Category Archives: Brain

MacArthur ‘Genuis’ Tackles Concussions In Football

MacArthur ‘genius’ tackles concussions in football

By Melissa Healy / Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
September 20, 2011, 5:30 a.m.
Kevin Guskiewicz, one of the winners of the MacArthur Foundation award  announced Tuesday, was long a thorn in the side of the National Football League.

Since 1999, he has wired the helmets of about 700 college football players with accelerometers to study what kinds of hits result in concussions, which kinds of players get them, and what the long-term consequences of those brain injuries can be. He was among the first to find a strong link between multiple concussions and later dementiadepression and memory and intellectual deficits that often lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

When a 2005 report prepared for the NFL asserted that a player who had sustained a concussion could safely be returned to play on the same day, Guskiewicz begged to differ. In an interview on National Public Radio, he suggested that those drafting the NFL report “are more interested in trying to protect the game or the league rather than taking a more responsible approach.”

But by 2010, a lot had changed. A mountain of research — much of it by Guskiewicz but also by Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy — had made clear even to the most hard-core football fans that concussions could not just be “shaken off.” The military’s experience with widespread trauma among troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and numerous cases of suicides and dementia among recently retired football heroes, underscored that “getting your bell run” several times was likely to have long-term repercussions.

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“Brain injury survivors …”

“Brain injury survivors need to laugh at the things that happen. Even some of the most difficult times can be funny…at least when you reflect on what happened. Communication difficulty of various degrees occur with brain injury. This situation is an unfortunate communication barrier. I give details surrounding the situation so others can better understand what happens in the lives of brain injured survivors.” Edie, author, Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation

Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation

One of the resources that I have recently discovered is the “Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation” blog on WordPress! The blog is owned by Edie, a  Registered Nurse and member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nurses from Ohio, who is now a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) survivor.

Edie’s Story

Edie is a Rehabilitation Nurse that was assaulted at work. She eventually got treatment after nearly 20 years following her injury. She documented her journey through the American health care, legal, insurance, and Workers’ Compensation System showing what an ordinary American mother, spouse, nurse, and family had to go through before she had proper treatment.

She discusses how she restored her life through her determination and self rehabilitation. She indicates that she lives just 20 miles from world renowned healthcare facilities. After many twists and turns in her cold and complex case, and an ordeal that lasted for nearly 20 years, she finally got proper treatment 200 miles away from home!

Edie now shares her experience and educates survivors of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), “Mild Traumatic Brain Injury” (mTBI) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) about “Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation“. She speaks out to protect other nurses and healthcare workers, and advocates for patients through education.

Humor is Sometimes the Best Medicine!

Edie uses humor to maintain a level head even in dire circumstances. In a recent blog post titled, “Laughter as brain injury medicine – Permanent Hairdo? A Day in My Life. Keep Smiling!” she states:

“Brain injury survivors need to laugh at the things that happen. Even some of the most difficult times can be funny…at least when you reflect on what happened. Communication difficulty of various degrees occur with brain injury. This situation is an unfortunate communication barrier. I give details surrounding the situation so others can better understand what happens in the lives of brain injured survivors.”

I am already learning a lot from Edie’s posts on her “Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation” blog. I highly recommend that CTE, mTBI, and TBI survivors visit her blog to learn more. I will be reading her blog judiciously!

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Brain Tour

The Alzheimer’s Association takes us on a “Tour Inside the Human Brain“!

1. Three pounds, three parts PREVIOUSNEXT
Illustration of Human Brain and Head Your brain is your most powerful organ, yet weighs only about three pounds. It has a texture similar to firm jelly.It has three main parts:

  1. The cerebrum fills up most of your skull. It is involved in remembering, problem solving, thinking, and feeling. It also controls movement.
  2. The cerebellum sits at the back of your head, under the cerebrum. It controls coordination and balance.
  3. The brain stem sits beneath your cerebrum in front of your cerebellum. It connects the brain to the spinal cord and controls automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.

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Living With Traumatic Brain Injury

Giffords’s office seeks to close gap in traumatic brain-injury care

By N.C. Aizenman, Published: April 21

Staff members for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) have emerged as key advocates in a campaign to ensure the new health-care law guarantees more Americans who suffer traumatic brain injuries the high quality of care the congresswoman is receiving to recover from a January shooting.

