Sports Players Face Serious Threat of Permanent Brain Injuries

December 22, 2012

brain-injury.jpgChicago brain injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins represent many head trauma victims. Unfortunately, people who play contact sports face a serious risk of suffering severe head injuries.

A recent study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine revealed that constant aggressive physical contact for many years in sports such as football or hockey can lead to devastating brain damage. This brain damage usually starts with minor symptoms, such as focus and concentration issues, then develops into to dementia and aggression. The study examined the brains of former soldiers and athletes that sustained frequent mild head hits throughout their lives.

Researchers found that many of these athletes developed a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in a gradual process involving four stages. The condition causes erratic behavior and depression, among other issues. Some former athletes are even suspected to have committed suicide and acts of violence, such as Kansas City Chiefs' Jovan Belcher, as a result of this brain injury.

The four stages of development of CTE include mild loss of memory, cognitive failures such as inability to focus, aggression displayed through bursts of anger, and overwhelming short term memory loss. These could all eventually lead to the fourth stage, which is elevated aggression and dementia (sometimes displayed through the inability to express emotions). This condition can develop into serious depression and discouragement issues, which can also lead to devastating acts of violence.

Concerns over CTE have led the NFL to ban some potentially injurious helmet-on-helmet hits. College and youth football programs all over the nation have introduced safety precautions intended to reduce the number of head hits athletes experience in games and practice.

Unfortunately, reports indicate that popular brain injury treatments are not very promising. Recent research indicates that the citicoline nutraceutical supplement, which is widely used for brain trauma victims, does not actually help to improve the function of the brain.

Citicoline is readily available in the US and sold as a nutraceutical, which means that it functions both as a dietary supplement and a drug. Many patients with various neurologic conditions consume citicoline, although it has not been evaluated in a clinical trial.

The latest test involved more than 1,200 patients who had severe, moderate and mild brain injuries. Some of them were put on a citicoline therapy and others on an inactive placebo therapy for 90 days starting from within a day of them acquiring the injury. The brain function tests that were conducted following the treatment period did not show significant difference between the patient groups.

The improvement rates for the citicoline group varied from 35 percent to 86 percent while for the placebo group the rates were 36 percent to 84 percent. Six months following the brain injury, a second evaluation was carried out that also revealed little difference between the citicoline patients and the placebo patients.

Across medical circles news of the research and its findings evoked a sense of gloom and discouragement. It also reminded the public that brain injuries are unique, affecting each individual according to their personal nature. Treatment plans therefore have to be customized to the needs of each patient, so mass drug production is extraordinarily difficult. This study reinforces the need for more intensive research to develop effective approaches to better understand brain injury.

Head trauma and personal injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins strive to increase awareness of the complexity of brain injury, which will in turn help improve treatment options. If you or a loved one suffered a traumatic brain injury, contact one of our brain injury attorneys for a free, no-obligation consultation.