Category Archives: General

Judge Grants Summary Judgment to Arena Football One

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from the recent issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. To read the full article, please subscribe at http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

A federal judge from the Eastern District of Louisiana has granted partial summary judgment to Arena Football One (AFO) in a case in which it was sued by a player, who suffered multiple concussions while playing in the league.

In so ruling, the court relied on two pivotal findings; that the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate that AFO intended for the plaintiff to get hurt and second that there is no direct nexus between playing football and suffering a concussion.

By way of background, plaintiff Lorenzo Breland alleged that he sustained his initial concussion while playing for the Tulsa Talons in 2011, which is part of the AFO.

After the team doctor diagnosed Breland with a concussion, he alleged the team encouraged him to return and he started the following game. Subsequently, he played for the New Orleans Voodoo. The plaintiff alleged that he sustained a severe blow to the head during a game on April 11, 2014, which caused a second concussion. Breland claimed that, after the 2014 incident, he received inadequate medical attention and care and was pressured to return to playing football before he was fully rehabilitated. He alleged that, after complaining to the coach about his continued health problems, he was sent to a speech pathologist. The plaintiff alleged that this head injury caused him to remain bedridden for six weeks, and that he was ultimately suspended from the league and cut from the Voodoo. Breland claimed that the second concussion ended his career, and the defendants did not pay for his ongoing medical care or rehabilitation to allow him to return to play in a healthy manner. The plaintiff alleged that he continues to suffer long-term problems, including dizziness, memory loss, headaches, weight loss, neck aches and fatigue, and that he faces an increased risk for future disorders as a result of the injuries.

As part of his lawsuit, he asked for damages, past and future medical expenses related to the concussions, and medical monitoring to facilitate the diagnosis and treatment of future disorders caused by the injuries. The plaintiff claimed …

Posted in Football, General, Outside U.S., Professional | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Blows to the Head Cause Numerous Small Swellings Along the Length of Neuronal Axons

Researchers from The Ohio State University have announced they have discovered how blows to the head cause numerous small swellings along the length of neuronal axons. The study, “Polarity of varicosity initiation in central neuron mechanosensation,” which will be published June 12 in The Journal of Cell Biology, observes the swelling process in live cultured neurons and could lead to new ways of limiting the symptoms associated with concussive brain injuries.

Mild traumatic brain injuries, or concussions, cause a variety of temporary symptoms, including headache, nausea, and memory loss. But the effects of concussive impacts on neurons in the brain are poorly understood. One such effect is the development of “axonal varicosities,” small, bead-like swellings that appear along the length of neuronal axons, which are the parts of neurons that transmit electrical and chemical signals to neighboring nerve cells. Similar swellings are seen in the degenerating axons of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.

Chen Gu and colleagues at The Ohio State University discovered that they could induce the formation of axonal varicosities in hippocampal neurons grown in the lab by “puffing” them with bursts of liquid from a small pipette. The pressure exerted by these puffs was similar to the forces neurons might experience after a blow to the head.

The axonal varicosities formed rapidly, particularly in younger neurons where they swelled up within 5 seconds of being puffed. A surprise to the researchers was that the varicosities disappeared several minutes after puffing, indicating that they are not a sign of irreversible axon degeneration.

Gu and colleagues could also induce axonal varicosities by repeatedly puffing cultured neurons with shorter bursts of liquid, mimicking the effects of repetitive, subconcussive impacts. Accordingly, the team also saw axonal varicosities in the brains of mice subjected to repeated light blows to the head.

The researchers found that puffing activated a mechanosensitive channel protein called TRPV4, which is enriched in the membrane of neuronal axons and allows calcium ions to enter the cell. Inhibiting this channel blocked the formation of axonal varicosities.

After entering axons through activated TRPV4 channels, calcium ions appear to disrupt the microtubule cytoskeleton by inhibiting a microtubule-stabilizing protein called STOP. This interrupts the transport of cellular materials along axonal microtubules, causing these materials to accumulate at several points along the axon where they may give rise to varicosities.

