Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain traumatic brain injuries. While professional football has beefed up patrol over head injuries, they may need to work harder. A former pro athlete and a team of experts say repetitive head trauma may be linked to a disease that is similar to ALS…maybe even worse.
You saw Chris Harvard’s work as a pro wrestler, and you saw the work he did on the college gridiron. However, he never saw the head shot that ended his career.
His real name is Chris Nowinski, and he's suffered six concussions in all. He teamed up with the Boston University School of Medicine to ID head trauma’s deepest impact.
"I had headaches for five years and memory problems for a year-and-a-half," Nowinski told Ivanhoe.
Lab work on the brains of deceased athletes reveals new information on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Doctors say it’s caused by repetitive trauma like concussions, and symptoms include memory loss and impulse control issues. But here's the big news…
"CTE is another cause of dementia; it’s another brain disease like Alzheimer’s," Robert Stern, Ph.D., from Boston University School of Medicine, told Ivanhoe.
Post-mortem brain scans of former linebacker John Grimsley show he suffered nine concussions. They show buildup of a harmful protein called tau.
"It starts kind of clumping together and develops into these tangled fibers," Dr. Stern explained.
That protein triggers brain cell death and dementia.
Big news to the 50,000 child athletes diagnosed with concussions each year. This work may help doctors unravel the mystery of Lou Gehrig's disease, too.
"A bunch of athletes that had developed ALS clinically had essentially CTE that had gone in their spine," Nowinski said.
Not all head traumas mean CTE. Right now, the only way to detect CTE is to dissect the brain after death. Still, researchers are hoping to find a way to diagnose the disease during life. Additional investigations include whether some people are genetically predisposed to developing CTE.
Information: (Ivanhoe Newswire)
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY (TBI): TBIs occur when one suffers from a trauma extreme enough to cause brain damage. This often occurs as head collision with an object or skull penetration from a bullet or a sharp object, which is able to enter into brain tissue. The severity of the symptoms is determined by both the severity of the injury and the amount of brain damage suffered, ranging anywhere from mild to severe. Mild TBI is marked by symptoms such as fatigue, headache, confusion, dizziness, visual blurring on one or both eyes, ringing sensation in the ears, mood swings and difficulty with sleep, concentration, memory, and thinking. These symptoms are also present in the moderate to severe cases, and are often accompanied by chronic, intense headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures or convulsions, and troubling with waking after falling asleep. Other symptoms of moderate to severe TBI include slurred speech, poor coordination, weak or numb extremities and general confusion and irritability. When treating patients suffering from TBIs, doctors must make sure there is enough oxygen reaching the person’s brain and an adequate amount of blood circulating throughout their body. The patient usually requires a computed tomography (CT) scan of their brain, as well as an X-ray to locate any possible skull fractures or spinal injuries. Physical, occupational and speech therapies, among others, are often recommended for further rehabilitation. (SOURCE: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
CHRONIC TRAUMATIC ENCEPHALOPHATHY (CTE): Also known as dementia pugilistica, this condition is caused by repetitive head trauma – explaining why it is often linked to athletes such as boxers. CTE symptoms are directly related to the specific area of the brain that was injured, and usually resemble the symptoms of dementia. These symptoms include cognitive struggles with memory, coordination, speech and physical struggles such as tremors, delayed movement and parkinsonism, or muscle stiffness. These symptoms can appear much later, often years following the initial trauma. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com)
CHRIS NOWINSKI: Most famous for his exploits as a professional wrestler with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Chris was also a starting defensive tackle for Harvard University Football Team. He was selected as RAW Magazine’s "Newcomer of the Year" in 2002 for his performance on WWE’s "Monday Night Raw" series, and was the youngest male Hardcore Champion in the league’s history. His career was sidetracked in 2003 after a series of concussions, but that didn’t stop him. He soon began working to raise awareness about the health effects of concussions, writing and co-writing articles for publications like the New England Hockey Journal, SportsIllustrated.com, and even prestigious medical journals. He speaks at medical conferences worldwide, with presentations such as "The NFL’s Concussion Research: Fact,