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Articles Posted in Brain & Spinal Cord Injuries

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young driverPeople who are driving after recovering from a concussion may be at higher risk of a car accident. A recent study lead by Julianne Schmidt, associate professor in the UGA College of Education’s department of kinesiology shows that despite being asymptomatic, people who recently suffered concussion may drive erratically. The study was recently published in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

During the study, Julianne Schmidt and her team compared the driving skills of 14 students who suffered concussion but were symptom free with the driving skills of 14 students who didn’t suffer from concussion. Participants were required to to complete a graded symptom checklist and a neuropsychological exam. Participants with concussion were asked to take a 20.5 km driving test within 48 hours of becoming asymptomatic. Healthy participants of the same age were required to complete the same driving test.

The study showed that participants who previously suffered concussion but were cleared of symptoms exhibited driving behavior similar to someone driving under the influence of alcohol.  The researchers compared the number of crashes between the two groups of students as well as the number of tickets, the number of lane excursion, the way they were driving in curves and their speed. They found out that concussed participants were not well controlling their vehicles especially when driving in the curves. They also swerved a lot more than healthy drivers putting themselves and other road users at a greater risk of accidents.

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NFL Brain Injury   The Radiological Society of North America reports that a study published in the journal of radiology found measurable changes in the brains of children after one season of participating in youth football without a diagnosis of a concussion. Christopher T. Whitlow, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.A., associate professor and chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., the lead author of the study stated “We wanted to see if cumulative sub-concussive head impacts have any effects on the developing brain.” 25 male football players between 8 and 13 years old were studied. The Head Impact Telemetry System (HITs) was used to record head impact data. Participants in the study underwent pre- and post-season evaluation with multimodal neuroimaging, including diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain. DTI is an advanced MRI technique, which identifies microstructural changes in the brain’s white matter. Diffusion tensor imaging measures what is known as fractional anisotropy (FA), of the movement of water molecules in the brain and along axons. Dr. Whitlow stated that the participants in the study “…who experienced more cumulative head impact exposure had more changes in brain white matter, specifically decreased FA, in specific parts of the brain.” He stated further research is needed to determine the significance of these findings. Read the RSNA Press release here.

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young hockey playersExtremity injuries and traumatic brain injuries are common in youth hockey according to a Mayo Clinic Study. Most injuries result from intentional contact according to the same study. Over the years, USA Hockey, the regulating body for youth hockey has taken different measures to make the game safer. Body checks which are causing the most dramatic injuries are now forbidden for players under 14 years old. Penalties have also been increased for contact with another player’s head. However if the rules are not enforced injuries will continue to happen.

It is the share responsibility of the coaches, the referees and the parents to make sure that the game is safe for the kids.

Coaches are responsible to develop good sportsmanship among players instead of a culture of intimidation.  A good coach will focus on developing skills and respect for opponents.

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child in strollerEvery year, thousands of infants and toddlers are diagnosed with traumatic brain injury or concussion after a stroller or carrier accident. A recent study by Erica Fowler, MPH, Christopher Kobe, MD, Kristin J. Roberts, MS, MPH, Christy L. Collins, PhD, Lara B. McKenzie, PhD, MA at the Center for Injury Research and Policy, The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio analyzed strollers and carriers injuries from 1990 to 2010. The study was published in Academic Pediatrics.

The researchers found that over a period of 20 years, 360,937 children below 5 years old checked into the emergency room for an injury associated with a stroller or a carrier. The annual average of injuries was 17,187. However this average number didn’t mean much as the number of injuries significantly decreased over the years.

Most of the time, the injury was caused by a fall or a tip-over of the stroller or carrier.

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central park bikingA bicyclist suffered serious head injury in an accident in Central Park, New York City. The bicyclist was riding his bike in Central Park when, according to the police, a pedestrian stepped into the crosswalk in front of him.  The bicyclist squeezed his brakes hard and swerved to avoid the pedestrian. He flew over the front of the bike and landed on his head, on the pavement, 25 to 30 feet away from the bike. He wasn’t wearing a helmet. He was transported to the hospital in critical condition. He suffered serious body and head trauma. The police didn’t tell the NY Daily News if the pedestrian had the green light but the investigation is ongoing.

Last year in a similar scenario, a bicyclist killed a pedestrian in Central Park. The pedestrian was also in the crosswalk when the accident happened. According to witnesses, the bicyclist who was riding well over the maximum speed of 25 mph swerved to avoid other pedestrians before fatally striking 59 year old Jill Tarlov, a CBS senior VP. After the accident the minimum biking speed in the park was lowered to 20 mph instead of 25 mph.

Yesterday another bicyclist died from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident in Central Park. According to Patch.com, the victim fell of her bike a month ago. 54 year old Gloria Garcia was visiting New York from Texas. She sustained a head injury and had been hospitalized since the accident which occurred on July 17th.

