TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . NFL Rookie Retires

NFL Rookie Retires
(This news underscores the previous NewsBit.)

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

johnson_combine Clemson Safety Jadar Johnson was undrafted in the 2017 draft. As a Free Agent, though, he was signed by the New York Giants of the NFL (National Football League). Many thought he was a diamond-in-the-rough. DiamondJadar himself was excited and said he would do “whatever” it takes to become part of the team that the Giants field on Sundays. But, before he played a single regular-season game, he abruptly retired. His agent’s statement said “… and he values his health. …” Some say that Jadar retired because he became aware of the research on NFL brains recently published in the CTEJournal of the American Medical Association. That article showed that 99% of autopsied NFL brains (110/111) had the devastating and contact-sport-specific brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).

 

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SPEAK OUT! News Bit . . . . . Football, Brain Injury & Kids

Football, Brain Injury & Kids

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

newsboy-thIs American football a dying sport? With football’s prominence in American culture, it seems safe to assume no one would predict that its days are numbered. But, there is a growing undercurrent that may eventually lead to the demise of football as we know it. There is more and more evidence that the constant subconcussive hits experienced by football players lead to a high risk of the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE can lead to early dementia, football12depression, suicidal thoughts, or problems with cognition, memory, or impulsive behavior.

Recently published by the Journal of the American Medical Association is more evidence of the enormous risk of developing CTE by playing American football. (CTE can at present only be confirmed upon studying brain tissue at autopsy, although research is being directed to finding a test that can detect CTE in the brains of living players.) A study of 202 brains of former football players was done by researchers at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University. They found CTE in 87% of all the brains studied. Of the 110 brains of former professional players in the NFL (National Football League, the premier professional football league in the US), 109 (99%) showed CTE. Playing only college football did not significantly reduce the risk of having CTE, which was found in 91% of the brains of former college players. Playing less football did seem to lower the risk. Only 27% of the brains of former players who played through high school, but no further, showed evidence of CTE. Also, the severity of CTE was probably less with less playing time.

brain4The results have important implications for players. Many players feel they’ve been left ignorant of the risks of brain injury by the NFL, or worse, assured by the league that there is minimal risk. [Some players have quit or retired early (1, 2). Recently, a class-action lawsuit about concussions brought by former players against the NFL was settled for $1 billion.] The NFL has argued, and most players and fans who know about CTE believe, that the brains being studied are biased toward CTE because the autopsied brains in large part are from players already suspected of having a brain injury. Dr. Ann McKee, a Boston University researcher who has examined many of the brains, has stated that the results are staggering even for a biased sample (go to 1:35:58 in the video). She has stated, “It is no longer debatable whether or not there is a problem in football; there is a problem.”

Evidence of any CTE in high school football players is particularly disturbing (go to 1:29:08 in the video). Parents have taken note. Even though the NFL is actively promoting football directly to children, enrollment in youth football leagues is significantly down. Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered CTE by studying the brain of Mike Webster, the football-teamfamous Pittsburgh Steeler Center, wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times titled “Don’t Let Kids Play Football.” During my radio interview of George Visger, a former lineman for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers who had to quit the game because of a brain injury, he speculated that the preeminence of football in American society will disappear because the NFL’s talent pool will dry up. He speculates that the cost of liability insurance will be too high for youth football leagues to pay (go to 30 minutes into my interview of him).

There is no doubt that American football is exciting to watch, and there are many benefits to playing such a demanding team sport. But, difficult as it is to believe, it seems likely that the high risk of brain injury will eventually end the game.

 

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So Whaddya Think? . . . . . . . Children’s Brains at Risk

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this TBI 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 1,000 words. Send to donnaodonnellfigurski@gmail.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4Children’s Brains at Risk

 by
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
and
David Figurski

Parents, coaches, and other adults are inadvertently exposing many children to grave harm. There are two major reasons: (1) a lack of awareness of the fragility of the brain and (2) ignorance of the life-altering changes that come from a brain injury. As parents and children learn about the risks, some children have elected not to play certain sports (SPEAK OUT! NewsBit: To Play or NOT to Play, May 23, 2014).

There are many very good reasons for young people to play sports, including raising self-esteem, being part of a team, learning responsibility, and understanding competitiveness. But, studies are showing that some sports have a real possibility of danger associated with them.

One of us (Donna) taught first and third grades and coached a soccer team of 6- to 8-year-olds. We know how trusting young people are of adults. No adult would willingly put a young child or teenager in danger, but most are ignorant of the potential consequences of a brain injury. Only now are we beginning to understand how easy it is to injure the brain and just how dire the result can be. There is a desperate need to speak out to educate other adults of what we know.

A great deal of research is going on, but our knowledge of the brain is just beginning. Our hope is that there will not only be better treatments and therapy, but also that steps can be taken to greatly lessen the possibility of brain injury in the first place.

The danger is very real. A 1999 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association examined mild TBIs in 10 high-school sports over 3 years. Over 1200 concussions were documented. Football, by far, was responsible for the highest percentage of concussions. The percentage of concussions caused by playing football was almost double the percentage of concussions from the remaining sports combined. A recent study showed that playing football, even without a concussion, may affect behavior and brain structure (SPEAK OUT! NewsBit: Football – Is It Dangerous to Your Brain? May 23, 2014). Keep in mind that players often do not report symptoms for fear of not being allowed to continue to play (video). In addition, having another concussion without recovering from the first can be deadly.

Heading in soccer is the primary cause of concussions in that sport. The percentage of soccer-caused concussions ranks #3 in boys’ sports and #1 in girls’ sports. Changes are beginning to happen with the new knowledge. A Connecticut youth soccer league has made heading illegal.

Just how ignorant of brain injury is the medical profession has already become apparent in the interviews. It’s common for a brain-injured patient to be treated for all other wounds, but little thought is given to the brain. Only later is the brain injury recognized as the basis for some of the symptoms. We were taken by Tabbie’s statement (Survivors SPEAK OUT! Tabbie, May 25, 2014) that a doctor assured her that it was not possible to get a concussion from a volleyball. Meanwhile, 0.5% of concussions were found to occur from volleyball in the 1999 JAMA study. Although volleyball ranked 10th, it did register. Ask Tabbie if it’s possible to have a brain injury from volleyball.

For motivation, we recommend watching the documentary Head Games, which is available online. Here is the trailer and the description. No one wants to put children at risk. There is no doubt the consequences of brain injury can be severe (Video Part 1 and Video Part 2), but there needs to be more awareness of the danger and consequences.

What can be done? In the short term, (1) we can speak out to make more people aware of brain injury. (2) We can promote the re-examination of rules and, where safety is concerned, lobby for their change. A Connecticut soccer league is already doing this by banning heading in soccer. As another example, if a football player uses his helmet to “spear” another player, maybe he should be ejected from the game. (3) No one should tolerate a violent act to win. Who promoted the idea that it was acceptable for a player of the opposing team to take Tabbie out of the game? There is no place for winning-at-all-costs. In the long term, there needs to be better equipment for the safety of players. This will take research. Legislation of rule changes will cause everyone to be protected. Nebraska’s legislature has already made laws for youth sports.

Our youth look to us. Let’s not fail them.

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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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