June 3rd, 2010
03:11 PM ET

NFL medical heads and Goodell convene on brain injuries

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

Even without symptoms, blows to the head can be deceptively severe,  neurologists are warning at a meeting on football and brain injury.

These “can lead to long-term consequences or later emergence of symptoms,” said Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, a doctor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine after a daylong seminar with the NFL.  “Symptom severity is not a clear indicator of how badly the brain is injured.”

Experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine, medical reps from all 32 NFL teams and commissioner Roger Goodell discussed head injuries on Wednesday.

The NFL has been accused of minimizing evidence about the dangers of football concussions. New medical committee members have vowed to change that culture.  Read about one ex-player's struggle

Lyketsos said a study has shown an average college football player endures about 950 blows to the head during a season.  Doctors say that duress on the brain can accumulate over time.  It might be worthwhile to monitor the force and the number of times a player is struck. Some helmet technology allows real-time monitoring of the impact of hits to the head.

The four major topics in the meeting were 1) asymptomatic effects of blows to the head and their consequences, 2)  head injuries and their relation to cognitive decline, dementia, depression, 3) chronic traumatic encephalopathy, repeated head injury, often seen in professional boxers that also occurs in NFL players and 4)  how long it takes for the brain to recover after a significant hit.

CNN.com: Dead athletes' brains show damage from concussions

This research isn’t relevant only to elite football players.

“What we learn about long-term consequence for football players has implication for millions of athletes who suffer concussion and head blows,” Lysetkos said.  “It also has implications for soldiers who are at increased exposure to blasts.”

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soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Beverly Rojas

    Emphasize the importance of long-term counseling for brain injury patients including awareness of possible financial decision-making skills being jeopardized. My husband is a recovering neurosurgery patient, and his financial risk-taking and lack of common sense post surgery has destroyed our retirement financial security. Neither of us received ANY SUGGESTION OF NEED FOR COUNSELING FOR possible repercussions in this all-important part of everyday living from any medical or social service staff at hospital or clinic.

    June 3, 2010 at 23:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ThisIsFootball

    You know what else is common in football??


    This is a rough game, people play it and get hurt. Its part of the game, these athletes are getting paid millions of dollars and this is part of the reason, its DANGEROUS.

    I'm tired of hearing about concussions in football. This is not a news story.

    What will we hear next?

    This just in...."When It rains...things become wet!" Who KNEW!!??!

    June 3, 2010 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JP

      ThisIsFootball, I think you may be comparing apples to oranges here. Broken bones heal in a short time. A lot of the injuries players suffer also heal – sprains, tears, etc. But this brain damage is permanent – that's a major difference. It also causes a host of other problems that can be devastating. I'd also consider the history of the game – over the decades the safety gear worn by players has increased. I suspect some of the players from 50 years ago would laugh at the "sissies" of today for wearing pads & helmets. So it's completely in character and appropriate for the NFL to take another step forward in this. I for one applaud this.

      September 15, 2010 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
  3. JL

    I worked with athletes post-concussion and a number of teenagers who were the usual soccer players or football players or cheerleaders (a physical sport, anymore). Concussions are common and can have devastating effects long term if not managed properly. As a metabolic syndrome, concussion finds kids much more vulnerable (glutamate sensitivity). Sadly, or perhaps thankfully as the public becomes educated, the real problem is in that concussions are usually not managed properly. Once they are, many kids who would otherwise be living lives of emotional pain, headaches and nausea (to name a few symptoms) will find themselves living normal lives after some careful medical care.

    June 4, 2010 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Kmomof3md

    We did research on this when at 35, my husband began experiencing symptoms caused by high school and college football concussions. It's amazing to me how many former football players have cognitive problems and dementia like challenges and how very little is being done to prevent this. My husband regrets playing and our son will not play football.

    June 4, 2010 at 06:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Bob

    If they would build the helmets with a liquid gel in them, along with "blow out" plugs, when a player was involved in a hit to the head/helmet that was too hard, the gel would absorb most of the blow by bursting through the plugs sending the energy out of the helmet instead of inside to the player's brain.

    The helmet could be designed so that after such a hit, the gel and plugs could be replaced. The plugs could be designed to "blow out" at various levels of force so that they could be used for younger players as well.

    The helmet mfgs are caught in design paradigms and are not exploring/using such ideas. They also need to get together with designers of motorcycle helmets.

    June 4, 2010 at 07:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Dr Bill Toth

    These studies and discussions with NFL are long overdue and hopefully these discussions will soon filter down to the peewee level before more kids end up hurt.

    June 4, 2010 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Michael Murphy

    I experienced brain trauma 58 years ago. I forgot the accident for 30 years. Be on the lookout for sleep disorders soon after the incident, grand mal siezures 7 to 10 years after the incident, and petit mal siezures randomly forever. Depression is a given. Good Luck!!

    June 4, 2010 at 08:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Gary

    Repeated blows to the head are bad, is this something we did not know? It's all window dressing though. It's Football, it's violent, it's not going to stop and we're not switching to flag football.

    June 4, 2010 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Justin

    Yeah, injuries are common in football. But it's a sport, not some gladiatorial-style deathmatch. Technology advances that make the game safer to play should be welcomed, not dismissed because "it's a man's game" or "they knew the risks." The object of the game is to score more points than the other team, not cripple somebody because he wears a different color on his shirt. Honestly, I'd think the fans of hard-hitting football would welcome safety advances, because it lets their favorite players stay in the game longer rather than being forced out due to injuries; imagine, for example, what David Pollack would have done with more time in the NFL!

    June 4, 2010 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Lynda

    Our son sustained several concussions from playing sports from elementary through high school in the 80's and 90's when few people had any understanding of the long-term effects. Today, at age 34, our son is probably in need of follow-up care but has no insurance and cannot pay. Sad.

    June 4, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ruben

    Medical organizations and insurance companies have yet to accept the growing realization that the effects of brain injury may present themselves months or even years after the injury. They routinely deny claims that there is a connection even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. The position of insurance companies is understandable given their exposure that may lead to the payment on such claims. Until now, medical research has only begun to conduct a thorough investigation to explore the long term effects of “old head injuries”. Such an investigation is long overdue and the implications extend beyond sports.

    June 4, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Neil

    Anyone that doesn't know that taking both hard shots or an accumulation of jarring but non-concussive shots to the head is probably half brain-dead to begin with. Americans love football and hockey and boxing and MMA because we have an appetite for violence. These guys aren't stepping on the field for free. Brain damage is a player's "assumption of risk" and consumers don't care about millionaires past their prime with dementia and depression. As long as they entertain me on Sundays their brains are expendable.

    July 4, 2010 at 21:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Top Sports Star

    In my first two articles on how to become an NFL player, I discussed the work you need to do to in the class room, the community, and how to take care of your body to increase your odds of becoming an NFL player.

    August 3, 2010 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. neuroguy

    Stern and the Boston group use CNN, ESPN, and the NYT as an outlet for their unscientific speculations on "CTE". The headline should read "tauopathy found in brains of patients with dementia and depression" without mentioning sports, because they do NOT look at brains of dementia/depression patients with no history of concussions. Although post-concussion syndrome is quite a real problem, Stern et al. have been promoting public hysteria over the issue before the science is in. Although it is good for my practice financially– I have a specialty in PCS– it's not good for society.

    September 15, 2010 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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