Monthly Archives: May 2016

Academic Dysfunction Among Injured Students Greatest Among Those with Concussions

According to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health, students with concussions show more academic dysfunction — or inability to perform at a normal academic level — one week after injury than students who experience extremity injuries.

Researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry conducted a study from September 2013 through January 2015 of high school and college students who had visited three emergency departments in the Rochester, New York, area for a sports-related concussion or musculoskeletal extremity injury. Using telephone surveys, the researchers compared self-reported academic dysfunction between students with concussions and a comparison group of students with extremity injuries at 1 week and 1 month after injury.

Results showed that students with concussions had more academic dysfunction one week after injury than students who experience extremity injuries. Students with a concussion took longer to return to school post-injury and received more academic adjustments — such as extra time on tests and tutoring. The results also showed that female students and students with a history of two or more previous concussions were more susceptible to the effects of concussion. At one-month after injury, however, there were no observed differences between students with concussions and those with extremity injuries.

“Concussed students typically return to school within a week after injury, while their brains are likely still recovering,” the authors explain. “Our results emphasize the need for return-to-learn guidelines and academic adjustments based on gender and concussion history.”

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House Report Finds NFL Attempted to Circumvent Funding for CTE Research

By Joseph M. Hanna, of Goldberg Segalla

A recent house report from the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. found that the NFL attempted to improperly sway the direction of its $30 million donation to the National Institute of Health (NIH). The report, released on Monday, May 23, 2016, confirms previous ESPN reports positing the NFL may be exerting inappropriate influence on the grant process for scientific studies into CTE.

Back in 2012, the NFL promised the NIH a $30 million donation to support research of serious medical conditions prominent in athletes. Under the parties’ agreement the NIH had exclusive control as the NFL “did not reserve the right to weigh in on the grant selection process” which harmonized with the NIH’s policy opposing donor’s from having any control in the decision-making of grant applications. The NIH decided to use the NFL’s donation to fund Dr. Robert Stern of Boston University’s CTE study. However, the NFL objected to use of their donation to that particular study. According to the NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee Stern was an avid advocator for football’s connection to brain trauma and therefore had a conflict of interest or, at the very least, was bias. The report found that the NFL should not have intervened at all as, once the research plan was signed, it was improper for any NFL staff to influence the grant selection process of the NIH.

This investigation began on December 22, 2015 when ESPN’s Outside the Lines began a series of investigative articles outlining the league’s objections to use of their donations for particular CTE studies. Shortly after publication, Democratic members of the Committee began their investigation into whether the NFL had acted inappropriately in attempting to exercise influence. The key findings of their investigation include: overall the NFL improperly attempted to influence the grant selection process at NIH; NFL’s Head, Neck, and Spine Committee members played an inappropriate role in attempting to influence the outcome of the grant selection process; NFL’s objections to the Boston University study were unfounded; NFL did not carry out its commitment to respect the science and prioritize health and safety. The NFL did not dispute the findings opting to defend its actions stating its concerns were raised “through the appropriate channels” while reiterating their commitment to accelerating scientific advancements in the area. In the end, NIH did award Stern the grant, but instead used funds from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes donation.

This report is the latest in a saga which may impact the scientific understanding of sports related brain trauma.


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Former NFL Pro-Bowler, Actor Bubba Smith Diagnosed with CTE

The Concussion Legacy Foundation reports thatBubba Smith, a two-time NFL Pro Bowl defensive end, College Football Hall of Famer, and the first overall pick of the 1967 National Football League (NFL) draft was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) after his death by researchers affiliated with the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, a collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs, Boston University.

Smith began his NFL career with the Baltimore Colts (1967–1971), where he was a member of the Super Bowl V championship team, then played for the Oakland Raiders (1973–1974), and finally the Houston Oilers (1975–1976). He was an All-American defensive end at Michigan State University and was part of the famous 10-10 tie with Notre Dame in 1966 that was billed the “Game of the Century.”Smith, who died in 2011 at age 66, is among the 90 of 94 former NFL players diagnosed with CTE since 2008 at the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank. He had stage 3 CTE out of a 4 stage severity, with 4 being the most advanced and usually associated with dementia. Prior to his death, Smith was reported to have developed significant cognitive decline, including memory impairment and poor judgment. He was also unable to complete many tasks of daily living on his own, such as paying bills, shopping, or traveling. The findings are now being released by the representative of his estate Elias Goldstein to raise awareness of CTE. Smith had no children, no surviving siblings, and was not married at the time of his death.

Last month was the 50th iteration of the modern NFL draft. Bubba Smith was the first overall pick in 1967 draft, the first draft to take place after the NFL and American Football League (AFL) merger.

“CTE is an important discussion within the context of the NFL draft and rookie minicamps,” said Chris Nowinski, co-founder and president of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “Despite its perception as an NFL problem, our team has also identified 45 cases of CTE in former college players. While we discuss and celebrate the future of former college players preparing for their first year in the NFL, we need to also discuss that CTE may be part of that future. It is time for entire football community to rally behind the research aimed at accelerating a cure for CTE.”

Smith was a teammate of Hall of Famers Ken Stabler, who it was announced in February had CTE when he died in 2015, and John Mackey, who was diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2011. Since then, Former Oakland Raiders George Atkinson, Phil Villapiano, George Buehler and Art Thoms, all former teammates of both Stabler and Smith, have pledged their brains to the Concussion Legacy Foundation as part of My Legacy, which encourages athletes to leave their legacy by helping solve the concussion crisis through brain donation or other means.

Last month VA Secretary Robert McDonald pledged to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation, joining NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. and soccer legend Brandi Chastain among over 1,100 others. The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is the largest sports concussion and CTE repository in the world with over 330 brains donated and over 200 cases confirmed, comprising an estimated 75% of the confirmed CTE cases globally.

In December the National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave a seven-year, $16 million dollar grant aimed at learning to diagnose CTE in living athletes to a consortium of 10 leading universities led by principal investigator Dr. Robert Stern, professor of neurology, neurosurgery and anatomy at Boston University School of Medicine, and three co-principal investigators from the Cleveland Clinic, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

For more information on donating to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank or to get involved, visit:

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