Articles Posted in Brain Injury

banyan-300x173Federal officials offer a glimmer of hope in caring for head injuries, especially the sharp, repeated, and often damaging blows that  afflict athletes and which millions worldwide are witnessing, yes, as part of the Winter Olympic Games.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it has approved a long-awaited blood test that can help doctors determine the severity of traumatic brain injuries. This test will provide a cheaper, easier, more convenient, and likely faster way to handle the rising health bane of concussions, rather than relying on computed tomography or CT scans using big machines and a form of X-rays.

As the New York Times reported:

cdc-feb10-hospitalflu-300x186The Winter Olympic Games and the Super Bowl can offer fans not just exciting sports spectacles but also important health insights and information— everything from the risks of viruses and the value of hand washing to the dangers of head blows and why Americans may be slowly changing their minds about how they feel about violent recreations.

Let’s start with what can happen when you put more than 2,000 elite athletes from 92 nations in a village setting in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It’s no surprise that  contagious illnesses can break out, and in this case the noxious norovirus. More than 100 cases of the highly infectious viral illness at the Olympic site have been confirmed already, and 1,200 people — many of them security guards for the Games — have been quarantined with disease symptoms. (The South Korean military has sent in forces to assist with security, in place of the quarantined guards).

Norovirus, aka the winter vomiting disease, is a gastrointestinal bug with other symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain, according to the according to the CDC. Its symptoms typically start 12 to 48 hours after patients come in contact with the virus. Symptoms might also include headache and body aches. Fever is uncommon. The sickness is highly contagious, spreading when viral particles get aerosolized over large areas. Hygiene becomes key in outbreaks, as public health experts have emphasized and global cruise lines have discovered.

stroke2-300x169Although medicine has made advances in treating strokes, more than 795,000 Americans suffer them annually, they kill 140,000 of us each year, and they’re a leading cause of disability. But medical experts, revising their care guidelines, say that patients with the most common kind of stroke —  a clot blocking blood flow to the brain — may be better treated in an expanded window of still urgent time.

This higher but still guarded optimism does not apply to all stroke cases and not to all ischemic strokes (the kind that come from blood vessel blockages). Doctors have known for awhile now that it is vital to bust the damaging clot — and they had thought their time to do so with drugs like tPA and surgeries was constrained to six or so hours. This led specialists to their axiom, “Time is brain,” and to crash responses.

But for many patients, the tight treatment time frame was unhelpful. They might not be discovered quickly after suffering a stroke and being incapacitated. They might have had their stroke while sleeping, and doctors had decided the timing of their care based on when they could last recall being well — often putting them outside the six-hour limit. Some patients also live far from hospitals that could provide clot-busting drugs, or, even more key, surgeries to implant stents or a thrombectomy, a procedure in which doctors use a small tool to grab the clot and remove it.

As the science keeps getting deeper, the news keeps getting worse about the harms that can be inflicted by repeated blows to the head in sports — and in life.

The path-breaking medical scientists at Boston University and elsewhere, who have helped to establish how concussions, notably in football, may lead to the onset of the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, have told the Washington Post that their latest study may show that, “It’s really the hit that counts.”

horsesafety-227x300Get out of the crowds and traffic of the nation’s capital, and into the rolling green of Virginia and Maryland, where thrives the stately and multibillion-dollar business of breeding, raising, showing, and riding horses. That bucolic equestrian life also has a less-known health worry:  Horseback riding, not a contact sport, turns out to be the top adult athletic endeavor that causes traumatic brain injuries.

Researchers in San Francisco scrutinized just under 5,000 cases, recorded between 2003 and 2012 in a federal nationwide data bank of adult sports-related trauma incidents, finding that “equestrian sports were the greatest contributors to sports-related” traumatic brain injuries, they reported in their recent article in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

As ABC-TV News noted of the researchers’ study, they found that “45.2 percent of [traumatic brain injuries] among adults were related to horseback riding, dwarfing the other causes. The second-leading cause of sports-related traumatic brain injury was falls or hits from contact sports like football and soccer, but that accounted for just 20.2 percent.”

spanking-187x300Kids can be a major part of what makes the holidays special. But if a house full of the little darlings hasn’t already driven the grown-ups around them to total distraction, parents, grandparents, and uncles, aunties may want to consider a few ways to ensure youngsters stay healthy and wise in the days ahead, including:

Spare the rod so children don’t get spoiled

If the kids get naughty during the winter break, their parents might find themselves agreeing with a controversial view: Two-thirds of Americans, when asked in surveys, say that misbehaving children younger than 7 need a “good, hard spanking” on occasion when they’re very bad.

alive-300x115Nick Tullier once was a handsome, strapping sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, La. Then, in a blink, he and five others were gunned down by a former Marine and black separatist who had come from Missouri to Louisiana to kill cops. Tullier was one of three deputies who survived the attack.

What happened next to him is part of a series worth reading in the Houston Chronicle, a year-long dig the newspaper has dubbed “Alive Inside.” The work asks whether doctors and hospitals across the country have stayed current with medical advances that maybe, just might, possibly offer greater glimmers of hope to patients like Tullier who suffer traumatic brain injuries.

Such individuals, the Chronicle carefully says, may too quickly be deemed too injured to survive. Doctors, in sincere acts of perceived compassion, may be too fast to urge family and loved ones to withhold or halt medical services for the brain-injured, partly out of the pragmatic reality that their recovery prospects remain poor.

wreck-300x169Tens of millions of Americans, starting with Thanksgiving, hit the roads for a hectic season of family get-togethers and holiday social events. And though the alarms have sounded for a bit now, there’s yet more evidence that our highways are killing us at far worse rates than Americans have a right to expect..

David Leonhardt, writing in the New York Times Upshot column, points out that America has become “a disturbing outlier” in its road deaths—and its inattention to slashing them to levels that might be expected in a wealthy, developed nation.

He cites data showing that the U.S. now lags not only industrialized nation peers like Canada and Australia, it’s getting embarrassed by countries like Slovenia. Slovenes died at five times the rate Americans did due to road wrecks in 1990. Now their roads are safer than ours. And did we mention that’s a part of the world that struggled through a brutal, violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia?

soccerknee-300x97Here’s another painful reminder to grownups about youngsters and sports: Moderation matters, and youthful games are supposed to fun, diverting, and character building—and most definitely should not leave today’s aspiring athletes as tomorrow’s hobbled adults.

The New York Times has reported on what a pediatric sports medicine expert has described as a “dirty little secret” of orthopedics, which is “the chance of getting arthritis within a decade of tearing a tendon or a ligament in the knee is greater than 50 percent.” And more and more youths, as they participate aggressively and frequently in sports programs, are undergoing surgeries on damaged or torn anterior cruciate ligaments, a procedure well-known as the ACL repair.

The sports medicine doc says he is gathering data for a study that will show that patients at 26 children’s hospitals he has focused on underwent 500 ACL repairs in 2005, but by 2014, more than 2,500 youths had these surgeries.

soccerheader-211x300Although state and local laws may be curbing some of the harms the young can suffer with sports-related concussions, parents, coaches, teachers, and players may wish to reconsider even more the risks of head traumas: That’s because early such injuries may be tied to later diagnoses of multiple sclerosis.

To be sure, this is a developing area of research and the studies suggest an association between MS and head trauma, and not that concussions are a cause of the chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system.

MS, as the disease’s national society reports, “can cause many symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness and more. These problems may come and go or persist and worsen over time.”

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