Posts Tagged ‘football players’

The Biggest Sports Injury Story of 2014

The biggest, most pervasive sports injury story of the year has to be the effects of concussions on football players.

From professional to college to high school players, sports-related brain injuries have become a concern in football.

Studies show that the effects of multiple concussions can be long lasting, including depression, cognitive problems, and even an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.college football concussions

Thousands of retired National Football League (NFL) players who have suffered concussion-related injuries and disabilities filed a class-action lawsuit against the league, claiming that it did not do enough to protect their health and did not tell them about the long-term dangers of repeated head injuries.

Public awareness of the dangers of concussions was again raised after Ohio State University defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge, who had a history of concussions during his college career, was found dead in late November as the result of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In early December, a study found that high school football players may develop impact-related brain changes over the course of a single season.

Players who experienced higher levels of head impacts showed the most changes, even in the absence of concussion.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may have worn a larger helmet to help him prevent further concussions in this year’s Super Bowl game, but even hits to the head that don’t result in concussions can affect athletes’ brains and may impact learning.

This makes some athletes more susceptible to repeated head impacts that do not involve concussions.

NEW LAWS, MORE AWARENESS

The good news is that new laws regulating concussion treatment plus awareness of concussions have resulted in a large increase in the treatment of concussion-related injuries for school-age athletes, according to a new study published online on December 22, 2014 in JAMA Pediatrics.

A University of Michigan study designed to evaluate the impact of new concussion laws found a 92% increase in children seeking medical assistance for concussions in states with the legislation in place.

States without concussion laws showed a 75% increase in those seeking injury-related health care.

“There are two stories here,” said senior author Steven Broglio, Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and Director of the NeuroSport Research Laboratory.

“First, the legislation works.

The other story is that broad awareness of an injury has an equally important effect. We found large increases in states without legislation, showing that just general knowledge plays a huge part.”

As of 2014, all states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that outline medical care for young athletes.

The laws differ slightly, but most call for education of coaches or students, the immediate removal of an athlete from a game, or medical clearance before an athlete can return to a sport.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

Another way to prevent brain injuries may be to add a vision-based test to evaluate athletes on the sidelines.

This may allow sports medicine doctors to better detect more athletes with concussion more quickly, which is particularly important since not all athletes reliably report their symptoms of concussion, including any vision problems.

Others are taking a more technological approach to protecting players.

Several companies have put sensors or magnets in helmets or mouth guards to detect or absorb the forces of hits to the head, with the hope of further reducing the risk of brain injury to young athletes.

The sensors cannot prevent or diagnose a concussion, but they can alert coaches and trainers to take the proper steps to determine if a player has a concussion.

Let’s hope that these and other safety measures are made at all levels of football and translate into fewer concussions next year.

Simple Blood Test May Identify Concussion

A simple blood test may be able to identify football players who have suffered brain damage from hits to the head, even if they don’t have a concussion.

Much attention is being paid to concussions among football players and the big hits that cause them.

No single test can reliably diagnose a concussion, said Jeffrey Kutcher, MD, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, at a recent press conference to announce the just-released, newly updated guidelines on sports concussions by the American Academy of Neurology.

Concussions can be difficult to diagnose, relying on player symptoms, cognitive tests, or very costly brain scans.

A $40 blood test for a protein, called S100B, normally found only in the brain may offer an objective measure of whether a player has endured head trauma.

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and University of Rochester have found that elevated blood levels of the S100B protein directly correlate to the number and severity of hits to the head during college football games.

Body contact or simply playing in a football game did not affect S100B levels in the players.

In an interview with the lead author, Damir Janigro, Ph.D., professor of molecular medicine and the director of cerebrovascular research group at Cleveland Clinic, he gave me
a scenario of how the blood test may be used.

“In a situation where a player is suspected of having a concussion, we could validate that by a blood test the following day,” says Janigro.

“If the test is positive for S100B, we can assume the player had some concussive event.

If the blood test is normal, we can assume the player did not have a concussion.”

In effect, the blood test could tell whether the player needs medical attention as a result of the in-game hits to the head.

In a study of 67 college football players, Janigro and colleagues found that the more hits to the head a player absorbed, the higher the levels of S100B leaked into the bloodstream after a head injury.

Typically, S100B is found only in the brain, says Janigro.

Finding it in the blood indicates damage to the layer of cells that prevent materials from the blood from entering the brain, the so-called blood-brain barrier.

Once in the bloodstream, S100B is seen by the immune system as a foreign invader, triggering an autoimmune response that releases auto-antibodies against it.

Those antibodies then seep back into the brain through the damaged blood-brain barrier, attacking brain tissue and leading to long-term brain damage.

Four of the football players tested showed signs of an autoimmune response to S100B.

Brain scans confirmed that the presence of S100B antibodies in the players’ blood correlated with brain tissue damage.

“To our surprise, even when players don’t have a concussion, the blood-brain barrier opens,” says Janigro, adding that many European countries do blood tests for S100B to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury.

Janigro and colleagues Nicola Marchi, Ph.D., of the Cleveland Clinic and Jeffrey Bazarian, M.D., M.P.H., of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Rochester Medical Center, published their research on March 6, 2013, in the online journal PLOS ONE.

“And to our surprise a few of the non-concussed players had changes in brain scans and balance tests after the season,” says Janigro, noting that these players had the most openings in the blood-brain barrier.

With further tests, Janigro says he plans to figure out at what blood level of S100B players should stop playing to prevent further brain damage.

He also plans to look at former college football players and retired National Football League players to see whether they have S100B autoantibodies in the brain.

“It’s a matter of brain health,” says Janigro. “We don’t have a good experimental design to look at brain health, other than scans.”

He hopes to use the blood test to point out the risk factors associated with hits to the head as well as a pre-screening tool to narrow down those who may need to go for a brain scan to confirm a brain injury.