Professional Sports Respond to Traumatic Brain Injury Risk
A recent traumatic brain injury has forced American bobsled driver Todd Hays to retire. Hays, a silver medalist and 2010 Olympic hopeful, sustained a significant head injury during an accident that occurred while training. Initially diagnosed as a concussion, further testing revealed that Hays has an intraparenchymal hematoma, a serious brain injury where the brain bleeds due to suffering trauma.
This potentially life-threatening injury can result in a stroke if excess bleeding increases pressure on the brain. Although Hays is expected to make a full recovery, his retirement is a necessity to prevent additional brain damage.
Hays’s accident occurred a week after the National Football Association announced an updated policy on concussion management. Under the new guidelines, if a player shows signs of a concussion, the player will be removed from practice or the game. Previous policy allowed players to return as soon as the symptoms dissipated, even during the same game that the injury occurred.
In October 2009, the United States Congress conducted a hearing on how the NFL handled concussion treatment, which may have prompted the head injury guideline update.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI), including concussions, are serious injuries that currently do not have a cure. Although concussions are one of many types of TBIs, frequent head injuries can make individuals more concussion prone, which may impact his or her health as they grow older. TBI patients are more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other brain disorders that become more apparent with age according to the Center for Disease Control. Although men are more likely than women to sustain a TBI, brain injuries can occur in both men and women.
Congress Receives Call to Action
These high-profile head injuries have brought attention to sports-related concussions and other traumatic brain injuries; however TBIs are a cause for concern among younger generations as well. Sixteen-year-old Niki Popyer has teamed up with two former NFL players to ask Congress to draft legislation developing guidelines to control and manage concussions in school sports. The Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act, or ConTACT Act, would establish a grant program so states have the financial means to prevent, diagnose and treat sports-related concussions in schools.
Popyer, who has sustained 11 concussions, can no longer play basketball due to her head injuries. But she’s not alone. Recent statistics show that a traumatic brain injury occurs once every 23 seconds in the United States. Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 years old and infants and toddlers age zero to four are most at risk to sustain a traumatic brain injury. Brain injuries occur in close to 20 percent of high school athletes each season.
Although a traumatic brain injury can occur from a variety of causes – including falls, auto accidents, being struck by or against an object and assault – sports-related injuries are a major cause for concern because they impact younger people whose brains are still in the development stages. This can affect an individual’s cognitive and emotional development.
Recent Medical Breakthrough May Help Brain-Injured Patients
While Congress debates the benefits of traumatic brain injury prevention, recent scientific development may help with traumatic brain injury treatment. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that diets rich in amino acids helped restore cognitive abilities in brain-injured mice.
The TBI-afflicted mice were given drinking water with specific amino acids prior to clinical memory and learning trials. Those that received the amino acid-rich water responded better than brain-injured mice that did not receive the amino acid mix. The specific amino acids used are the forerunners of important neurotransmitters glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, which facilitate vital brain activity.
If proven to be successful in human patients, amino acid traumatic brain injury treatment could financially benefit the more than 5 million Americans who are permanently disabled from the affects of a traumatic brain injury. TBI aftereffects include problems in thinking, sensation, language and emotions, not to mention early retirement from sports. Clinical trials are expected to start in the next year.
The CDC estimates current medical expenses for traumatic brain injuries, including indirect costs such as loss of productivity, totaled more than $60 billion in 2000. Many of these TBI patients consider contacting a brain injury lawyer and developing an often lengthy potential brain injury lawsuit to receive monetary compensation for the costly treatment.
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