, in addition to sliding to absorb rotational impact, would also insulate the player from damage due to the vibration energy.

The three most important issues are (1) detecting potential sub-concussive injuries when they happen and before they cause symptoms (via the gel-capsules), (2) protecting against skull-fracture, and (3) protecting against sharp rotation, which requires a helmet with a much smaller surface area.

Many studies (Kis, Saunders, Hove, & Leslie, 2004) over the years have concluded that protecting against linear impact is equivalent to protecting against rotational impact. If one reads only abstracts and conclusions from these studies, one may be led to believe rotational factors don’t need consideration. However, only recently have there been any attempts to measure rotational damage, and even in those cases, the tests actually measure linear impact from various angles. They assume it is possible to infer information about rotational impact from this information (Kis, Saunders, Irrcher, Tator, Bishop, & Hove, 2013).Concussion

I don’t believe a linear impact test provides any significant data regarding rotational injury to the brain. I think a meaningful test of rotational impact is with my dye-in-gelatin suggestion. It is simply not possible to design a laboratory test that can reliably measure all possible angles of force (Hernandez, Shull, & Camarillo, 2015) created in a multi-vector, real-situation impact. I have yet to see a meaningful test of damage caused by compression waves (Laksari, Wu, Kurt, Kuo, & Camarillo, 2015), which, depending on frequency, can be augmented by hard objects, such as helmets or even the skull itself. Create a clear-gel facsimile of a brain, add a few grapes to the gelatin to simulate denser areas of the brain, put it in a structure like a skull, wrap the skull in something analogous to skin and hair, and put THAT in a helmet. Then spin it, and drop it onto a fast-moving conveyor belt. Now count the fractures in the gelatin per cubic millimeter (using a microscope), and you will have BEGUN to create a meaningful model of what happens in a brain injury. It is likely that one cannot realistically study impact on the brain unless the artificial brain is connected by a neck to a body (Hernandez, Shull, & Camarillo, 2015).

I think attempting to reform the game would meet such extreme resistance that all kinds of misinformation would get published – obscuring the facts and preventing change. A better approach is to detect and track sub-concussive injuries before they compound to a level that threatens lives or affects mental performance.

Some are suggesting the elimination of football, but this “solution” makes no sense unless we eliminate all contact sports. I know boxing is much worse than football, in terms of the risk of brain injury. I’m pretty sure I could find evidence to indicate thatth-2 hockey and soccer are statistically more likely to cause brain injuries than football, but even basketball, track, wrestling, swimming, skating, ice skating, and even bicycling present similar dangers. [Actually, football is second only to cycling, followed by baseball and basketball for associated brain injuries (Sports-related Head Injury, 2014, August)]. In my mind, the greater danger to the collective health of the nation would be the elimination of these various sports (Devine, & Zafonte, 2009). Humans need to be active, and there is no way to eliminate the potential danger of living a healthy life.

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

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Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

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So, Whaddya Think? . . . My Opinion: Sports Benefits Outweigh the Risks

So, Whaddya Think?

My Opinion: Sports Benefits Outweigh the Risks

by

 Charles Ross

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4I was eighteen when I had my traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a car accident in 1985. I was brought back to life once. I was in a coma for fifty days. I was in a wheelchair for one and a half years. I have memory problems. My body drew up into a fetal position. It took seven years of painful surgery and therapy and close to thirty procedures to straighten my legs, feet, arms, and hands. Thirty years later, my claw-shaped right hand looks like it has rheumatoid arthritis, but I use it. I write with that hand and walk with a cane in it. Three years after my accident, I went back to college. It took three years of difficult work to get my first Associate Degree and two years for a second in Mechanical Drafting, AutoCAD. I worked fifteen difficult years doing AutoCAD. Not one day since my accident has been easy for me. I am proud of what I accomplished, and I hope my story will be an inspiration to others.

Ross Jr., Charles Survivor 112415 copy

Charles Ross Jr. TBI Survivor

I know personally how tragic it is if a person gets hurt or killed accidentally, but that’s life. I don’t want to seem like life does not matter to me – because it does. (My life now is precious to me. I cherish each moment I have with family or friends. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, whom I never would have met otherwise, have blessed my life.) I am not heartless; I am very compassionate. I cry when I hear a tragic story of any kind. I know what life is. I know what death is. And I know what pain and suffering are.

I played three years of high-school football. Many guys were much bigger than I was, and I was fortunate not to get hurt. It was my third year of driving when I had my accident. Throughout my recovery, I looked back at the grueling football practices, and they football-player-tackling-cartoon-football-playersinspired me to go forward. What a sport does is teach sportsmanship, pride, respect, and loyalty, and it inspires one to do better.

