Monthly Archives: December 2013

Study from Down Under Shows Concussion Management Widely Misunderstood

An article in The Age reported on a study, which revealed that “most coaches and trainers of community football and rugby league teams do not know how to manage concussion in a player.”

“The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Ballarat, found that while almost all coaches and trainers surveyed could identify most of the key signs of concussion in a player, most had a limited or flawed understanding of how to manage such injuries, including ensuring it was safe for a player to return to the field.

“Fewer than 50 per cent knew that a concussed player was at increased risk of sustaining another concussion, and fewer than 25 per cent recognized that younger players typically take longer to recover from concussion.”

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Boston Globe Explores Cantu’s ‘Tangled’ Connections in the Concussion Industry

Investigative journalism is a lost art in America today.

That’s why we didn’t see an article on the most prominent man in the concussion crisis, Bob Cantu, until now.

That is not to say Cantu is guilty of anything, except trying to raising the consciousness about a very important issue. It is just that the litany of connections he has in the concussion industry deserve further examination.

In an article in the December 28 Boston Globe, journalist Bob Hohler wrote:

“Cantu’s roots in the field have grown so tangled that his connections with parties on many sides of the concussion crisis have become emblematic of the conflicting interests in the football, helmet, medical, and scientific communities.”

The article focuses specifically on one of the organizations that Cantu “helps guide” — the safety organization called the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

“NOCSAE has long been primarily funded by the nation’s football helmet manufacturers, and those companies generally have opposed allowing aftermarket safety products — primarily impact sensors that measure hits to the head and soft-shell caps aimed at cushioning the blows — to be added to their helmets, citing liability issues,” according to the article.

“Cantu has served for 17 years as a vice president of NOCSAE. The nonprofit was formed in 1969 by a coalition of athletic organizations, health interests, and sporting goods manufacturers to improve helmet safety after 36 college and high school football players died the previous year of neck and head injuries. Many of those injuries involved skull fractures, which rarely occur today.

“Helmet executives have long served on NOCSAE’s board of directors and now control four of the board’s 16 votes.

“‘It’s the definition of a conflict of interest,’ said Stefan Duma, who heads the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences and has led several independent studies of helmets and concussions. ‘If nearly 100 percent of your money comes from the manufacturers, then it’s difficult to say you’re independent of them.'”

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Are Concussions Related to Alzheimer’s Disease?

A new study suggests that a history of concussion involving at least a momentary loss of consciousness may be related to the buildup of Alzheimer’s disease-associated plaques in the brain. The research is published in the December 26, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Interestingly in people with a history of concussion, a difference in the amount of  brain plaques was found only in those with memory and thinking problems, not in those who were cognitively normal,” said study author Michelle Mielke, PhD, with  Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.  

For the study, people from Olmsted County in Minnesota were given brain scans; these included 448 people without any signs of memory problems and 141 people with memory and thinking problems called mild cognitive impairment. Participants, who were all age 70 or older, were also asked about whether they had ever experienced a brain injury that involved any loss of consciousness or memory.

Of the 448 people without any thinking or memory problems, 17 percent reported a brain injury and 18 percent of the 141 with memory and thinking difficulties reported a concussion or head trauma.

The study found no difference in any brain scan measures among the people without memory and thinking impairments, whether or not they had head trauma. However, people with memory and thinking impairments and a history of head trauma had levels of amyloid plaques an average of 18 percent higher than those with no head trauma history.

“Our results add merit to the idea that concussion and Alzheimer’s disease brain pathology may be related,” said Mielke. “However, the fact that we did not find a relationship in those without memory and thinking problems suggests that any association between head trauma and amyloid is complex.”

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Alexander Family Alzheimer’s Disease Research Professorship, GE Healthcare, the Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation, the MN Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics and the Robert H. and Clarice Smith and Abigail van Buren Alzheimer’s Disease Research Program.

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