Entries in Concussion (7)


Hillary Clinton's Glasses Are for Concussion, Not Fashion

State Department photo(WASHINGTON) -- The thick glasses Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been wearing in public since returning from a concussion and blood clot last month are the result of lingering effects of her health problems, a Clinton aide confirms.

"She'll be wearing these glasses instead of her contacts for a period of time because of lingering issues stemming from her concussion," said spokesman Philippe Reines.  "With them on she sees just fine."

During more than five hours of testimony before Congress, Clinton could be seen wearing glasses that appeared to have a thick left lens with lines across it.

Reines did not specify what type of lens the secretary was wearing, but medical experts say a fresnel prism is common in cases like these.  Fresnel prisms usually come in the form of a piece of thin, transparent plastic that can be adhered to existing lenses.  The special grooves in these prisms change the way light enters the eye, making them useful in treating double vision.

Dr. James Liu, director of the Center for Skull Base and Pituitary Surgery at the Neurological Institute of New Jersey, said that a concussion and head injury can lead to blurred or double vision in some cases, and that this symptom can linger for a while during recovery.

"It is possible that blurred or double vision can last up to weeks and even months," he said. "This really depends on the severity of the head injury.  In cases of concussions, these symptoms are usually temporary and eventually resolve with time."

The glasses did not seem to affect Clinton's demeanor during her testimony, where she became emotional when talking about the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans killed in the terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  The secretary confidently answered questioned posed by senators and House representatives, and even sparred with some over her handling of the Benghazi crisis.

New York Magazine published an article showing a slideshow of Clinton adjusting her glasses during her testimony, with comments about what her expressions meant.

Reines said that the secretary "got a kick out of the" article, using her special glasses to see the slideshow "crystal clear."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


High School Football Player Victim of 'Second Impact Syndrome'

Courtesy Becky Lehe(NEW YORK) -- Cody Lehe's headache following a helmet-to-helmet hit in a 2006 high school football game was so bad that he asked his mother to take him to the doctor.  His CT scan a few days later came back normal, but the decision to go to practice the day after that would change his life forever.

After taking a shoulder hit during practice, Lehe, now 23, became a victim of what doctors call "Second Impact Syndrome."  His teammates thought he was having a seizure, but he was actually falling into a coma, with massive brain swelling and an irregular heartbeat.

It's been six years since that day, and Lehe lives with his parents outside Lafayette, Ind., where he struggles to recall things that happened hours earlier and can no longer walk on his own.

"I think the biggest thing is we have got to get the kids to understand to listen to their bodies," Lehe's mother, Becky Lehe, told ABC News.  "I think he had this discussion with himself, saying, 'I feel like crap, but my CT scan is fine, so I'll play.'"

Second Impact Syndrome, or SIS, has a 90 percent mortality rate, said Dr. Michael Turner, who led a case study on Cody that was published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery.  Of the 30 SIS cases in medical literature, Turner said it always happens to high-school or college-aged people.  He's never seen SIS in a professional football player.

"It's probably something to do with the immature brain, because our brain really keeps growing until you're 18, 19 years old," Turner told ABC News.

For years, doctors hypothesized that teens who suffered from SIS actually had blood clots from their first concussions that went unnoticed and ultimately triggered brain swelling and further bleeding after the second impact, Turner said.  Cody's CT scan, which is the first to exist for an SIS patient between hits, proved the hypothesis wrong.

"We've looked at it.  It was flat-out normal," Turner said.  "Our patient had many tiny blood clots, but they weren't the cause of his illness."

Instead, Cody's brain sent a message to the rest of his body for more blood, which filled the veins and arteries in his head and caused his brain to swell against the skull, Turner said.  The pressure caused further injury and damage.

His mother recalled the first hit, though neither she nor her husband saw it.  Both players "had their bells rung," Becky said, but they kept playing.  When Cody talked to Becky afterward, he told her he had a headache, but it was nothing he hadn't experienced before.  No one thought it was a concussion because he hadn't passed out or thrown up.

The following weekend, Cody tailgated a college football game and visited a college campus with his girlfriend.  By Monday, he asked to go to the doctor.

"Mr. Tough Guy never asks to go to the doctor," Becky said.

But everything was fine.

After returning to practice and taking the second hit, he walked over to the water fountain, and then fell forward into another player, Becky said.  The ambulance technicians told her later that they didn't think he would make it to the hospital.

After 55 days in the intensive care unit -- his football jersey number -- Cody was transferred to the rehabilitation section of the hospital, where he would stay but was not well enough to participate in any activities.  He left the hospital after 98 days, having suffered temporary cardiac arrest, hypotension, pneumonia, renal failure and sepsis.  He could not walk or talk.

Since then, Cody has regained the ability to speak, but still lacks short-term memory.  He can walk on a treadmill for six minutes at a time with his mother or father at his side, but he can't balance on his own and depends on a wheelchair to get around.

"For someone who wasn't supposed to make it through, he's beaten all the odds," Becky said, adding that she's able to see a different side to her son that had previously been reserved only for his school friends.  "He was a class clown.  He was hilarious, but we didn't see that much at home."