Should I never ride in a car or even drive again because somebody has gotten hurt in a car accident? A baseball player may get hit in the head by a pitch, but now players have helmets to protect them. (There isn’t protective headwear in basketball, volleyball, tennis, or soccer, but maybe there should be.) Thousands of people end up in Emergency football_-_helmet_5Rooms or even in morgues because they fall while walking and hit their head. Should every man, woman, and child wear a helmet simply to walk? It seems just as foolish to end all athletics.

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

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So, Whaddya Think? . . . . . . . . . My Opinion: Football Is Safer With Kevlar Helmet Inserts

So, Whaddya Think?

My Opinion: Football Is Safer With Kevlar Helmet Inserts

by

Mike Doherty

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell FigurskiSo Whaddya Think Brain th-4

As a youth football coach, I am infuriated that more isn’t being done to spread the word about a great product out there that would greatly reduce the number of concussions. I came across it two years ago. It’s cheap, and you’d think the powers-that-be would jump all over it. Nope!

Southern Methodist University (SMU) did a study when their football players used this inexpensive piece of equipment in their helmets. The concussion rate dropped impressively.

American football is really a safe sport, considering the amount of contact involved. It’s just garnering the most attention because of the National Football League (NFL), where you have much bigger, stronger, and MUCH faster athletic men trying to hit each other. It’s controlled violence.

Mike doherty

Mike Doherty – TBI Survivor

Coaches now go through a lot of training on how to teach kids the proper way of tackling and how to recognize the possibility of a concussion. Trust me, it is probably the most important issue that’s been addressed on the field in the last few years. I’m glad concussions are finally being addressed. All in all, at the youth level, football is still pretty safe as compared with other sports. High school, college, and the pros are where you see concussions pick up. (The non-helmeted sports, like soccer and girls’ lacrosse, don’t get nearly the attention they should. For the life of me, I can’t understand why helmets are not worn in girls’ lacrosse.)

What’s the flip side of removing some of these sports for youths? The kids may then get into trouble doing crazy stuff. As kids, we did crazy stuff just being boys, and I played football.

Unequal Gyro

Inside of helmet with Unequal Gyro

That equipment I mentioned above is a helmet insert from Unequal Technologies. It’s a pad lined with Kevlar, the same material used in military helmets. It inserts into each helmet and disperses the energy from an

Kevlar for Football

The Unequal Gyro

impact throughout the pad, reducing greatly the severity of the impact itself. Unequal Technologies also promotes a headband for helmetless sports.

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the contributor.)

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow Me Via eMail” on the right sidebar of your screen.anim0014-1_e0-1

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So, Whaddya Think? . . . . . Football Puts Children’s Brains at Risk

So, Whaddya Think?

Football Puts Children’s Brains at Risk

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

(Note: This is our third opinion essay on brain trauma and American football. The first and second were published on this blog on December 17th and December 26th, respectively.)

 

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4Lack of awareness of new knowledge has allowed society to continue what some of us now know to be dangerous practices with respect to children. To understand what we mean, watch these short videos of children practicing or playing American football (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

The danger to the brains of children in the videos is readily apparent to us (video, story). Parents often believe a brain injury is rare. But the evidence indicates otherwise. The hundreds of sub-concussive hits that a player of American football receives each season can result in the degenerative brain disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE can lead to loss of memory, loss of cognitive ability, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), aggressive behavior, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It has been seen in the brains of high school football players. In fact, individuals who started playing organized American football at a young age seem to have a higher rate of CTE.

Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu – neuropathologist – discovered CTE

Recently, Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE in an American football player by studying the brain of Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster, was the author of a recent New York Times Op-Ed entitled Don’t Let Kids Play Football. In an interview for zap2it.com, Dr. Omalu said, “As a modern society it’s our duty to protect our most vulnerable, most precious gifts of life: our children. This is where I stand.”

(We highly recommend your seeing the newly released movie Concussion, which will bring about more awareness of the danger to the brain from playing American football. The movie tells the true story of how the National Football League – NFL – tried to dismiss Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of the connection of brain disease and the playing of American football. Former players are suing the NFL, claiming that the NFL knew of the dangers, but did not inform the players.)kid-football-players-clip-art

In the documentary Head Games (online and free), we are reminded that children are not miniature adults. A child’s head is larger than an adult’s in proportion to his or her body. The neck muscles are not proportionately stronger, so a child’s head is more vulnerable than is an adult’s head. Brain development continues until at least age 14. (Some neurologists think brain development may continue longer.) In addition, the neurons in a developing brain are not yet fully myelinated. Recent research has shown that a concussion in a child impairs brain function for two years. The risk to the brain is the major reason why US Soccer banned heading for children 10 and under.

