In the first work, experts from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed available reports and surveys to find that 15.1 percent of American high school students or 2.5 million or so “reported having at least one of these concussions” in the most recent year, while 6 percent reported two or more concussions.
In College Park, Md., new cooling tents have sprouted on the University of Maryland’s football practice field, where the training staff also is taking pains now to provide adequate cold drinks and breaks to players. Observers say the pre-season regimens, however, are not only marked by greater attentiveness to the young athletes’ needs, they’re also eerily quiet and somber.
That’s because top Terps leaders have apologized and conceded the school shares blame for the tragic and preventable heat stroke death of Jordan McNair, 19, a Maryland offensive lineman. Coaches forced the young man to run and over-exert himself during a May 29 practice. More importantly, they failed to diagnose the severity of his condition, neglecting to so much as take his pulse and blood pressure, and, in a disputed account, not noticing that he was suffering seizures, or acting fast to drop his body temperature with ice and cooling baths.
Published reports suggest he showed heatstroke signs before 5 that afternoon, though trainers did not call for emergency help and an ambulance until nearly 6, when his body temperature may have hit 106 degrees. He was admitted to a hospital, where nurses and doctors immersed him in a cooling bath and reduced his temperature to 102 degrees — 90 minutes or so after he apparently got into distress.
The National Football League, which long has resisted the growing reality that game-related head blows can cause major harms to its players, may be providing yet new and unintended warnings about the sustained damages of concussions.
The Los Angeles Times reported that pro football’s pay-outs, as part of its billion-dollar head-injuries settlement with NFL players and their union, have been surprisingly high in cases where retirees have claimed damages due to Parkinson’s and ALS.
Parkinson’s, the newspaper noted, is a “progressive movement disorder that produces tremors, impaired movement, and slurred speech.” It is “marked by the buildup of proteins called Lewy bodies in brain cells.” ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a condition affecting “nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and ultimately results in a fatal inability to initiate and control muscle movement.”
The 2018 Stanley Cup may rest for a bit as the pride and joy of enthusiasts in the nation’s capital and of its title-winning team. But as fans of the pro and amateur game look to the future, they may have reason to be downcast about hockey’s most important component: its players.
Author Ken Dryden (photo above, left) has important things to say about them, because he was a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and has been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The onetime Canadian parliamentarian has pointed out that owners and bosses in the National Hockey League, as illustrated by videotapes of their sworn testimony in a long-running court case, are locking arms and taking a counter-factual position on the damages that players may suffer due to blows to the head they receive in games.
In “infuriating” fashion, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (photo above, right), Boston Bruins owner and chairman of the league’s Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs, other team owners, senior league executives and doctors are playing ostriches, Dryden wrote in a recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post. They’re sticking their head in the sand, insisting that hockey has no issue at all with “chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. That’s a degenerative brain disease that has been found in athletes including professional hockey and football players, as well as soldiers and others who have suffered repeated brain injuries. Symptoms of CTE include cognitive impairment, depression, emotional instability and suicidal thoughts.”
As many as five million Americans already have Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related conditions, and their resulting loss of cognitive capacity and personal control rank among the top causes for health dread among those 55 and older, polls show. So it’s worth noting that new studies are showing that seniors 65 and older get on average a dozen years of good cognitive health ── and that span is expanding.
Further, the onset of problems typically may occur in relatively mild fashion, with the most serious cognitive decline occurring in a short but late period of 18 months or so, Judith Graham reported for the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service.
In her story for the KHNS feature “Navigating Aging,” Graham looks at an array of the latest and reliable research on seniors and cognitive decline, finding glimmers of optimism in what has been increasingly gloomy, evidence-based studies on how huge a challenge may be posed for our fast-graying nation by dementia, Alzheimer’s and their care.
It’s no April Fool joke: Emergency doctors across the country, according to the New York Times, have been defying widely accepted standards of care and withholding a drug that rigorous clinical trials and medical specialists long have recommended for stroke victims.
Administration of the drug, tPA or tissue plasminogen activator, helps to prevent brain injury after a stroke by dissolving the blood clot and opening up the blocked vessel. Neurologists and neurosurgeons as well as cardiologists, have campaigned for its aggressive use within hours after the onset of symptoms. Indeed, hospitals nationwide have adopted speedy stroke care, including with tPA, under slogans like “Time is Brain.”
The drug’s fast use has become so accepted, the capacity to administer it is a keystone for hospitals to receive a much-sought designation as specialized stroke treatment centers. And though it has long been thought that tPA needed to be given within three or four hours from the start of stroke symptoms, new research funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has opened the strong possibility that many more patients could benefit from tPA and neurosurgery within 16 or even 24 hours after suffering a stroke.
Federal 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:
The 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.
Although 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.”