TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Posts tagged ‘Surviving Traumatic Brain Injury blog’

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

So, Whaddya Think?

 Should We Let Children Play Tackle Football?


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

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


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.

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:

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)


On The Air: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Radio . . . . . . . . “Another Fork in the Road” Holidays – Less Stress – More Fun!

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” 


Panelists: Survivor, Lisa Dryer and Caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall

Topic: Holidays – Less Stress – More Fun!



Donna O’Donnell Figurski

images-1The holidays are just around the corner. Though they can be fun for many, for others this time of year is filled with extra stress. There are ways to lessen the anxiety and make the holidays more enjoyable by changing some of your old holiday traditions. My panelists, survivor, Lisa Dryer, and caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall, and I are going to discuss different ways that we make the holidays more fun with less stress.

Lisabeth Mackall Book 061215

Lisabeth Mackall, caregiver  Author of “27 Miles: The Tank’s Journey Home

<–Panelist, Lisabeth Mackall

Dryer, Lisa Survivor

Lisa Dryer, survivor – former Renaissance Fair actor

Panelist, Lisa Dryer –>

If you missed this show, “Holidays – Less Stress – More Fun” on “Another Fork in the Road” with survivor, Lisa Dryer and caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall, and me on December 6th, 2015, don’t fret. You can listen to the archived show here.

Click the link below.


See you “On the Air!”

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” with Panelists: Survivor, Lisa Dryer and Caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall Topic: Holidays – Less Stress – More Fun!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

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

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it intact with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.


SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury . . . . . Jen Swartz

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Jen Swartz

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Jen Swartz (survivor)

Jen Swartz Survivor

Jen Swartz

One incredible fact that I have learned after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is that really simple things in life bring me happiness. I

Jen Swartz 2

Jen Swartz

don’t require spending tons of money on a house, on a car, or on an extraordinarily expensive vacation to find happiness. Being with my awesome friends or my family or enjoying the smaller things in life really brings so much joy to my heart. Because I survived something that could have easily taken my life, I know I still have purpose. As do all of you!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

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

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Jennifer Stokley Transitioning and Brain Injury

Transitioning Can Work in Odd and Wonderful Ways


Jennifer Stokley


Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingWhen I moved into my new home back in September, I was a stranger – scared and so alone. I had neighbors on either side, but they were strangers. Strangers terrify me.

Behind me was a family with three young children and a big floppy dog. I am not sure how it happened. (I forget these things – “TBI Memory” – LOL.) Maybe it was the doggie that made me go out and meet them, but who cares? I went. And, it totally changed my world forever!

Next thing I knew, I was playing with their dog almost every day and sitting on their bench out front to see the kids go off to school every morning so I could say hello and “Have a great day!” I went out again every day to greet them when they came home from school. I became good friends with the mother, who turned out to have been a nurse prior to being a stay-at-home momma.

The mother was very familiar with folks like me – with a TBI. What are the odds of that? She wrote me a beautiful poem about new starts in my life. While reading it to me, she started to cry. She had to regain her composure and begin again. At the end, we were both crying. We ended up hugging. Wow! I was so grateful for her huge heart and her understanding.

Her husband would mow my yard when he did his own and never asked for anything in return. I was amazed and so grateful that they understood I was completely unable. They did it because they cared.Jennifer Stokely 3 Survivor 052615

One day, I joined the kids in a leaf fight in their yard (in my PJs! – LOL), along with the parents’ autistic son – my best buddy, with whom I had a special connection for some reason. He came over, sat down with me, threw leaves into the air with me, and giggled. He even lay down and wanted me to cover him with leaves to his chest (none on is face or neck – sensation issues – I understood) so he could pop out of the leaves like the rest of the kids were doing. His parents’ chins were on the ground, I swear. I don’t think they had ever seen him connect and want to play like this before. Once he popped out and had a leaf in his hair that upset him. I asked him if I could remove it for him. He said yes, so I did, and the playing resumed.

The best part came at the end, though. I thought his parents’ heads were going to explode! I put my hand out and told him, “Give me a high five!” He slapped my hand as hard as he could. I don’t think his parents had ever seen him give physical contact by choice to anyone not family.

His parents got him a new puppy, all his own. One of the kids had let the puppy out by accident. No one knew it was gone. I was outside doing something, and the puppy ran around the other side of my house and straight to me! Yay! I was able to save the puppy, give it some loving, and carry it home – safe and sound.

This family brought me so many blessings by being my neighbors in a new, strange, and scary environment. They just sold their home and have begun moving into their new home. But, the blessings keep coming. My two nephews bought their place, so I will have family living behind me, after having pseudo family living there.

Jennifer Stokely Survivor 052615Miracles work in mysterious ways for sure! I will sure miss that family. But, I am grateful for the wonderful memories they gave me and for being there to help make my transition feel so safe and protected. I wish them well on their new journey.


Thank you, Jennifer Stokely.

You can learn more about Jennifer on the following sites.

SSS (Semi-Support Sisterhood) for TBI Survivors


Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Jennifer Stokley.)


As I say after each post:

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

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the lower right corner of your screen.

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

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

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