Earlier this month, Giffords’s chief of staff, Pia Carusone, released a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to make it a goal as she defines the minimum package of “essential benefits” the law will require insurance plans for individuals and small businesses to include in 2014.

Members of Giffords’s staff also plan to join advocates encouraging Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to expand the range of cognitive rehabilitative therapies that Tricare, the military’s insurance program for nearly 4 million active-duty and retired service members, covers in case of brain injury.

In her letter to Sebelius, Carusone noted the disparities in the intensity, sophistication and duration of rehabilitative care that insurance plans provide the roughly 1.7 million Americans who annually suffer such injuries, as well as the tens of thousands of service members who have been wounded in recent years.

Susan Connors, president of the Brain Injury Association of America, which organized a news conference on the issue with Giffords’s office, said a person with a moderate to severe injury would likely need at least a month of continuous therapy at a rehabilitative hospital such as TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, where Giffords is recovering. Exercises would focus on restoring muscular and other physical functions, speech, psycho-social capacity and cognitive functions, such as forming memory and maintaining attention.

Next, a patient might spend six to eight weeks at a transitional rehabilitation unit, regaining life skills such as bathing and cooking. Once home, Connors said, he might need rehabilitative therapy three times a week for at least another month.

Such comprehensive rehabilitative care is expensive — $8,000 per day for hospital-based acute rehabilitation, up to $2,500 for post-acute residential care and as much as $1,000 per day for nonresidential treatment programs.

But Connors argued that intensive comprehensive rehabilitation is still “a bargain” compared with the long-term costs of caring for someone who remains severely disabled because of incomplete early intervention.

She said this may explain why workers’ compensation insurance, which generally is responsible for paying the cost of a work-related injury for the rest of a worker’s life, tends to provide generous coverage of brain-injury rehabilitation. Giffords, who was critically wounded by a gunman Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, is covered under such a plan.

By contrast, Connors said, it is not uncommon for patients with the most bare-bones insurance coverage to be discharged “to your couch” after a week or two in the hospital.

“As a result, you experience significant medical complications: Your muscles might begin to contract; you may have seizures,” Connors said.

Even Americans with more substantial insurance often get shortchanged, she added, reducing their likelihood of returning to work or otherwise making as complete a recovery as possible.

Tricare, which is not affected by the new health-care law, does not cover services billed under the umbrella term “cognitive rehabilitative therapy,” or CRT, citing a controversial 2009 study that the Defense Department commissioned to assess the efficacy of the therapy.

However, Tricare covers many of the component therapies that constitute CRT — memory training, for example.

C.J. Karamargin, Giffords’s communications director, said the congresswoman’s staff would be pushing the Defense Department to revise Tricare’s rules on CRT and to investigate other aspects of the military’s treatment of traumatic brain injury.

“This is a signature wound of current military conflict, and it’s unfortunately something we’ve gotten to know quite a bit about,” he said.


HRSA Federal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Program

Traumatic Brain Injury Program
Do you know someone who’s had a Traumatic Brain Injury? Chances are you do…

It may have been called by a different name: a concussion, Shaken Baby Syndrome, head injury, or anoxia due to trauma. These are just a few of the other names for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), but all of them have the potential to kill or leave an individual with a need for life-long assistance.

  • A bus sideswiped Melissa as she was driving her car to work. She moved in and out of consciousness during the ambulance ride, but was coherent when she arrived at the hospital. She was treated for cracked ribs and a ruptured spleen and was given an MRI which showed no apparent brain injury. Several months later she began having memory problems and serious depression. She began drinking heavily to deal with the depression and lost her job as a legal secretary. She is attempting to live off of unemployment insurance.
  • A babysitter shook Alfred when he was 6 months old. He was in a coma for 2 days and diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome. Alfred walked and talked much later than other children his age. He was evaluated for developmental disability services and enrolled in special education when he started school.
  • Ricardo was blindsided by a check in a high school hockey game. He was diagnosed with a concussion resulting in his missing two games. He began having problems concentrating in class and his grades dropped. As a result his parents are concerned about his being admitted to college.

Despite their outward differences, all of these people have experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). These examples provide a glimpse into the complex and unique nature of TBI and its effects.
Program Vision

The goals of the Federal Traumatic Brain Injury Program focus on helping State and local agencies develop resources so that all individuals with TBI and their families will have accessible, available, acceptable, and appropriate services and supports.

