Medical Advances, Awareness Campaigns Helping to Combat Concussions

Thanks to medical advances and increased efforts to educate the public on concussions, progress continues to be made.

Earlier this month, researchers took a preliminary first step in experimenting with a new brain imaging technique that may be able “to detect a debilitating condition caused by repeated conditions.” It’s an important step when considering that the only way to currently confirm any correlation between memory and behavioral problems and repeated hits to the head in athletes is to perform an autopsy.

Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, chief director of a neurological sports injury program at the University of Michigan, explained that “there were no ‘before and after’ images of the athletes' brains, and the research doesn't prove that repeated head blows caused the damage,” but that “it provides intriguing evidence that needs to be confirmed in additional research.” You may recall that HCPLive spoke with Dr. Kutcher earlier this year on the subject of concussions, an interview that can be read here.

In addition to possible groundbreaking new imaging, more good news has been reported regarding concussions today. According to a report on ESPN this morning, reported concussions are up 21% from 2009, a sign that players and coaches are taking them more seriously. Dr. Hunt Batjer, co-chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine medical committee, said it best when he stated that “Playing through pain is good; playing through pain is what sports are about. But that's leg pain. That's arm pain. Not brain injury.”

The popular ESPN Radio hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic of “ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning” show have talked at length about the way that concussions have been treated in the NFL over the years. Not even 50 years ago, players in the NFL would withstand a concussion and then head to the sideline, at which point a coach would do something like ask how many fingers he was holding up. If the player answered correctly, he was allowed to and even encouraged to go back in the game, something that was only putting the player at an increased risk of brain injury. But back then, it was viewed as a sign of weakness if a player were to come out of a game for a reason that wasn’t physically evident. Fortunately, that same treatment would never happen today; NFL players are very aware of their predecessor counterparts who played the game back in that era and are now suffering from dementia and other related diseases.

There is still much room for improvement when it comes to treating concussions and determining the long-term effects of brain injuries; however, steps are continually being taken and progress continues to be made. Let’s hope that the trend continues and that concussions begin to happen less and less because of these efforts.

Around the Web

'Virtual biopsy' may detect athletes' brain injury [Yahoo! News]

NFL sees spike in reported concussions [ESPN]