A CT of the head years after a traumatic brain injury
One of the doctors that has been at the forefront of the battle against traumatic brain injury (TBI) and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is Dr. Daniel Amen. He has been working with athletes, military servicemen, and other brain trauma patients to provide a treatment regimen to help them to better cope with living with the effects of CTE and TBI — memory loss, dementia and depression. As Dr. Amen said recently, “My hope is that through increased awareness and education we can help these athletes before it’s too late.”
Since people with the CTE and TBI condition often do not have visible scars, it is hard for most people, including some physicians and other medical providers, to understand the extent to which short-term memory loss affects one’s ability to cope with daily living. Things that other people take for granted just takes much longer to do. Unless one is very organized, one can spend an inordinate amount of time looking for things that one needs on a daily basis. Just getting ready to leave the house for work or an appointment becomes a stressful ordeal unless one has a routine that is not disturbed in any fashion.
Realization of the Consequences of Brain Trauma
It takes a while — maybe years for person with a CTE or TBI condition to fully understand that their brain no longer functions properly. Those that are lucky enough to have proper treatment may come to the realization sooner that those who do not receive treatment or worse still have to contend with skeptical or uncaring physicians and medical providers.
For instance, I have never had any neurological treatment or rehabilitation for the brain trauma that I sustained while working at Ameriprise Financial in July 2004. It took a number of years for me to realize that I had to take care of my own health rather than succumb to despair. I used my skills as a research analyst to search for articles on traumatic brain injuries so I could better understand what had happened to my brain and why I was experiencing short-term memory problems while my long-term memory was so crystal clear. In fact, I believe my creativity even increased as a result of the brain trauma resulting in a deluge of new and often very brilliant ideas. The only problem is that if I don’t write them down immediately,I would not be able to recall the ideas after a short time. As I now sometimes joke that — my long-term memory is probably near genius level while my short term memory is significantly impaired. For someone that is particularly cerebral, with a background as a money market portfolio manager and an investment research analyst, one can only imagine my frustration with the situation. What I have essentially had to do is my own “self rehabilitation” using nutrition, naturopathic solutions, and coping mechanisms and systems that I have developed by myself which may not be the most efficient methods but nevertheless do work for me. Now I have the daunting task of going through an administrative hearing regarding the State of Washington‘s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)‘s premature termination of my medical benefits and I have to do it by myself, if I don’t get any legal help! A tall order for me but I am determined to go the distance to ensure that the State of Washington‘s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) ensures compliance with workplace safety standards and more importantly, that L&I changes the way it treats workplace traumatic brain injury cases. A traumatic brain injury is not tantamount to a broken limb and should not be treated as such!
Coping with the Effects of Brain Trauma
Ultimately, one has to come to terms with the fact that the brain trauma has caused a fundamental change in one’s brain function. The best way to deal with the effects of the trauma is to accept it, the same way that one would accept the loss of a limb, and then find the best way to cope and live with it. It is not an easy journey coming to terms with the loss of brain function. High performance super athletes, military servicemen, and intellectuals always like to perform at or above a certain level of excellence. It is very difficult and frightening for super-achievers that suffer a brain trauma to come to terms with the loss of a part or most of their brain function. It is even more frustrating when one has to contend with all the pseudo-brain specialists that have never read a single pamphlet or sheet on brain science nor have any clue about the effects of CTE or TBI but think they know more than the brain specialists. Anabel Maya, a psychologist who is an expert on memory wrote an article titled “A Closer Look Into Memory” and she admits that she is fascinated by memory because of the amount of information that the human brain is able to store; however, she states that she does not completely understand memory — she is still learning about it!
Support of Family and Friends!
It is really important that people that have sustained brain trauma have support from their families and friends. Support also means understanding how the trauma affects the brain and how to help the person cope with the effects of the brain trauma. I am lucky to have the support of my family and close friends and I will forever be grateful to them. I would not have survived without their love and support! I have information on this blog that can help families to understand TBI and CTE and what role they can play to help their loved ones to cope and live with the condition.
You are not alone — there is lots of help!
Some people with a CTE or TBI condition receive treatment; however, there are a significant number of people like me that receive little or no treatment and have to find ways to cope and live with the condition. The result of no treatment is despair and depression that eventually leads some to suicide! Some insurers like Zurich advise their clients to take precautionary steps to minimize workplace injuries, report injuries in a timely manner in order to start treatment soon after the injury occurs so that to that the employee recovers and returns to work resulting in lower worker compensation costs to the employer. Some employers don’t even bother to follow state mandated safety guidelines, do not report injury claims and time to ensure proper and timely treatment of their employees, and do not care what happens to the employee that has been injured due to their own negligence. The only thing that matters to such employers is return to shareholders and management bonuses. The injured employee and their family be damned!They are much more interested in covering their tracks and paying the lowest premiums they can muster than doing the right thing!
However, there is help available. Dave Duerson, Junior Seau and Ray Easterling did not need to take their own lives out of frustration, fear and despair! Most likely they could have been saved, if they had been under the care of physicians and other providers that specialize in the treatment of patients with CTE and TBI conditions.
Resources Available for Brain Injury Treatment
Amen Clinic: Dr. Daniel Amen of the Amen Clinic has a practice that focuses on helping former athletes, servicemen and others that have sustained brain trauma. He has posted the article below on his blog to let people know that they need not commit suicide when there is lot of help available for them. You can visit his website to learn more and also for the contact information.