George Visger

Former San Francisco 49er – George Visger – TBI Survivor

On August 16th, Donna conducted a radio interview with George Visger, a former defensive lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers on her radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network. Visger stated that youth football might ultimately end because of the eventual high cost of liability insurance (minutes 30:25-33:45; we think you will also find the intervals 5:40-15:55 and 39:40-42:25 interesting because of their contents – children and football). Dr. Omalu, the discoverer of CTE in an American football player, says in Frontline’s documentary The League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis that he was told if 10% of mothers think playing football is too dangerous, it will mean the end of football.

The consequences of a brain injury can be especially devastating, even fatal, to a young player (video 1, video 2, story of the suicide of a teenage football player). The risk of brain injury from high-impact sports, especially American football, is significant even for adults, but an adult can make his or her own decision to play. In contrast, children rely on parents and Brain in Helmetcoaches. No parent would deliberately put a child’s life-trajectory at risk, but what if the parent lacks awareness? The good news is that apparently society’s awareness is growing quickly. Peter Landesman, the director of Concussion, said that Pop Warner football enrollment is down by more than 30%. (Pop Warner football is for children aged 5 to 16.) The movie Concussion will further increase society’s awareness of the danger of concussions and sub-concussive hits, show what CTE is, tell Dr. Bennet Omalu’s story of his discovery of the relationship of CTE and American football, and show Dr. Omalu’s struggle with the NFL.

Healthy and Damaged Brain

Left – Healthy Brain — Right – Brain with CTE

It is also the brain-injury community’s responsibility to speak out to show society how life-altering a brain injury is.

 

 

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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So, Whaddya Think? “Concussion” Now in Theaters

So, Whaddya Think?

“Concussion” Now in Theaters

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Note: This is our second opinion essay about Dr. Bennet Omalu and his research with brain trauma. The first was published on this blog on December 17th.)

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4The much-anticipated movie, Concussion (trailer), is making current and former players of American football, their families, parents, fans, and coaches think about what is really happening in a sport that has become a large part of American culture. The movie has the same goal as we in the brain-injury community have – greater awareness of the delicate Concussion Movie 2.jpgnature of the brain and the ramifications of brain damage. The movie was released on Christmas Day, but it has made much news before its release.

The movie, which unsurprisingly is not sanctioned by the National Football League (NFL), tells the true story of the Nigerian pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, and his discovery of the relationship of a neurodegenerative disease, which Dr. Omalu named “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” (CTE), and American football. Dr. Omalu studied the brain of Hall-of-Fame center, Mike Webster,

MikeWebsternfl

Mike Webster – Pittsburgh Steeler Pro Football Hall of Fame

who died at age 50 homeless and with dementia. As shown in the Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis (available free online), the movie shows how the multibillion-dollar NFL didn’t want to hear of Dr. Omalu’s discovery. The league’s questionable committee on concussions immediately attacked Dr. Omalu. It is a classic “David-vs.-Goliath” story.

David & Goliath.jpg

David & Goliath

(Dr. Omalu said in his Frontline interview, “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you.”) Former players have sued the NFL, arguing that the NFL knew of the dangers to the brain, but didn’t inform the players. In a class-action lawsuit, the NFL has recently settled for approximately $1 billion in medical expenses, but that settlement is being appealed by former players as inadequate.

Concussion Movie

Dr. Bennet Omalu – pathologist – discovered CTE with Actor, Will Smith

Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu in Concussion. Will Smith, a former football fan whose son played high school football, recently admitted that he has not watched a full game of football since he made this movie. Peter Landesman, the movie’s director, played football into his sophomore year of college, but, knowing what he knows now, he would not let his children play the game.

The movie is a “must-see.” (video)

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow Me Via eMail” on the right sidebar of your screen.anim0014-1_e0-1

If you like my blog, click the “Like” button under this post.

If you REALLY like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

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So, Whaddya Think . . . . . . . . Should We Let Children Play Tackle Football?

So, Whaddya Think?

 Should We Let Children Play Tackle Football?

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian pathologist who discovered the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by his study of the brain of Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster, is making news again with an Op-Ed published in The New York Times. Dr. Omalu’s essay is entitled Don’t Let Kids Play Football. He says that our society has laws forbidding the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors. There is legislation that mandates bicycle helmets for children. Football Player HurtWhy not protect children’s brains by prohibiting children from playing American-style tackle football? Dr. Omalu writes in his essay, “The risk of permanent impairment is heightened by the fact that the brain, unlike most other organs, does not have the capacity to cure itself ….”

