November 4th, 2013
01:37 PM ET
More hospital patients are surviving traumatic brain injuries - which is good news, except for those waiting on donated organs for transplants. Improved survival rates have resulted in fewer transplant organs being available, Canadian researchers found.
A study published last week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CAMJ), examined the recovery outcomes of 2,788 adult patients admitted to regional intensive care units in Alberta, Canada, over a 10.5 year period.
“Prior to the study, we had noticed a decline in the number of deceased organ donors in Southern Alberta,” said Dr. Andreas Kramer, lead author of the study. “Since we were seeing fewer patients with brain injuries, we thought we would find fewer patients progressing to neurological death.”
Researchers looked at ICU patients with various types of brain injuries. They found the greatest increase in survival rates were among traumatic brain injury patients. FULL POST
October 23rd, 2013
06:05 PM ET
As more people learn about how football's hard hits to the head can lead to brain trauma, fewer parents may be willing to let their kids out on the field. That's according to a new poll released Wednesday by HBO Real Sports and Marist College Institute for Public Opinion.
One in three Americans say knowing about the damage that concussions can cause would make them less likely to allow their sons to play football, the poll found.
Keith Strudler, director of the Marist College Center for Sports Communication, who helped oversee the phone survey of more than 1,200 adults in July, said this could be alarming news for the future of football. "Historically, youth football has fueled the NFL," said Strudler. "Parents' concern about the safety of the game could jeopardize the future of the sport."
June 11th, 2013
10:53 AM ET
When compared to the bone-jarring crash between two football helmets, heading a soccer ball might seem almost innocuous. But those seemingly mild hits to a soccer player's head may damage the brain at a deep, molecular level, according to a new study.
"It's entirely possible that the innumerable subconcussive hits that those players have may really be a culprit (for brain injury) as well," said Dr. Michael Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the study's lead author.
The theory gaining ground among many concussion experts is that the unfortunately-named 'subconcussive' hits - less-forceful hits that don't cause an overt concussion - when they accumulate over time, may prove to be more damaging than their more flamboyant cousins. FULL POST
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.
May 16th, 2012
05:05 PM ET
If you survived a 43-inch-long iron rod shot through your skull, people would still be talking about you more than 150 years later too.
Journey back a moment to September 13, 1848. Phineas Gage, 25, was working as a railroad construction supervisor in Vermont. In preparation for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad that was to be laid down, he was blasting and removing rock. But an explosion went awry, shooting a 13-pound iron rod through Gage's left cheek, passing behind his left eyeball and through his brain.
The fateful rod was found later "smeared with blood and brains," according to reports about the case.
Gage survived for almost 12 years after this accident, but people who knew him said he was no longer himself - he exhibited personality and behavior changes.
He couldn't come back to his railroad job, so he took up some manual labor jobs. He ended up traveling in New England and down to Valparaiso, Chile; his iron rod never left his side. He rejoined his family in San Francisco and died on May 21, 1860, probably because of seizures connected to the freak accident.
Now, scientists have new insights into Gage's brain.
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.
February 10th, 2012
04:23 PM ET
Editor's note: Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth's mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Between kids banging their heads in sports and soldiers banging their heads in battle, traumatic brain injury (TBI) gets a lot of press these days.
Sadly, TBI is very common, occurring in 1.7 million people annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition ranges in severity from mild concussions with no long-term consequences to severe brain damage leading to coma and/or death.
Now Hollywood is entering the national discussion about TBI with “The Vow," a movie inspired by real events that tells how a tragic case of TBI nearly destroyed the love between a married couple.
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.
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.