Professor’s ‘Concussionology’ Defines Untold ‘Concussion’ Story

As controversy stirs around the movie “Concussion,” neurologist Harry Kerasidis believes viewers will begin to investigate the “untold story” of what can be done now to preserve the game, while protecting the athletes’ futures.

“One positive repercussion from the movie is that people will go home and consider what they know and believe about concussions,” said Dr. Kerasidis, medical director of the Center for Neuroscience at Calvert Memorial Hospital in Maryland, and author of “Concussionology: Redefining Sports Concussion Management for All Levels.”“This may lead them to looking for resources, information and advanced tools they can implement  — which should enhance the awareness, the game and the athletes themselves.”

Defying Misinformation

Sports concussions capture a lot of attention, and can be serious, says Dr. Kerasidis. “Unfortunately, there is void of up-to-date, accurate information and awareness of advanced tools and techniques exist — even at youth and high school levels,” said Dr. Kerasidis, who also founded the Chesapeake Neurology Associates, which has fully integrated his own XLNTbrain.complatform.

The movie features Will Smith portraying Dr. Bennet Omalu who discovered the degenerative brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) among deceased players from the National Football League.

“We’ve learned a lot about concussions, and sub-concussive hits since Dr. Omalu’s discovery,” said Dr. Kerasidis, “Concussions have emerged into a new era and field of science that blends neurology and technology. It’s one topic sports teams, parents, organizations even medical professionals need to become ‘Concussionologists.’ ”

“This is the premise of my work providing workable, highly relevant information and methods based on the latest research on concussions, as well as my 25 years treating them,” said Dr. Kerasidis.

A National High School Prototype?

Along with a lack of understanding of the brain injury, Dr. Kerasidis says high schools know they need to do something, but are constrained financially. “Perhaps the movie will also reveal the need for funding, and even unique approaches,” he said. For example, Dr. Kerasidis was instrumental in developing a prototype national plan for a integrating a seamless state-wide concussion protocol, following the Michigan example.

Through the Michigan High School Athletic Association, this school year 30 schools and approximately 10,000 student athletes and related athletic trainers, will have access to the full suite of advanced concussion care protocols, tests and tools created by Dr. Kerasidis. With the goal of offering the solution to the 300,000 athletes, the cost will be subsidized by a local or national corporate sponsor, freeing up funds at the high school level.

Other states believed to be well positioned to implement similar programs would include Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts, California and Ohio, according to Dr. Kerasidis.

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Breaking News: Study Points to Brain Abnormalities Long After Clinical Recovery from Injury

Some athletes who experience sports-related concussions have reduced blood flow in parts of their brains even after clinical recovery, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). The results suggest a role for MRI in determining when to allow concussed athletes to return to competition.

Concussions affect millions of people each year and are especially prevalent in contact sports like football. Sports are second only to motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of traumatic brain injury among people between 15 and 24 years old, according to the National Institutes of Health.Giving The Green Light To Drive After Head Trauma

Decisions to clear concussed athletes to return to action are typically based on symptoms and cognitive and neurological test results. However, there is increasing evidence that brain abnormalities persist beyond the point of clinical recovery after injury.

To find out more, researchers from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee studied concussed football players with arterial spin labeling, an advanced MRI method that detects blood flow in the brain.

“This measurement of blood flow is fully noninvasive, without radiation exposure,” said study author Yang Wang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of radiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “We use arterial blood water as a contrast tracer to measure blood flow change, which is highly associated with brain function.”

Dr. Wang and colleagues studied 18 concussed players and 19 non-concussed players. They obtained MRI of the concussed players within 24 hours of the injury and a follow-up MRI eight days after the injury and compared results with those of the non-concussed players. Clinical assessments were obtained for both groups at each time point, as well as at the baseline before the football season.

The concussed players demonstrated significant impairment on clinical assessment at 24 hours post-injury, but returned to baseline levels at eight days. In contrast to clinical manifestation, the concussed players demonstrated a significant blood flow decrease at eight days relative to 24 hours post-injury, while the non-concussed players had no change in cerebral blood flow between the two time points.

“In eight days, the concussed athletes showed clinical recovery,” Dr. Wang said. “However, MRI showed that even those in clinical recovery still had neurophysiological abnormalities. Neurons under such a state of physiologic stress function abnormally and may become more susceptible to second injury.”

While the reasons for reduced cerebral blood flow in concussed athletes are still under investigation, the findings may have important implications for decisions on when athletes are ready to return to play after head injuries, according to the study’s principal investigator, Michael McCrea, Ph.D., professor of neurosurgery and neurology and director of brain injury research the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“For years, we’ve relied on what athletes are telling us,” Dr. McCrea said. “We need something more objective, and this technology may provide a greater measurement of recovery.”

The Medical College of Wisconsin scientists are continuing their research as one of the Phase II winners of the Head Health Challenge, an initiative from the National Football League and General Electric to develop ways to speed diagnosis and improve treatment for concussion. Dr. McCrea and his team are also co-chairing the Concussion Assessment, Research and Education Consortium (CARE) project, a major national effort that will enroll more than 30,000 college athletes, making it the largest study of concussions to date.

“The nature of this research allows us to study the mechanisms of injury and recovery directly in humans rather than in animal models,” Dr. McCrea said. “Our ultimate aim is to better understand the time course of neurobiological recovery after concussion.”

Other co-authors on the study are Lindsay D. Nelson, Ph.D., Ashley A. LaRoche, Adam Y. Pfaller, B.S., Andrew S. Nencka, Ph.D., andKevin M. Koch, Ph.D.

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Family: Frank Gifford Had CTE

Iconic Hall of Fame football star Frank Gifford suffered from CTE when he died earlier this year, the family announced today.

“We as a family made the difficult decision to have [Gifford’s] brain studied in hopes of contributing to the advancement of medical research concerning the link between football and traumatic brain injury,” Gifford’s family said in a statement.

“Our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed when a team of pathologists recently diagnosed his condition as that of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) — a progressive degenerative brain disease.”

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