Tag Archives: study

Going Behind the NFL’s Recently-Released Concussion Numbers

By David Stirt

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article that appears in February issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter)

Data released by the National Football League on Jan. 26, 2017 revealed that while there were fewer players sustaining concussions during the 2016 season (244) versus the 2015 season (271), the 2016 numbers were in line with the five-year average (242) of concussions per season. While the total number of concussions reported in 2016 is lower than the 2015 total, it is higher than the numbers reported in both 2013 (229) and 2014 (206).

“It’s certainly positive that concussions were down this year across categories, but I think putting too much focus on any one year would be mistaken,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of health and safety policy. “The goal here is to drive those numbers down through rules changes, culture changes, protocol changes, through greater observation and treatment over a longer term period of time.”

Dr. Robert Heyer, president of the NFL’s Physician’s Society and team internist for the Carolina Panthers pointed out a cultural change within the NFL that may explain, in part, why … (To subscribe, visit http://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

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U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, Olympic Gold Medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, and Super Bowl Champion Phil Villapiano pledge brains to Concussion Legacy Foundation

Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert A. McDonald, three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, and former Oakland Raiders linebacker and Super Bowl champion Phil Villapiano pledged earlier this week to donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which collaborates with the VA and Boston University as part of the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank.

The announcements of Villapiano and Hogshead-Makar were planned as part of the VA-hosted Brain Trust: Pathways to InnoVAtion, a public-private partner event which brought together many of the most influential voices in the field of brain health to identify and advance solutions for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Secretary McDonald’s announcement was not planned for the event.

“As I listened to the very powerful personal stories from Veterans and the challenges the world’s top researchers are working to overcome in TBI, I made a decision: I decided to join the hundreds of Veterans and athletes who have already donated their brain to the VA Brain Bank so that I may, in a small way, contribute to the vital research happening to better understand brain trauma,” said Secretary McDonald. “This is a very, very serious issue, one that affects Veterans and non-Veterans alike. I’m proud to do my part because I know that the researchers at VA are committed to improving lives and they have my full support.”

The pledges were made as part of the Foundation’s My Legacy campaign, which encourages athletes to leave their legacy by helping solve the concussion crisis through brain donation or other means. Villapiano pledged in honor of his former teammate, Hall of Famer Ken Stabler, who died in 2015 and was diagnosed with CTE at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank. He joins former Oakland Raiders teammates George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler, who pledged last month.

“I’d go back and smash my head into anybody, any time. I loved that kind of stuff. Little did I know what has happening inside our heads,” Villapiano said. “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a big problem and all of my friends are scared to death.”

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More than 40 Percent of Retired NFL Players Had Brain Injury

More than 40 percent of retired National Football League (NFL) players in a recent study had signs of traumatic brain injury based on sensitive MRI scans called diffusion tensor imaging, according to a study released today that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, April 15 to 21, 2016.2012-12-16 11.24.44

“This is one of the largest studies to date in living retired NFL players and one of the first to demonstrate significant objective evidence for traumatic brain injury in these former players,” said study author Francis X. Conidi, MD, DO, of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology and Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, FL. Conidi is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “The rate of traumatic brain injury was significantly higher in the players than that found in the general population.”

For the study, researchers conducted thinking and memory tests in 40 retired NFL players, along with the brain scans. The players were an average age of 36, ranging from 27 to 56. A majority of the players had been out of the NFL for less than five years. They played an average of seven years in the NFL, with a range of two to 17 years. They reported an average of 8.1 concussions. Twelve players, or 31 percent, said they had several sub-concussive hits, or hits considered below the threshold of a diagnosed concussion.

The MRIs measured the amount of damage to the brain’s white matter, which connects different brain regions, based on the movement of water molecules in the brain tissue. Seventeen players, or 43 percent, had levels of movement 2.5 standard deviations below those of healthy people of the same age, which is considered evidence of traumatic brain injury with a less than one percent error rate.

Twelve of the former athletes, or 30 percent, showed evidence on traditional MRI of injury to the brain due to disruption of the nerve axons, those parts of nerve cells that allow brain cells to transmit messages to each other. On the tests of thinking skills, about 50 percent had significant problems on executive function, 45 percent on learning or memory, 42 percent on attention and concentration, and 24 percent on spatial and perceptual function.

The more years a player spent in the NFL, the more likely he was to have the signs of traumatic brain injury on the advanced MRI. However, there was no relationship between the number of concussions a player had and whether he had traumatic brain injury based on the advanced MRI. There was also no relationship between the number of years a player spent in the NFL and whether he had signs of brain damage on the traditional MRI.

“We found that longer careers placed the athletes at a higher risk of TBI,” said Conidi. “This research in living players sheds light on the possible pathological changes consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy that may be taking place.”

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