Monday, November 1, 2010

Are we doing enough?

Even with all of the new evidence and research surrounding concussions in sport (especially football), are we doing enough? The Arizona Republic had an editorial Monday 11/1/10 emphasizing the need for Alzheimer’s disease funding (Nation must fund Alzheimer’s fight). They (Arizona Republic) projected that there will be more than 7.8 million people over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s disease in the year 2030 (up from the current 5.1 million). This is a population that was participating in high school and college athletics in the 1970s and 1980s. When concussions were referred to as “getting your bell rung” or “getting your clock cleaned” and considered a mild injury. To some athletes, this seemed to be a rite of passage. If a head injury did not have signs of a physical injury, the athlete was released to play quickly. Unknown during this period was that concussions are more of a metabolic injury. These are injuries that do not show physical signs of damage to the brain. A question that needs to be considered is: Do these Alzheimer’s disease projections include the results of concussive and non-concussive injuries received by participating in athletics in the 70s and 80s? There is a lot of evidence from research conducted by Boston University (and others) that point to concussive and sub-concussive injuries being a cause of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has been linked to dementia that is related to or similar to Alzheimer’s and ALS. New research from Purdue University was reported nationally on 11/1/10 in Sports Illustrated (The Damage Done) and is to published in the Journal of Neurotrauma is bring to light that damage to the brain may be starting at a relatively young age and by hits that everyone takes for granted in football and are nowhere near close to being penalized. Twenty three football athletes from Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana were given the ImPACT neurocognitive test (while their brains were being monitored by an MRI scan) and had their football helmets fitted with accelerometers. These athletes were then followed, measuring the forced to their helmets and 11 were given follow-up ImPACT neurocognitive tests (post injury if necessary) during mid-season. Four football athletes (of the 11) tested showed signs of visual memory loss. With this new information, the question needs to be asked. Are we doing enough to help keep athletes from being part of the projected statistical increase in Alzheimer’s disease?

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