Assist States in expanding and improving State and local capability which, in turn, will enhance access to comprehensive and coordinated services for individuals with TBI and their families;

Use existing research-based knowledge, state-of-the-art systems development approaches and the experience and products of previous TBI grantees in meeting program goals; and

Generate support from local and private sources for sustainability of funded projects after Federal support terminates, through State legislative, regulatory, or policy changes which promote the incorporation of services for individuals with TBI and their families into the State service delivery systems.


Current estimates state that at least 3.2 million Americans have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a TBI1. These individuals and their families are often faced with challenges, such as improper diagnosis, inability to access support or rehabilitation services, institutional segregation, unemployment, and being forced to navigate complicated and cumbersome service and support systems.

Recognizing the large number of individuals and families struggling to access appropriate and community-based services, Congress authorized the Federal TBI Program in the TBI Act of 1996 (PL 104-166). The TBI Act of 1996 launched an effort to conduct expanded studies and to establish innovative programs for TBI. The Act gave the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) authority to establish a grant program for States to assist it in addressing the needs of individuals with TBI and their families. The TBI Act also delegated responsibilities in research to the National Institutes of Health, and prevention and surveillance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-206) reauthorized the programs of the TBI Act of 1996. The 2000 Amendments (PL 106-310 – Title XIII of the Children’s Health Act) recognized the importance of protection and advocacy (P&A) services for individuals with TBI and their families by authorizing HRSA to make grants to Federally mandated State P&A Systems.

The HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau administers the Federal TBI Program. The Fiscal Year 2010 appropriation was $9.939M, a slight increase of $.062M from Fiscal Year 2009.

1 Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates (Selassie et al., 2009) include only TBI emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States (2002-2006). In the Children’s Health Act of 2000, Congress recognized that the estimated figure of Americans living with TBI-related disability is an under-count. Estimates fail to capture individuals who have visited physician’s offices, individuals who have not sought treatment for a head injury, State-level TBI data, or TBIs counted from Federal, military or Veterans Affairs hospitals.


A Blow To The Brain – 60 Minutes 10/11/09

A Blow To The Brain – 60 Minutes 10/11/09

Dementia of football the next major public health issue.

June 14th, 2007

On September 24, 2002, Pro Football Hall of Fame center Michael Lewis Webster died in Allegheny General Hospital’s coronary care unit at age 50. Known as “Iron Mike” during his playing years, Webster’s discipline and overachieving nature helped propel the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl championships. But soon after retiring in 1990, Webster’s life became plagued by debt, depression, family turmoil, and eventually homelessness.

Through an entirely serendipitous set of circumstances, forensic pathologist and neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu had an opportunity to conduct an extensive examination of Mike Webster’s brain shortly after his death. What Dr. Omalu found was astonishing. While Mike Webster’s brain did not show any outward physical signs of dementia, at a cellular level his brain resembled that of an 80-year-old advanced dementia patient.

Over the next 5 years, Dr. Omalu conducted post-mortem tests on additional former pro football players, and he began to notice an emerging pattern which seemed to indicate an entirely different form of progressive chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Termed “Dementia of Football,” this syndrome was very different from dementia pugilistica, or the boxers’ “punch-drunk syndrome.” In contrast, “Dementia of Football” tended to occur without the presence of any motor symptoms – which would explain why it would often be misdiagnosed or completely overlooked.

Join us in this fascinating conversation with Dr. Omalu where we discuss this newly emerging syndrome in detail and ponder what could very well be one of the next major public health issues to affect athletes – both amateur and professional – worldwide.

Click to listen to the Podcast.


Fructose on the brain

High Fructose Corn Syrup has had such bad publicity lately. Turns out that there is a very valid basis for the concern. In this article, Dr. Daniel Amen discusses the effect of high amounts of fructose on the brain and liver.

Fructose on the brain

For some time now, I have been writing about high fructose corn syrup and how it contributes to obesity. Thanks to a fascinating new brain imaging study, we can see what fructose does in the brain that could be part of the problem.

Let me back up a bit first. Fructose is the sugar found in fruits and vegetables. It’s natural, so what could be bad about that? Well, when you eat fruits and vegetables, you get a small amount of fructose. For example, a small peach has about 2 grams of fructose. Small amounts of fructose are processed by the liver. No problem.

Things start to go bad when you consume huge loads of fructose in one sitting, like the 33 grams of fructose you get from a 20-ounce soda. The liver just can’t process the glut of fructose fast enough. This sets off a cascade of problems, which can result in excess fat on the body.