She said now they call him their entertainer, and they're encouraged by his progress.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Brain Injuries Raise New Concerns for Young Football Players

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For almost a decade, Jacob Bell was living his dream: making millions playing professional football, starting 100 games for the Tennessee Titans and the St. Louis Rams.

But every season, he took thousands of hits to the head, and he worried about the toll it might be taking on his brain health.  Then came a moment of truth: the suicide of longtime NFL player Junior Seau.

"Seau's death rocked everybody.  It rocked me a lot," Bell said.  "The fact that there is a chance it was football-related and the fact that I was a football player, it hit home with me."

And so he quit the NFL, walking away from a free-agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month.

Bell said his plan now is to act as an advocate for players, alerting them to the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.  First discovered about a decade ago in the brains of former football players, it's a degenerative disease linked to symptoms like dementia, erratic behavior, and suicide.  The small cadre of doctors who study CTE have diagnosed it in dozens of now-dead NFL players.

The NFL released a statement in February, saying that the league "has long made player safety a priority and continues to take steps to protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions."  In 2010, the league donated a $1 million grant, no strings attached, to Boston University School of Medicine's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (CSTE), which researches brain disease in retired football players.

But there is increasing evidence that the way the game is played is leaving a trail of invisible injuries, even among amateur athletes who have never sustained the kind of knock-out concussions often seen on the NFL gridiron.

According to research published in this month's issue of Neurology, a football player could sustain 8,000 hits over the course of a four-year high school and a four-year college career combined.

Owen Thomas is one of the youngest players ever diagnosed with CTE.  It was discovered in his brain after he committed suicide during his senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the captain of the football team.  He was 21.

Doctors are now on the leading edge of discovering how young players like Thomas -- with no documented history of concussions -- might have damaged their brains.

Researchers call these hits "subconcussive blows" -- moments at which the brain hits the inside of the skull, but not hard enough to sustain what a doctor would diagnose as concussion.

The question now is whether an accumulation of these lesser blows over time could cause brain damage powerful enough to lead to CTE, which has thus far mostly been documented in professional players with a history of concussions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sidney Crosby Says Concussion Won’t Knock Him Out of NHL

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images(PITTSBURGH) -- Pittsburgh Penguins hockey star Sidney Crosby won’t be taking the ice again until after he recovers fully from concussion-like symptoms brought about by repeated blows to the head last season, ESPN reported. The symptoms have kept him from playing since January.

During a news conference Thursday, the 24-year-old former MVP attempted to quell speculation that he would not return to the game but emphasized that he would not play again until symptoms, including “fogginess” and migraines, improve.

“Maybe I can get by with 90 percent, maybe I couldn’t but I’m not going to roll the dice with that,” he told reporters.

Crosby is the latest professional athlete to struggle with head trauma, and his case brings yet more attention to the debate about what needs to be done to protect these athletes from concussions.

Indeed, the story comes on the same day as an NPR report on the new NFL safety rules that will go into effect with the first kickoff of the season Thursday night, even as some fans argue that attempts to control the hard hits will detract from the game.

Voices urging more protection for players are growing louder, however. The suicide of Nashville Predators star Wade Belak last month, the third death in recent months of a hard-hitting NHL enforcer in which suicide was suspected, sparked speculation that the long-term effects of head trauma might be to blame.

Former pro football player Dave Duerson committed suicide in February by shooting himself in the chest. He requested in a suicide note that his brain be sent to the NFL brain bank for study. In May, researchers found that his brain did indeed show evidence of head trauma.

And it’s not just suicides. The father of 22-year-old Derek Sheely, starting fullback for the Frostburg State University Bobcats in Western Maryland, suspects that a brain injury was to blame for his son’s death earlier this month.

Professional sports organizations are starting to recognize the problem. The National Football League began hanging posters in locker rooms last season that describe symptoms of concussions and, for the first time, warning players and their coaches of the potential long-term consequences. And the latest offering from the popular Madden NFL video game franchise even has a feature that will take a virtual player out of the game if he experiences a concussion, an addition developers say they hope will bring the serious consequences of head trauma home for young fans.

But cases such as Crosby’s suggest that more needs to be done to protect young athletes from concussions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NHL Player Deaths Put Spotlight on Mental Health

Wade Belak in January 2011. Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images(CLEVELAND) -- Three of the National Hockey League's hard-hitting enforcers have died since May, highlighting the emerging link between head trauma and mental illness.

Wade Belak, the 35-year old former forward for the Nashville Predators, hanged himself Wednesday in a Toronto condominium, according to reports. His death followed the fatal drug overdose of former New York Ranger Derek Boogaard, 28, in May, and the suicide of Winnipeg Jet Rick Rypien, 27, in August.

"It's not only about the deaths, it's the deaths that surround similar-type players," Craig Button, general manager of the Calgary Flames, told the news agency Canadian Press. Belak played for the Flames from 1998 to 2011. "It's not just getting hit in the head, it's everything that goes with that role. I think that people are paying very, very serious attention to concussions and blows to the head and the role of the enforcer."