Omalu & Will Smith

(Dr. Omalu’s CTE-discovery story and its impact on American football is told in the much-anticipated movie, Concussion, which will be in theaters on Christmas Day. Dr. Omalu is played by actor Will Smith. As grippingly shown in the Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, which is online and free, the National Football League – NFL – immediately attacked Dr. Omalu and tried to get him to retract the published paper.)league-of-denial-raster-br10-81-550x377

There is strong evidence that not only concussions, but also the large number of sub-concussive hits common to players of American football can lead to CTE, whose symptoms may appear as early as in the late teens. The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, reduced intelligence, depression, aggressive behavior, dementia, and suicidal thoughts. Both a college football player and a young professional player committed suicide, and they were found to have CTE. A high-school football player committed suicide. CTE has also been detected in the brains of players of high-school football.

NFLlogoThe NFL is concerned with the growing awareness of brain injuries in players of American football. If players, their families, fans, coaches, and/or parents think that CTE is common among players, a seemingly sacrosanct part of American culture and a multibillion-dollar industry would be put into jeopardy.

To get in front of the concussion issue, the NFL has aggressively promoted its image as a forward-thinking and safety-conscious league. The NFL has donated large sums of money for concussion research. The league has changed the rules of the game to discourage a player from using his helmet to make tackle or to prevent a tackle. It has established a “concussion protocol” to keep a concussed player from practice and/or games until he has been approved to return to play. The NFL has concussion-spotters present at every game and this year has empowered them to stop a game. (However, that protocol failed shamefully and dramatically in the recent instance of quarterback Case Keenum near the end of a tie game.) The rule changes are good progress, but can the NFL actually prevent brain injuries and save the game?

Current and former players have been affected by the brain-injury issue. Some players have had to retire early and fear imminent brain disease. A rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers quit after one year of a four-year contract. (He is returning the signing bonus for the remaining three years.) He said that playing professional football, with all its potential for wealth, is not worth the risk of brain injury. football-brain-injuryLegendary former quarterback Joe Namath has said that, if he knew then what he knows now, he wouldn’t have played. Keith McCants, former NFL linebacker said, “We were paid to give concussions. If we knew that we were killing people, I would have never put on the jersey.”

The brains of several former players, including Hall-of-Fame linebacker

junior-seau-1024x682

Junior Seau

Junior Seau and four-time-Pro-Bowl safety Dave Duerson – both of whom committed suicide, were found to have CTE.

duerson

Dave Duerson

Boston University’s CTE Center has found CTE in 88 of 92 (1, 2) autopsied brains of former NFL players. (Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University says that this is a ridiculously high rate even for a sample of brains in which the individuals showed some signs of brain disease. DOF has written about a simple fix for the claim of bias. In the meantime, there was a report that was consistent with Dr. McKee’s fear that CTE is common among football players. Frank Gifford, Hall-of-Fame running back, apparently died of natural causes, but his brain showed CTE.)

Frank Gifford football

Frank Gifford

Should children play American football with all that is known? Obviously there is much more to be learned, but should society wait to protect the children? Children trust their parents and coaches. Dr. Omalu only wants society to protect the brains of young children until those children are able to understand the risks to the brain from playing Brain in football helmetfootball and to make their own decision of whether or not to play. Boston University’s Dr. Robert Cantu said that a child’s brain is developing until age 14. Should children be subjecting their developing brains to high impact hits? One study showed that sometimes the force of a young child’s hit can reach that of a college football player.

football player catching ball

One argument for safety in American football is that the equipment, especially the helmet, is much improved. The helmet does a very good job of protecting the skull, but does nothing to protect the brain. There is no helmet that can prevent a concussion.Concussions-sports-concussion-crisis

As you might imagine, Dr. Omalu’s position is highly unpopular. Danny Kanell, former NFL quarterback and now ESPN commentator, claims that Dr. Omalu is waging a “War on Football.” Many fans and parents agree with Kanell because they believe that CTE is not common among football players. (DOF has written how this issue can be resolved simply. Dr. Omalu is an author on a paper reporting the accurate detection of CTE in a living person using a special PET – positron emission tomography – scan. The NFL needs to have all of its players scanned.) If Dr. Omalu’s suggestion about not letting kids play tackle football were adopted, one effect would be immediately obvious. The NFL would see its pool of young players dry up, so the talent we now see in the NFL would no longer be seen.

Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu at screening of “Concussion”

It is unlikely that Dr. Omalu’s suggestion would ever come true. But he has the stature to get people talking, and the discussion has already changed. More people are becoming aware of the danger to the brain of playing tackle football. The NFL is concerned with the movie Concussion because it will increase society’s awareness of the danger. (In an article about an early showing of Concussion to former players and their families, the Huffington Post writes “… the wife of former tight end Taz Anderson, said the movie made her question whether her grandchild should continue to play the sport.”) Recently Bob Costas, a renowned sports commentator, said that American football is based on violence. The league has no way of fixing its problem with head trauma.

If you’ve ever seen young children playing tackle football, you will realize that society must do something to protect its children.

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My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I continue to recover and invite others to see if it works for them too.

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