Category Archives: College
Concussions and repetitive head injuries are not just experienced by pro players. In fact, more than three-quarters of the football players in the United States are under the age of 14 and they are just as – and perhaps more – susceptible to head injuries because their brains are still developing.
Should these three million youngsters be playing the sport?
“Most pro football players probably began playing the game as children, so it is imperative that we conduct more scientific research to fully understand the effects of repeated hits to the brains of children and teens,” said Joel Stitzel, Ph.D., chairman of the Wake Forest School of Biomedical Engineering and Science.
“But completely banning children from playing football is not the best option. Team sports, including football, have many positive benefits for kids, so finding ways to make these sports safer should be our objective. Pop Warner football already has made important changes to its regulations, and more needs to be done to improve equipment, practice guidelines and regulations based on the most current research findings.”
Stitzel and his team at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are collaborating with researchers at Virginia Tech and two other universities on the largest and most comprehensive biomedical study of youth football players to date. The five-year project is being funded by a $3.3 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health. The potential impact of this study is significant because there are more than 3 million youth football players across the country.
Abbott, Hennepin County Medical Center and University of Minnesota Collaborate to Launch the Nation’s Largest, Single-Center Prospective Study on Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury
Researchers at Hennepin County Medical Center (Minneapolis, Minn.) and the University of Minnesota are launching a study in collaboration with Abbott (NYSE: ABT) “to better identify the range of brain injuries among patients. Using multiple evaluation tools, including eye tracking, blood-based biomarkers, imaging and cognitive measures, scientists hope to develop a new standard approach to help classify brain injuries, including concussions, and provide the information needed to guide doctors’ treatment decisions.”
“We know that there are different types of brain damage that can occur after trauma, whether it’s a mild concussion or a severe injury,” said neurosurgeon Uzma Samadani, M.D., Ph.D., Rockswold Kaplan Endowed Chair for TBI Research at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), associate professor at the University of Minnesotaand one of the lead investigators of the study. “Our goal with this study is to combine multiple assessment techniques to quickly assess the severity of brain injuries and enable clinicians to provide appropriate treatments.”
USING VARIOUS TOOLS TO ASSESS HEAD INJURY
Dr. Samadani’s prior work suggests that eye tracking may detect injury in the brain, which is not always visible in imaging such as a CT scan. In the study, researchers will use eye tracking, which involves a high-frequency camera to map the positions of the pupils as a person watches a video or TV.
“Data have shown a connection between brain injury and abnormal eye movements,” said Dr. Samadani. “With new high-resolution cameras, we can detect subtle differences in movement much more easily and objectively than in the past.”
The study will also employ blood-based biomarker evaluations, as research suggests that certain biomarkers could indicate brain injury. Beth McQuiston, M.D., medical director, Diagnostics, Abbott and co-sponsor of the study says, “When someone experiences a head injury like a concussion, specific protein biomarkers will be found in the blood. If the protein levels are higher than normal, that may show a brain injury has occurred and serve as a warning bell that further evaluation is needed.”
Abbott researchers are working on a test designed to detect the specific proteins in the blood associated with brain injury and help evaluate potential concussions. The test, which is currently in development, would be analyzed on Abbott’s i-STAT – a handheld, portable device that is used to perform a broad range of blood tests right at a person’s side.
Lastly, the Minnesota Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program will fund MRI imaging to be used in the study to look for finer structural issues that may not be visible in CT scans. Imaging studies will include MRI scans not typically performed on trauma patients and may help identify tiny areas of bleeding or other damage to the brain.
“Imaging tells us what the brain looks like, eye tracking tells us how well it’s working and blood-based biomarkers can tell us the nature of the damage,” said Thomas Bergman, M.D., study co-investigator and Chief of Neurosurgery at HCMC. “When we put all of this information together, we will have a better understanding about brain injury that will help us treat patients now and in the future.”
ADDITIONAL STUDY DETAILS
Researchers plan to screen 9,000 trauma patients and enroll at least 1,000 of them as part of the study. Patients could range from children to elderly adults, as well as people who are conscious to those in coma. Enrolled patients will be followed for up to one year, making the research the largest single-center, prospective study of TBI in the country.
Additional co-investigators on the study include: Dr. James Miner, Chief of Emergency Department at HCMC; Dr.Fred Apple, HCMC Laboratory Director; Dr. Chad Richardson, Chief of Trauma Surgery at HCMC; HCMC neurosurgeons Dr. Gaylan Rockswold and Dr. Walter Galicich; Dr. Dave Gilbertson, Co-Director of the Chronic Disease Research Group at the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation and Dr. Sarah Rockswold, Director of the Brain Injury Center at HCMC.
(Editor’s Note: What follows is a summary of a decision involving a cheerleader and a concussion she suffered. To see the full story, subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter at this link – https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)
A state court judge in Pennsylvania affirmed a ruling that university should not be held liable for a concussion that a college cheerleader suffered in a training camp that was required by university.
The judge reasoned that the cheerleader failed to show that the university breached a duty regarding stunt instruction and supervision at the camp, which was conducted by Universal Cheerleader Association (UCA) at another university.
In 2010, the plaintiff was an incoming freshman at the university, where she was selected as a member of the university’s cheerleading squad coached by the head coach. Prior to starting college, she attended a pre-camp for the cheerleaders run by the coach. The cheerleaders, including the coach, then attended a mandatory camp at the other university conducted by UCA.
On August 12, 2010, while at the UCA camp, the plaintiff and three other cheerleaders were practicing a new stunt called a rewind. Three individuals at the base were to propel her upward, she would perform a tuck in the air, and the base would catch her. The UCA instructors demonstrated the stunt one or two times, breaking it down into steps, according to the plaintiff. On the first attempt, the base caught the plaintiff, but she did not fully complete the stunt. She was not sure whether her coach was present for that attempt but, she did not expect her to be there observing her group. Prior to the next attempt, she asked for more spotters in addition to the UCA instructor, and UCA brought in two cheerleaders to spot. This time, the plaintiff landed on top of her bases. While they caught her body, the back of her head hit the floor. She sustained a closed head injury, concussion, cervical strain and sprain, impaired vision in her right eye, and injuries to her jaw and neck.
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