An enforcer's role, albeit unofficially, is to fight. As such, Belak, Boogaard and Rypien were among the NHL's most aggressive players, and arguably those most likely to take a punch.

Evidence to support the cumulative effects of repeated mild brain injuries is mounting. A recent study found that professional football players and boxers had chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- a progressive brain disease that shares characteristics with Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease.

"I think for all of these things there's an individual susceptibility that's based on someone's genetic makeup as well as any potential injury they've had in the past," said Dr. Alan Hoffer, assistant professor of neurological surgery and neurocritical care at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "It's not like every enforcer in the NHL has gone on to have this happen, the same way not every lineman in the NFL goes on to have dementia."

In February, former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 50. He shot himself in the abdomen, requesting in a suicide note that his brain be studied for evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. And in July, seven former National Football League players filed a class-action lawsuit arguing the league failed to properly treat concussions and tried to conceal the link between football and brain injuries.

For Belak, Boogaard and Rypien, hits to the head were routine. And while equipment improvements can help dissipate the force of flying fists, concussions are an inevitable consequence of contact sports.

"Obviously, people have the freedom to do what they want to do to their bodies," Hoffer said. "I think things start to get a little bit controversial when you're talking about children. Then there's much more of an argument that we should be doing more to protect them."

Last September, Gilbert Allen Austin Trenum III, 17, of Prince William County, Va., hanged himself, an act his parents believe stemmed from the concussion he'd endured two days before in a high school football game. His parents, Gil and Michelle Trenum, have donated his brain to research.

Belak played 549 career games in the NHL, earning eight goals, 25 assists and 1,263 penalty minutes. He fought 136 times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Concussion Leaves 14-Year-Old Amnesic, Left-Handed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SPANGLE, Wash.) -- After hitting her head during a high school basketball game, Mikayla Wilson lost her memory -- and became a leftie.

The 14-year-old from Spangle, Wash., was shoved to the ground after snatching a rebound during a high school basketball game.

"She didn't black out, she didn't grab her head in obvious injury," Wilson's dad, Michael, told ABC News affiliate KXLY 4. "She just got up and noticed her head hurt a little bit on the back. But basketball these days is a very physical game, and there's lots of contact."

After a fouled Wilson shot her free throws, she played two more quarters for the Liberty High Lancers. It wasn't until the team gathered after the game when Wilson asked her mom, Lorie, "Who are those girls dressed just like I am and why are they looking at me?" that anyone noticed anything wrong.

Wilson was taken to a hospital in nearby Colfax, where a CT scan ruled out skull fractures and bleeding inside the brain. The amnesia, doctors said, was a lingering symptom of a mild traumatic brain injury, better known as concussion.

"The brain has consistency of Jell-O and sits inside the skull, which is nature's helmet. When you hit your head, the brain can shift back and forth, causing injury at the site of impact and distant from it," said Dr. Alan Cohen, chief of pediatric neurosurgery and surgeon-in-chief at UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

Concussions are a growing cause of worry in both childhood and professional sports. In December 2009, the National Football League cracked down on when players could return to a game after suffering a blow to the head.

"More and more, we're realizing that there are biochemical changes that go on in the brain during concussion, and that symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, like amnesia, can last for weeks or even months."

It has been nearly three weeks since the injury, and Wilson still can't remember the names of her friends and teammates. She has also switched from writing with her right hand to using her left -- a tweak that even her doctor had never seen.

"She had to sign something, and she grabbed the pen with her left hand," her father said, adding that she didn't notice until he pointed it out. "She said it felt more natural to use her left."

Wilson was ambidextrous as a young child, according to her dad. And although her new left-handed scrawl is imperfect, it's impressive. She has also used chopsticks with her left hand since the injury.

"It's unusual that someone should switch hands after a mild traumatic brain injury," Cohen said, adding that usually people switch hands after developing weakness in the dominant one. "Maybe there's something causing her to be weaker in her right hand. But the fact that she switched without realizing is interesting." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Blood Test to Flag Concussions? Army Says Yes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ALACHUA, Fla.) –- Preliminary reports on as-yet unpublished Army research have offered a look at what may be in the future for the diagnosis of mild to moderate brain injury.

Army researchers say they may have found a new procedure that may make it possible someday to diagnose mild concussions quickly and easily.

Led by Banyan Biomarkers, researchers drew and tested the blood of 34 people taken to the hospital for head injuries and then diagnosed with mild concussions at a trauma unit.

The blood tests showed the presence of certain proteins -- biomarkers -- that do not normally show up in the blood of uninjured people. The theory is that the concussive jolt to the brain unleashes these proteins in the bloodstream.

If, in fact, the biomarkers in the subjects' blood turn out to be correlated with their brain injuries, it would be the first suggestion that a blood test to look for brain injury in humans could be a reality.

Experts contacted by ABC News differed in their opinions on the Banyan-Army study.

A much larger study, funded by the U.S. Defense Department, is expected to begin next year. It will involve 1,200 patients at 30 trauma centers around the country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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