Older neurons, which are more resistant to the effects of puffing, express lower levels of TRPV4 and higher levels of STOP. “It will be interesting to determine whether these factors make a mature brain more resistant to mild traumatic brain injury than a young brain,” says Gu.

Puffing didn’t induce varicosities along the lengths of dendrites, the parts of neurons that receive chemical signals from neighboring nerve cells. Instead, the researchers found that dendritic, but not axonal, varicosities could be induced by prolonged treatment with glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter that is released from damaged axons.

“Taken together, our findings provide novel mechanistic insights into the initial stage of a new type of neuronal plasticity in health and disease,” says Gu, who points out that axonal varicosities have also been observed in healthy brains where neurons may respond to mechanical signals from their environment. “This process may therefore play a key role in neural development and central nervous system function in adults, as well as in chronic brain disorders and various acute brain injuries.”

Posted in Football, General, Hockey, Other Sports | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Virginia Tech Helmet Lab Announces First Four-Star Rating for New Hockey Helmet

A newly released hockey helmet has earned four out of five stars from the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings, scoring higher than any other helmet since the first hockey ratings were released two years ago.

The new helmet, the Bauer RE-AKT 200, is the first to earn more than three stars. The star rating system, developed by researchers in the Virginia Tech Helmet Lab, rates a helmet’s ability to reduce the risk of concussion in the event of a head impact. All sports helmets, including those for hockey, must meet an impact-protection standard that evaluates the ability of helmets to minimize catastrophic head injury on a pass-fail basis.

“We supplement the standard by providing additional data so consumers can see the relative differences between helmets,” said Steve Rowson, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics in the College of Engineering and director of the Helmet Lab. “We make that data available and release our testing methodology, which then becomes an additional design tool for the manufacturers.”

Using a headform instrumented with sensors, the Helmet Lab team simulates a range of impacts that a player might experience during a game, and measures how much the helmet reduces the head’s linear and rotational acceleration.

Rowson and Stefan Duma, the Harry Wyatt Professor of Engineering and interim director of the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, began evaluating football helmets in 2011, designing the test methods based on millions of impacts they recorded from Virginia Tech football players.

The Helmet Lab team started testing hockey helmets a few years later, and has since rated more than 40 models.

Hockey players hit their heads on the ice, the glass around the rink, or each other; these surfaces can be rigid and players are typically traveling at high speeds, so impacts may be more severe than in other contact sports.

And hockey helmets tend to be light and thin, which limits their ability to reduce the force of a hit. In order to effectively absorb energy during an impact, thinner foam must be stiff. Thicker, softer foam that has more time to compress can cushion a broader range of impacts. The new Bauer helmet has slightly thicker padding than other models.

“I think this is the first example of the hockey helmet manufacturers using this test methodology and ratings protocol to influence the design,” Rowson said. “What we wanted to do was set a framework for improvement in protective design.”

The team’s methods have already contributed to improvements in football helmet design. When the first batch of ratings was released, only one helmet earned five stars. Today, 16 do, and virtually all new helmets get high marks.

“With the helmet ratings, we provide unbiased data and a transparent process that manufacturers can use to inform their design process and consumers can use to guide their choices,” Duma said. “We’ve been glad to have the opportunity to work with helmet companies to drive innovation, because we all have the same goal: to keep athletes as safe as possible.”

The team is also developing five-star ratings for bicycle and lacrosse helmets and soccer headgear.

Rowson says that helmets are just one piece of the equation in eliminating concussions. Behavioral changes in sports — for example, banning body-checking in youth hockey — can make an even more significant difference in reducing the number of injuries.

“You want to eliminate as many head impacts as you can, and then have the very best head protection in the event that you do hit your head,” he said.

The team’s current ratings are available online, and updated on a rolling basis.

Posted in College, Football, General, High School, Hockey, Other Sports, Products | Tagged , , | Leave a comment