The latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience (April 22, 2015) reports on animal research from the University of Kentucky which “adds to an increasing body of knowledge strongly indicating that traumatic brain injury is a contributor to increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s Disease-relevant pathologies, including cognitive dysfunction.”
The authors begin by noting that “epidemiological studies have associated increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease-related clinical symptoms with a medical history of head injury,” but that “little is known about the pathophysiological mechanisms linked to this association.” Prior studies, as well as this study, did find that persistent neuroinflammation is one outcome observed in patients after a single head injury. Read More
A new study published in the Annals of Neurology – the official journal of the American Neurological Association – adds further evidence in support of our growing understanding that TBI, especially moderate/severe TBI or repetitive mild TBI, often triggers a “progressive neurodegenerative process” that accelerates over time. As discussed in prior posts, TBI is now conceptualized as potentially a chronic disease triggered by injury, not as an isolated event. Hopefully this understanding will lead in the future to interventions designed to halt or slow the disease process.
The recent study, published in the April 2015 issue, reports on the results of research at the Imperial College London, where brain scans of over 1500 healthy people were analyzed to develop a computer program that could predict a person’s age from their brain scan. The program was then used to estimate the “brain age” of 113 more healthy people and 99 people who had suffered TBIs. The brains of the TBI patients were on average five years older than their real age would predict. Read More
The New England Journal of Medicine has published the most exhaustive analysis to date of brain injury in children and adolescents. The results reinforce the critical importance of safety helmets for children under 12 and the importance of safety helmets and seatbelts for adolescents.
The data analyzed in the study was from over 40,000 pediatric brain injuries. The most common cause of trauma in children under 12 was falls, often from bicycles. Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries and assaults were the most frequent mechanisms of injury among adolescents. Read More
The weight of scientific evidence demonstrates that “diffusion tensor imaging” is an effective tool for demonstrating damage to the white matter of the brain associated with mild traumatic brain injury.
The damage typically associated with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is in the axons, the microscopic fiber tracts in the white matter of the brain too small to be seen by conventional tools such as MRI and CT. In fact an individual with a perfectly normal MRI and CT could even be in a coma due to a brain injury. Treatment providers have been left to infer injury from clinical symptoms. However, even the most commonly used clinical tools, such as neuropsychological assessment, are generally seen as insensitive to the subtle, but sometimes life altering, effects of mTBIs. Read More
Findings released on November 25, 2014 in the Journal of Neurotrauma indicate that the presence of a blood protein known as SNTF shortly after a sports-related concussion can predict the severity of post-concussion symptoms in professional athletes.
The authors of the study – Robert Simon, PhD, and Douglas H. Smith, MD, professor of neurosurgery and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania – noted upon release of this study of SNTF in concussion patients that
“these observations lend further support to the growing awareness that concussion is not trivial, since it can induce permanent brain damage in some individuals.” Read More
On the evening of November 13, 2014 the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 2539, the Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act of 2014, (TBIRA) sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and co-sponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). The next step is for the bill to be signed by President Obama.
With Republicans and Democrats bitterly divided on most public policy issues, it is encouraging to see them come together on how to approach what is now being recognized as a serious public health issue – traumatic brain injury. Read More
Researchers at the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute, a leading neuroscience research facility, recently announced the results of research showing that the only drug currently approved to treat the crippling effects of stroke shows promise, when administered as a nasal spray, to help heal the effects of less severe forms of traumatic brain injury. This is exciting news, since researchers have been struggling unsuccessfully for years to find an effective drug treatment for TBI. The research results are based on animal studies, so further work will be needed to determine the best dose and window for administration in humans. Read More
Good News for Future Players, Bad News for Past and Current Players Left to Seek Compensation on an Individual Basis
On July 29, 2014, the NCAA and representatives of college athletes announced an agreement to settle a concussion class action lawsuit that came on the heels of a similar lawsuit against the NFL. The settlement will need to be approved by the Court, a process that could take several months. It is anticipated that several former athletes experiencing the long-term effects of concussions suffered in college sports will object to the settlement, since it does not provide any direct compensation – unlike the proposed settlement in the NFL case. Players with concussion claims are left to pursue those claims on an individual basis. Read More
Several recent developments demonstrate increasing recognition of the serious potential consequences of concussion, and commitment to minimize those consequences through appropriate treatment of concussion:
Physicians have an ethical obligation to become knowledgeable about concussion.
On June 9, 2014 the American Academy of Neurology, the largest professional association of neurologists, released a position paper stating that doctors have an ethical obligationto educate and protect athletes from sports concussion and clear them to play only when the athlete is medically ready, standing firm against objections from players, athletes and coaches. The statement declares that sports concussion “is a major issue in the world of health care” and requires more attention from physicians. Read More
Different symptom patterns of concussion depend on the precise nature of the damage to the brain
Medical research is increasingly identifying the various ways a concussion can impact the brain and is providing explanations for why different symptoms persist in a subset of people diagnosed with concussion, based on the anatomy and physiology of the brain.