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Study: Playing Smartphone App Actually Aids Concussion Recovery in Teens

Generally, after suffering a concussion, patients are encouraged to avoid reading, watching TV and using mobile devices to help their brains heal. But new research shows that teen-agers who used a mobile health app once a day in conjunction with medical care improved concussion symptoms and optimism more than with standard medical treatment alone.

Researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center collaborated on the study with Jane McGonigal of the Institute for the Future, who developed the mobile health app called SuperBetter after she suffered a concussion.

Results of the study are published online in the journal Brain Injury.

The 19 teens who participated in the study received standard of care for concussion symptoms that persisted beyond 3 weeks after the head injury, and the experimental group also used the SuperBetter app as a gamified symptoms journal.

“We found that mobile apps incorporating social game mechanics and a heroic narrative can complement medical care to improve health among teenagers with unresolved concussion symptoms, said first author Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, a physical rehabilitation specialist who studies movement at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Neurological Institute.

The American Academy of Neurology recommends limiting cognitive and physical effort and prohibiting sports involvement until a concussed individual is asymptomatic without using medication. However, this level of physical, cognitive and social inactivity represents a lifestyle change with its own risk factors, including social isolation, depression and increased incidence of suicidal ideology, the researchers noted.

In addition, cognitive rest often involves limiting screen stimulation associated with popular modes of interpersonal interaction, such as text messaging and social networking on digital platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and multiplayer video gaming, thereby blocking common avenues for social connection.

“Teens who’ve had a concussion are told not to use media or screens, and we wanted to test if it was possible for them to use screens just a little bit each day, and get the bang for the buck with that,” Worthen-Chaudhari said. “The app rewrites things you might be frustrated about as a personal, heroic narrative. So you might start out feeling ‘I’m frustrated. I can’t get rid of this headache,’ and then the app helps reframe that frustration to ‘I battled the headache bad guy today. And I feel good about that hard work’.”

Concussion symptoms can include a variety of complaints, including headaches, confusion, depression, sleep disturbance, fatigue, irritability, agitation, anxiety, dizziness, difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, sensitivity to light and noise, and impaired cognitive function.

Within the SuperBetter app, symptoms were represented as bad guys such as headaches, dizziness or feeling confused, and medical recommendations were represented as power ups, including sleep, sunglasses or an academic concussion management plan. Participants invited allies to join their personal network in the app and they could view their in-app activity and could send resilience points, achievements, comments and personalized emails in response to activity.

“Since 2005, the rate of reported concussions in high school athletes has doubled, and youth are especially at risk,” said study collaborator Dr. Kelsey Logan, director of the division of sports medicine at Cincinnati Children’s. “Pairing the social, mobile app SuperBetter with traditional medical care appears to improve outcomes and optimism for youth with unresolved concussion symptoms. More study is needed to investigate ways that leveraging interactive media may complement medical care and promote health outcomes among youth with concussion and the general population.”

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Researchers Hope New Biomarkers Will Lead to Potentially Life-Saving Sports Pitch-Side Test for Brain Injury

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have identified inflammatory biomarkers which indicate whether the brain has suffered injury.

The team, led by Professor Antonio Belli, at the University’s College of Medical and Dental Sciences, now hopes to use these new biomarkers to develop a test which can be used on the side of a sports pitch or by paramedics to detect brain injury at the scene of an incident.

Dr Lisa Hill, of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, said: “Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability among young adults and, according to the World Health Organization, by 2020 TBI will become the world’s leading cause of neurological disability across all age groups.

“Early and correct diagnosis of traumatic brain injury is one of the most challenging aspects facing clinicians.

“Being able to detect compounds in the blood which help to determine how severe a brain injury is would be of great benefit to patients and aid in their treatment.

“Currently, no reliable biomarkers exist to help diagnose the severity of TBI to identify patients who are at risk of developing secondary injuries that impair function, damage other brain structures and promote further cell death.

“Thus, the discovery of reliable biomarkers for the management of TBI would improve clinical interventions.”

Inflammatory markers are particularly suited for biomarker discovery as TBI leads to very early alterations in inflammatory proteins.

In this novel study published today in Scientific Reports, blood samples were taken from 30 injured patients within the first hour of injury prior to the patient arriving at hospital.

Subsequent blood samples were taken at intervals of four hours, 12 hours and 72 hours after injury. These blood samples were then screened for inflammatory biomarkers which correlated with the severity of the injury using protein detection methods.

In the laboratory, the team used a panel of 92 inflammation-associated human proteins when analysing the blood samples, which were screened simultaneously.

The serum biomarkers were analysed from patients with mild TBI with extracranial injury, severe TBI with extracranial injury and extracranial injury only and all groups were compared to a control group of healthy volunteer patients.

The results identified three inflammatory biomarkers, known as CST5, AXIN1 and TRAIL, as novel early biomarkers of TBI.

CST5 identified patients with severe TBI from all other cohorts and, importantly, was able to do so within the first hour of injury.

AXIN1 and TRAIL were able to discriminate between TBI and uninjured patient controls in under an hour.

Dr Valentina Di Pietro, also of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, said: “Early and objective pre-hospital detection of TBI would support clinical decision making and the correct triage of major trauma.

“Moreover, the correct diagnosis of TBI, which is one of hardest diagnosis to make in medicine, would allow clinicians to implement strategies to reduce secondary brain injury at early stage, for example, by optimising blood and oxygen delivery to the brain and avoiding manoeuvres that could potentially increase intracranial pressure.

“In addition, this has potential implications for drug development, as novel compounds could be given immediately after injury and potentially commenced at the roadside, if there was sufficient confidence in the diagnosis of TBI.

“We conclude that CST5, AXIN1 and TRAIL are worthy of further study in the context of a pre-hospital or pitch-side test to detect brain injury.”

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July 2017 Issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter

Here’s the table of contents of the July 2017 (Vol. 6, No. 1) issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter, which features timely reporting on developments and legal strategies at the intersection of sports and concussions.

Articles

  • Fourth Circuit Affirms Lower Court Ruling, Finding NFL’s Post-Retirement Disability Apparatus Failed Ex-Player
  • Court Dismisses Concussion Lawsuit Against Coach as Her Inexperience Works in Her Favor
  • Boogaard Ruling Blurs NHL Liability in Head-Injury Suits
  • Negligence or Assumption of Risk? The Case of Rugby Player George North
  • A Boxing Tragedy: The Prichard Colon Case
  • Bylaw Giving Teeth to Physicians and Athletic Trainers in Return-to-Play Decisions Set to Kick Off for Division II and III
  • Head Impact Exposure Increases as Youth Football Players Get Older, Bigger
  • Magistrate Recommends That Some of Omnibus Claim From Mother and Her Concussed Daughter Can Continue
  • Looking in all the Wrong Places: The Tragic Death of Aaron Hernandez
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