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Combating Concussions: Impact Sensors For NFL Players’ Helmets

Anyone who’s ever watched football, the American variety, knows how rough of a sport it can be. With 22 fast-moving players (some weighing as much as 350 pounds) scrambling and tackling for possession of the pigskin, injuries are inevitable.

One of the scariest injuries a football player can get is a concussion. With its commonly insidious onset, concussions of the brain are often difficult to diagnose, or immediately treat to avoid long-term consequences.

The National Football League (NFL) has announced that they will be launching a pilot program next season in which accelerometers will be placed in players’ mouthpieces, earpieces, and helmets to analyze how blows to the head relate to the effects and severity of concussions and other traumatic brain injuries. The data could potentially help team doctors diagnose the severity of a concussion within a few minutes. Collected long-term from groups of players, the impact data could help coaches and doctors determine how players get injured and the possible effects of such injuries. Such data could also help engineers design a better football helmet.

As long as the game of football continues to be played, concussions will be pretty much impossible to avoid. However, changing technology and increasing knowledge of traumatic brain injury will hopefully only make football a safer, more enjoyable sport.

Wired article: Impact Sensors Slated for NFL Helmets Next Season…

Medgadget archive: Football helmet technology…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Brain Damage, Behavior, And Football

In psychiatry, we’ve had a hard time drawing precise links between brain pathology and psychiatric disorders. We can do it for groups of people: “Disease X” is associated with changes in brain structure of “Brain Area Y” or metabolic changes in “Brain Area Z.” But it’s groups, not individuals, and it’s an association, not a cause-and-effect, or a definite. We still can’t use this information for diagnosis, and there are still patients with any given psychiatric diagnoses who will have brains where “Area Y” is the same size as those without the disorder. We’re learning.

From what I read in this New York Times article, Owen Thomas was a bright, talented young man with no history of psychiatric disorder and no history of known concussion. In April, he committed suicide — a tragedy beyond words.

Sometime people commit suicide and everyone is left to wonder: There was no depression, no obvious precipitant, no note left behind, and every one is left to wonder why. The guilt toll on the survivors is enormous, as is the grief for their families and communities. In this case, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the young man was apparently struggling with the stress of difficult school work and concerns about his team and employment.

Owen’s family donated his brain to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. They discovered that Owen’s brain showed damage similar to that seen in older NFL players — he had a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Concussions In Younger Athletes Are On The Rise

Young athlete holding headA study published earlier this week by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “the number of sport-related concussions is highest in high school-aged athletes, but the number in younger athletes is significant and on the rise.” Why is this? Many believe this is from better recognition of the symptoms and the need to be medically evaluated.

I did a couple of interviews with local TV news to talk about the subject (Video 1 and Video 2). In my research on this subject, I found an article from the Dayton Daily News stating that the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) passed a policy in May 2010:

Any athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared with written authorization by an appropriate health care professional.

In addition, on the OHSAA website there’s an entire section devoted to concussions and head injuries. I have also read that other states have taken similar steps, especially with high school and younger athletes.

If you find the videos in this post helpful, I encourage you to see my other interviews on health-related topics at MikeSevilla.TV

*This blog post was originally published at Doctor Anonymous*

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