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printing houseA construction worker died after a scaffolding plank fell on his head at a New York construction site. 32 year old Luis Mata, was dismantling scaffolding at the Printing House Luxury Condos on Hudson Street when one of the planks became loose and fell 10 stories on his head. The construction worker was wearing a hard hat but the impact was so strong that he suffered severe head and neck injuries. He later died from his injuries at the hospital. Luis Mata was a non union worker from Mexico. He was living with his uncle in Westchester County. He was supporting his mom in Mexico.

Unfortunately we are seeing an increasing number of construction site accidents on non union jobs, as a result of contractors not implementing proper safety measures.

Following the accident, the NYC Department of Building issued a partial stop work order on the building. DOB records for the building located at 421 Hudson Street show that at the time of the fatal accident, the building had 6 open ECB violations including two class 2 and two class 1 violations  as well as 8 DOB violations.

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spinal cord injuryThe medical practice of trying to avoid scar formation at the site of a spinal cord injury may indeed not be correct. Every year approximately 12,500 American will suffer a spinal cord injury and an estimated 276,000 people in the US are suffering from long term effects related to this injury. For decades the prevailing medical dogma was that that scars were preventing neuronal regrowth across the injured area but a newly released study says it is actually the opposite that happens. Scar forming cells called astrocytes may actually help nerve regrowth.  A study recently published in Nature and authored by  Mark A. AndersonJoshua E. BurdaYilong RenYan AoTimothy M. O’SheaRiki KawaguchiGiovanni CoppolaBaljit S. KhakhTimothy J. Deming & Michael V. Sofroniew found that   “scars may be a bridge and not a barrier towards developing better treatments for paralyzing spinal cord injuries.”

Read more in Medical News Today

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Flag footballAn increased number of parents have been worrying about their kids getting injured in contact sports after seeing the movie “Concussion” (see our previous blog). In a recent article Kristy Arbogast, Co-Scientific Director and Director of Engineering for the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Research Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania says many parents have asked questions about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Parents want to know if kids who play contact sports are at risk to  develop CTE in the future. Kristy Arbohast who is a brain injury specialist, says that so far unfortunately there is no answer to this question. Some kids who played contact sports at high level (collegiate football or rugby) have developed symptoms of CTE but scientists still don’t know what predisposes a person to CTE.

Kristy Arbohast recommends that parents whose kids are interested in being involved in a contact sports make sure they are are proprely managed and coached. Parents should check that their child is playing in a league that requires coaches to be trained to recognize concussion signs. The coach should not only be trained in recognizing concussion signs but also have to respect the time that is needed to recover from a concussion. Recent research has shown that the best way to recover from a concussion is rest and then a progressive return to learning and playing activities.  Additionally parents should advocate for changes in rules to promote safety. Some rules can be changed so children are protected from injuries but still learn the skills for a specific sport. Flag football is a good example of how a child can still develop football skills while limiting personal injuries related to tackling players to the ground. Rules in hockey which prohibit body checking for youngsters have also help in reducing the number of head injuries in youth hockey.

The complete article can be read here

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will smithNFL players who suffer repetitive traumatic brain injury during their career have a high risk to develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).  CTE  is a progressive degenerative disease. Individuals affected by CTE often show symptoms of dementia such as loss of memory, confusion, depression and aggression.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, now the chief medical examiner, San Joaquin County in California, was one of the first doctors to detect CTE in NFL player’s brains.  Thirteen years ago as he was working at the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office in Pittsburgh he autopsied Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center for the Steelers. Webster became so mentally ill that he ended up living in his pick up truck. During a dementia crisis, he pulled out his teeth and glued them back with superglue. He also shocked himself with a taser on a regular basis.

malu found that Webster’s brain was riddled with dark tangles of tau protein, which he explained had choked Webster from the inside out. He identified the condition as CTE and attribuDuring the autopsy, Dr Oted it to the estimated 70,000 hits to the head that Webster endured during his career. Dr Omalu then examined other players such as Terry Long, Justin Strezelczyk and Andre Waters and found they were afflicted by the same condition. When he showed the results of his research to the NFL they  publicly ridiculed him and intimidated him calling him a quack.

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newbornHypoglycemia (low blood glucose level) at birth can lead to brain injury and intellectual development disabilities.   Therefore when a child  is born with a low level of sugar in his blood, he or her is immediately treated to maintain the blood sugar level above a certain threshold. Treatment usually consists of additional feeding and or oral intravenous glucose. A new study involving more than 404 newborns  shows that not only maintaining a level of sugar above a certain threshold but also keeping it from swinging too high too fast is essential to prevent neurosensory impairments.

During the first 48 hours of their life, all 404 infants were fitted with a device that would read the blood sugar level every 5 minutes. 53% of the infants participating in the study had blood sugar levels below 47 milligrams per deciliters and needed treatment. The rest of them didn’t require treatment.

The blood sugar monitoring device showed that during the first 48 hours of life many infants including those who didn’t need treatment, experience low blood sugar episodes.