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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heads For Football

The most important thing to remember about concussion is that allowing players to return when their concussion symptoms subside puts players at risk. It is widely known that symptoms of a concussion can reappear hours or days after the injury, indicating that the player had not healed from the initial blow.

John Hamilton reports that coaches could learn a valuable lesson from the battlefield -- to identify military personnel who have suffered a concussion and force them to rest until their brains have a chance to heal. Even if the participant objects, players who suffer a concussion may need to be benched for a week or more. (John Hamilton, "Football's Brain Injury Lessons Head To Battlefield," NPR. October 12 2010)

Brain injury experts say mandatory rest and evaluation are even more important in combat because of new discoveries about the way energy from an explosion appears to reach the brain and cause damage. The goal is to prevent fighters who have already had one concussion from suffering another while their brain is still especially vulnerable to damage.

Brain scans show that for days or even weeks after an injury like this, the brain's metabolism slows down, which leaves some cells starved for energy, David Hovda, who directs the Brain Injury Research Center at UCLA, says. "During the time when this metabolism is altered," he continues, "the brain not only is dysfunctional, but it's also extremely vulnerable, so that if it's exposed to another mild injury, which normally you'd be able to tolerate really well, now there can be long-term devastating consequences."

It's the second hit or the third that often does the lasting damage, Hovda says. So Hovda and others have been urging the military to act more like the NFL and order troops off the field when they've had a head injury.

Kyle Turley is six feet five. He is thirty-four years old, with a square jaw and blue eyes. For nine years, before he retired, in 2007, he was an offensive lineman in the National Football League. From "Malcolm Gladwell, "Offensive Play: How Different Are Dogfighting and Football?" The New Yorker, October 19 2010)

“Lately, I’ve tried to break it down,” Turley said. “I remember, every season, multiple occasions where I’d hit someone so hard that my eyes went cross-eyed, and they wouldn’t come uncrossed for a full series of plays. You are just out there, trying to hit the guy in the middle, because there are three of them. You don’t remember much. There are the cases where you hit a guy and you’d get into a collision where everything goes off. You’re dazed. And there are the others where you are involved in a big, long drive. You start on your own five-yard line, and drive all the way down the field—fifteen, eighteen plays in a row sometimes. Every play: collision, collision, collision. By the time you get to the other end of the field, you’re seeing spots. You feel like you are going to black out. Literally, these white explosions—boom, boom, boom—lights getting dimmer and brighter, dimmer and brighter.

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