January 7th, 2013
04:51 PM ET
A marker for later cognitive problems may be starting to show up in the brain tissue of former National Football League players.
According to a study published Monday in JAMA Neurology, researchers found that cognitive problems and depression are more common among aging NFL players with a history of concussion. But brain damage and mood problems among some segments of the NFL population is not stunning news anymore.
What has got scientists slightly giddy are those markers: Poor performance on cognitive tests also showing up on sophisticated brain scans. It suggests that damage post-concussion could some day be detectable by scanning the brain.
October 2nd, 2012
10:34 AM ET
Concussion impact is the same in both male and female high-school soccer players, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neurosurgery Pediatrics.
The only difference researchers discovered was that female soccer players report more symptoms post-concussion than male players, says lead study author Dr. Scott Zuckerman, suggesting social biases maybe the reason. But whether or not females actually suffer more serious injuries from concussions hasn't been determined.
Researchers looked at the neurocognitive scores in 80 high school soccer players, 40 girls and 40 boys of similar age, medical history, education, prior concussions, pre and post concussion testing timing. In this study baseline and post-concussion scores of verbal and visual memory, visual-motor speed, reaction time, impulse control, as well as the total number of symptoms were all examined.
June 13th, 2012
08:01 AM ET
Pop Warner, the first national youth sport organization to implement concussion rules, is changing its rules regarding football practices.
The first rule change limits the amount of contact drills, such as one-on-one blocking, tackling and scrimmaging to 40 minutes per practice, or no more than a third of the total weekly practice time. Pop Warner already caps practice at 2 hours a day, 3 days a week during the regular season.
The second rule change prohibits full-speed head-on blocking or tackling with players more than 3 yards apart. Full speed drills may occur only when players approach each other from the angle, but not straight into each other.
“The purpose of this change in the rules is to limit the exposure in practice, which makes up the majority of head impact," said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the Pop Warner Medical Advisory Board.
May 16th, 2012
04:01 PM ET
During a recent debate addressing whether the United States should ban college football, an argument against the sport was summed up this way: Schools should not be in the business of encouraging young men to hit themselves over the head.
The reasoning behind that argument (by New Yorker magazine staff writer Malcolm Gladwell): Concussions are not what afflicts football, rather it is the cumulative effects of punishing, comparatively subtle, subconcussive hits.
"There isn't a helmet in the world that can be designed to take the sting out of those hits," said Gladwell, at the Intelligence Squared Debate hosted by Slate Magazine in New York last week. "What's the effect of all that neurological trauma? We know it's a condition called CTE."
April 18th, 2012
04:15 PM ET
Years ago, a mysterious disease process – characterized by viscous tangles lodged in parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and mood – was an undefined phenomenon occurring among professional football players, and others exposed to repetitive brain trauma.
What scientists could piece together: Something in the brain was causing profound memory problems, and self-destructive, even suicidal, behavior among them. Since then, posthumous brain studies have shed light on that something - Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE – but little is known about when or how CTE begins.
However, data from the first year of a longitudinal study, called the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, released Wednesday, suggests a possible starting point for problems with cognition and memory - both hallmarks of CTE. FULL POST
April 13th, 2012
02:15 PM ET
Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions standout who starred in the 1980s sitcom “Webster” - and whose wife says is now suffering from dementia - has joined fellow ex-NFL players suing the league over concussion-related injuries.
Karras, who also played the horse-punching Mongo in the 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles," is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of him and 69 other former NFL players.
Karras, 76, of California, “sustained repetitive traumatic impacts to his head and/or concussions on multiple occasions” during his NFL career, and “suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas,” the lawsuit says.
March 13th, 2012
08:53 AM ET
A U.S. Army soldier is accused of killing 16 Afghan men, women and children in a house-to-house shooting rampage on Sunday. He could face the death penalty, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said.
The shooting has brought traumatic brain injury back into the news. Traumatic brain injury has become one of the signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
February 3rd, 2012
05:18 PM ET
The adolescent football player's brain is rattled an average of 650 times per season. That's just an average. There are positions on the football field where the numbers approach 1,000 hits to the head. And while a small fraction of those hits actually lead to a diagnosable concussion, the concern is that sub-concussive damage - the menacing smaller blows that add up during practices and games - could be as bad, or worse, for the brain.
With those sobering stats in mind, the Sports Legacy Institute Friday called for the adoption of a "Hit Count" - similar to the "Pitch Count" system used in baseball - for youth athletes participating in contact sports.
January 26th, 2012
09:18 AM ET
Watch "Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Big Hits, Broken Dreams" Sunday, January 29 at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.
One day late in the summer of 2010, I was sitting in my backyard with my oldest daughter. We had just finished cutting the lawn when my neighbor and his oldest son stopped by.
His son, a football player at one of the powerhouse local high schools, had grown nearly an inch over the summer and weighed more than 200 pounds. He was already in practice for the upcoming season. He asked if I had time to speak to a friend of his who also played football and had suffered a concussion the previous season.
They were asking me in my capacity as a neurosurgeon, but also in desperation, as this young man was still having tremendous difficulty nearly a year after his injury.
December 12th, 2011
04:39 PM ET
The National Basketball Association has a new program designed to protect players against the long-term impact of concussions. On Monday, the league announced it has set up a concussion management program that will be run by Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, one of the world's leading experts on sports and head injuries. Among the program's protocols:
– All players will get an annual baseline neurological exam and cognitive assessment.
The program went into effect on Friday, when players reported to training camp.
Programming note: Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been investigating concussions in sports. Be sure to watch Big Hits, Broken Dreams, debuting Sunday, January 29 at 8 p.m. ET.
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.