This new study in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism is so cool because it shows what fructose does in the brain that could be adding to the problem. And how fructose behaves differently in the brain than glucose, which is another type of sugar that provides energy.

When study participants were given an infusion of fructose, activity was inhibited in the cortical brain control areas, including areas thought to be important in determining how we respond to food taste, smells, and pictures. When these same participants were given glucose, these areas were activated.

So not only are high concentrations of fructose assaulting the liver, they are also changing the way the brain functions, which could create the “perfect storm” that makes people pack on the pounds.

To keep your liver and your brain healthy, avoid high fructose corn syrup and other larges doses of fructose. Stick to fruit when you need a “sugar fix.”

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This entry was written by Dr. Amen, posted on April 19, 2011 at 9:00 am, filed under Nutrition, Weight Loss and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Bradshaw shares battle with concussions

Terry Bradshaw discusses how concussions have affected him.

Terry Bradshaw is a two-time Super Bowl MVP who led the Steelers to four Super Bowl championships during his pro career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. Bradshaw joined FOX NFL SUNDAY in 1994.

Updated Apr 14, 2011 2:01 PM ET

Well, fans, I’m going out and buying a ping pong table. The doctors say that will help improve my hand/eye coordination. It’s definitely not what it used to be. And I’m also doing some brain puzzle tests that I download off the Internet. Basically, I’m rehabbing my brain.

Terry Bradshaw says the numerous concussions he’s sustained are affecting his health.

Today most athletes rehab after surgery from a knee or shoulder injury. Well, I’m learning how to prevent my brain from getting worse than it is after suffering a career worth of concussions playing football. When I played for the Steelers and I got my bell rung, I’d take smelling salts and go right back out there. All of us did that. We didn’t know any better. You don’t know how many times I was in the huddle, asking my teammates to help me call a play. After a few minutes, I’d be fine and I’d keep playing just like nothing had happened.

But lately I’ve really been struggling with my short-term memory. I was in Ruston, La., doing my annual fundraising golf tournament for my alma mater, Louisiana Tech, and I told a bunch of writers and TV folks back there what was going on with me. I was dead serious with them. It was definitely the first time I was back there that I didn’t crack a joke or smile. I think they knew I was serious because I was sweating so much, explaining what was going on with me.

Why did I go public? Well, I thought it would be good for a lot of players for this to get out, for me to tell my story because I was a quarterback. I know how much my late center Mike Webster suffered. I can only imagine what a lot of defensive players from my era are going through. I’ve talked with Howie Long about this. He understands what I’m going through. I just thought it would good for them to hear what I had to say. I also think other players should speak up and say what they’ve been experiencing. It’s good for the soul and your brain.

I spent a weekend at the Amen Clinic in Newport Beach, Calif., where I found out the cause of my short-term memory loss. I’ve had this horrible concentration problem for a while now — it took me 10 days to learn nine pages of a speech, something that would probably take you one or two days to learn. It’s obvious that my brain isn’t what it used to be. I’m taking memory power boost tablets to help me every day and doing the puzzles to help me stay focused.

Toward the end of last season on the FOX pregame show, maybe the last six weeks, I really started to forget things. That’s why I quit reciting statistics because I couldn’t remember them exactly and I stayed away from mentioning some players by name because I really wasn’t sure and I didn’t want to make a mistake. I’m on national TV in front of millions and I hate making mistakes. I told the people in Ruston that I suffered six concussions and numerous head injuries. I think that’s right, but I’m not really sure.

The memory loss made me jittery at times. It was driving me crazy that I couldn’t remember something that I studied the night before. All it did was trigger my anxiety and all of sudden everything would snowball on me. I know I have depression and it’s a horrible disease. This memory loss just made my depression worse.

By looking at the damage to my own brain, I can see now what I’m dealing with and what I have to do from making it worse. I definitely have issues, but I did pass most of the tests. I know what I have to do to maintain and do the FOX show and do my speeches without worrying all the time, making myself feel worse. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something I have to stay on top of now.

I know the NFL has done a lot to help us and also to improve the conditions for today’s players in regards to helmets and head injuries. But it’s nowhere where it needs to be. Over 100 professional athletes have gone through the Amen Clinic. They are doing some amazing studies of the brain. But I really think it is important for players to talk about what they are going through after their playing days are over. The research, the talking is going to help someone else. I really believe that.