Brain Injury Research Institute (BIRI): Dr. Bennett I. Omalu, the forensic pathologist that discovered the presence of “Tau Proteins” in the brains of Mike Webster and other dead athletes and who coined the term “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” (CTE), and his partner Dr. Julian E. Bailes established the Brain Injury Research Institute (BIRI) to continue their research on CTE and also to treat people that have sustained brain trauma and brain injury from multiple concussions.You can contact them by visiting their website.
Federal Agencies: The Federal Government has established a dedicated section on its HRSA website to provide information and guidance to doctors, patients, and schools on dealing with Traumatic Brain Injury . The Center for Diseases Control (CDC) also has a section on its website that is dedicated to traumatic brain injury.
Military servicemen and veterans are returning from war with high incident rates of brain trauma which used to be generally diagnosed as post-traumatic stress syndrome. Now the Federal Government is on top of it game and military servicemen and veterans are receiving state of the art diagnosis and treatment for traumatic brain injuries. The Defense Departments’ Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (CDoE) was established in November 2007 to integrate knowledge and identify, evaluate and disseminate evidence based practices and standards for the treatment of psychological health and TBI within the Defense Department. The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) serves active duty military, their beneficiaries, and veterans with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) through state-of-the-art clinical care, innovative clinical research initiatives and educational programs.
State Agencies: Your best bet is to start with your State’s Brain Injury Association of America(BIAA). You can contact your State BIA‘s office by visiting the Brain Injury Association of America(BIAA)‘s website and then click on the map to select your own State.
Web: The internet abounds with information on brain injuries. You can do your own research using Google to type in keywords. Please see the tags on this page for examples of keywords that you can use for your search..
Brain Health Resources Blog: This blog has lots of information and links to help you to quickly find the resources that are available. If you have a question for me, kindly leave a comment and I will revert to you to guide you to find the information that you need.
Disclaimer: Please consult your own doctor first for guidance on your brain injury condition and treatment options.
There is Help for These Battered Athletes
Shock, dismay and grief descended upon family, friends, and fans when news broke that former 12-time pro bowl NFL linebacker, Junior Seau had taken his own life. The news came as shock to all, even those that were close to him, but this tragic story is becoming far too common.
Just two weeks ago, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, 62, shot himself in Richmond, Va. His wife, Mary Ann Easterling, told news reporters that her husband suffered from depression, insomnia and dementia after his football career. Another ex-NFL player Dave Duerson, a former Chicago Bears Pro Bowl safety, committed suicide nearly 15 months ago by shooting himself in the chest. Duerson, 50, thought he suffered from dementia that fueled his depression. His suicide note included the request: “Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank.”
Post-death exams of Duerson’s brain showed he suffered moderately advanced evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a progressive degenerative disease related to repeated concussive blows. The disease has been linked to at least 18 deceased NFL players.
I just wrote about how serious a problem CTE is for athletes in contact sports and returning soldiers in last week’s newsletter and here we are again dealing with another heartbreaking story. Junior Seau was a legend, but even legends cannot escape the ravages of chronic brain damage. There is help for these athletes and anyone suffering from chronic traumatic brain injuries, depression, and irritability and memory problems.
I began studying the effects of football on brain health in 1999 when Brent Boyd, a former NFL player, came to the Amen Clinics. After Anthony Davis came to the clinic in 2007 our work with active and former NFL players really took off when we partnered with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Retired NFL Players Association to perform the world’s largest brain imaging/brain rehabilitation study.
As part of the rehabilitation study we scanned the brains of 116 NFL players and found that 113 suffered brain damage and the level of brain damage was just awful. People who have chronic, traumatic brain injuries, which almost all football players have because they get hit in the head thousands of times in their careers; have a much higher incident of depression and suicidal ideas and suicidal behavior. Thirty percent of the players we studied had issues with severe depression. That is four times the rate of depression among the general population! Even worse, linebackers, like Junior Seau, who lead with their heads on the field, suffer the most significant damage. The study showed patterns in damage to the front part of the brain and temporal lobes, under the temples and behind the eyes, which manage memory, mood stability and impulse and temper control.
The good news is the brains of contact-sport players and soldiers can be rehabilitated. We have conducted three clinical studies with 116 active and former players from the National Football League here at the Amen Clinics and each study shows that it’s not only possible, it’s likely, that with a brain-directed health protocol, significant improvement can be experienced in decision-making, reasoning, depression, mood and memory.
Our studies found significant evidence that, fortunately, there are treatment protocols that can often reverse many of the symptoms caused by brain damage and improve brain function.
The studies include:
- Effects of Elevated Body Mass in Professional American Football Players on rCBF and Cognitive Function, Transl Psychiatry (2012) 2, eK, doi:10.1038/tp.2011.67.
- Impact of Playing Professional American Football on Long Term Brain Function. Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 23:1, Winter 2011, 98-106.
- Reversing Brain Damage in Former NFL Players: Implications for TBI and Substance Abuse Rehabilitation. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 43 (1), 2011 Online publication date: 08 April 2011.
Junior may have damaged his pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for decision-making. Brain trauma symptoms can appear decades after the playing days and can include dementia, memory loss, violent behavior, obesity, mental illness and depression. And unfortunately, suicide is more common in people who have experienced brain trauma.
Playing football is a brain damaging sport and for those that are going to play it, my message would be to get your brain examined before you play and after you stop as well as any time you get a concussion. The best way to prevent tragedies like these from happening aside from avoiding the things that are harmful to the brain, are early detection and treatment. My hope is that through increased awareness and education we can help these athletes before it’s too late.