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IBM'S Watson Will Help Veterans Prepare for Post-Military Life
Mashable / July 23, 2014

From Jeopardy contestant and customer-service agent to master chef, IBM's Watson supercomputer has taken on a number of roles in the past few years. Now, IBM is partnering with United Services Automobile Association to put the world's most famous supercomputer to a new use: helping members of the military prepare for civilian life. USAA, which provides financial services to military personnel and their families, is rolling out "Ask Watson," an online tool that will help members get answers to questions about how they can prepare for life outside the military.

Protecting Athletes: Concussion
WAMU, American University Radio / July 23, 2014

Conversations about protecting athletes from concussions more often than not focus solely on football. But several incidents at this summer's World Cup triggered questions about what FIFA, soccer's governing body, does to keep players safe. Kojo Nnamdi explores the emerging science and policies behind debates about concussions and professional and amateur sports

Spartan Hockey Helmets Going Under Microscope
The New York Times / July 23, 2014

Hockey helmets may be on the verge of a radical makeover, as scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech prepare a rating system that measures each brand’s and model’s ability to reduce the risk of concussion. “After football, hockey is the sport that produces the highest rate of concussion,” said Dr. Stefan M. Duma, a Virginia Tech professor and the head of the university’s biomedical engineering department. “We want to produce a mechanism to try and reduce that risk of concussion.” That mechanism is a five-point rating scale called the STAR system, which the Virginia Tech football team began applying to its helmets in 2011. While there is still disagreement on whether concussions can be reduced by improving helmets, the football rating system quickly became influential, leading manufacturers to substantially increase internal padding. Sales for five-star football helmets have soared, and those for low-rated helmets plunged.

For Retirees, Decision on Concussion Settlement Will Not Be a Simple One
The New York Times / July 23, 2014

Class-action settlements are often messy. When enough aggrieved people are thrown together, it is natural that some of them will be unhappy with a deal that is a result of a negotiation between parties trying to avoid a long, expensive trial with an uncertain outcome. The proposed settlement in the case brought by more than 4,500 retired N.F.L. players who claim the league hid from them the dangers of concussions is similar. Asking 10 retired players what they think of the settlement might elicit 10 opinions. In the coming weeks, though, the 20,000 retired players and their beneficiaries will have to make a final decision to accept the proposed deal, which includes an unlimited number of cash awards for a small set of severe neurological conditions; to opt out and perhaps sue the league for more; or to object and possibly appeal the settlement.

Dysfunctional Congress Prepares to Claim Another Victim: Injured Veterans
The Daily Beast / July 23, 2014

Come September, recovering veterans in at least 20 states could be booted from a pilot program for traumatic brain injury—not because of personal medical progress, but because of the nation’s lawmakers. Despite bipartisan support, Congress has not been able to pass an extension of the rehabilitation program. Since last fall, the extension has been attached to several pieces of veterans legislation, which failed after lawmakers were unable to agree on military and VA reforms. “If we don’t extend it, veterans…across the country will be ejected from the care they’re going to be getting, which would constitute, in my mind, a premature discharge,” said Susan Connors, the president of the Brain Injury Association of America. “Families feel like this has been a lifeline.”

It’s Not Just Trauma to the Head: Minor Accidents Can Lead to Brain Damage Too, Affecting Memory and Thinking
Medical Daily / July 21, 2014

If you’re clumsy or uncoordinated, you might want to make sure that next time you’re wearing a helmet when riding a bike, or paying attention instead of texting while walking down the street. A new study has found that even minor head injuries can cause some form of brain damage that might affect memory and thinking. Researchers out of Newcastle University examined 53 people who had mild or moderate head injuries and compared them to 33 people who had no injuries. The scientists used a type of MRI scan called diffusion tensor imaging scans, which could detect brain cell damage and also map fiber tracts. Memory and thinking skills were 25 percent lower in the first group, possibly linked to nerve fiber disruptions in the brain, the researchers found. “Most of the studies thus far have focused on people with severe and chronic traumatic brain injury. We studied patients who had suffered clinically mild injuries often from common accidents such as falling from a bicycle, or slow speed car accidents,” said Dr. Andrew Blamire, lead author of the study, according to PsychCentral. “This finding is especially important, as 90 percent of all traumatic brain injuries are mild to moderate.”

PTSD Could Explain Some Post-Concussive Symptoms
CBC News / July 17, 2014

Some concussion symptoms that last three months after a head injury may be related to post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study suggests. Mild traumatic brain injury accounts for more than 90 per cent of brain injuries, according to an international review for the World Health Organization, but little is known about prognosis. In Wednesday’s issue of the journal JAMA Psychiatry, Emmanuel Lagarde of the University of Boredeaux, David Cassidy of Toronto Western Research Institute and their team focused on 534 patients with head injuries and 827 control patients with non-head injuries who went to an emergency department in France.

 

Brain Damage 'Can Follow Even Mild Traumatic Brain Injury'
Medical News Today / July 17, 2014

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can occur when the head is hit suddenly and violently, or when an object pierces the skull and enters the brain. TBI can result in symptoms ranging from headaches and nausea to permanent brain damage and death.Senior author Andrew Blamire, professor of magnetic resonance physics at Newcastle University's Institute of Neuroscience, says most research tends to concentrate on people with severe and chronic traumatic brain injury: "We studied patients who had suffered clinically mild injuries often from common accidents, such as falling from a bicycle, or slow speed car accidents. This finding is especially important, as 90% of all traumatic brain injuries are mild to moderate."

Equine Therapy Used to Treat Secondary PTSD
Fort Hood Sentinel / July 17, 2014

While deployed, he was on the road for 10 days driving from Kuwait to Iraq. He endured attacks from improvised explosive devices, mortars, sniper fire and small-arms fire. Now, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Hoops, a former motor transport operator, hangs his head low as he recounts a deployment he considers “one of the worst for truck drivers.” After returning, Bobby was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, something he will carry for a lifetime. However, the affect the deployment had on Bobby’s son weighs more.

FIFA's Dazed and Dated Attitude
The New York Times / July 16, 2014

Of all the lasting images from the 2014 World Cup, the officials who run FIFA, soccer’s governing body, should be forced to remember one, above all: Germany’s Christoph Kramer staggering around the field in the final, glassy-eyed and dazed, like a sleepwalker. It was a glaring symbol of FIFA’s misguided approach to concussions and how desperately it needs to amend its substitution rules, which now allow for only three replacements per game and dictate that once a player is out of the game, he stays out. Faced with those restrictions, coaches are hesitant to keep a player with a possible head injury from leaving the match. Nor are they motivated to allow enough time for that player to get a proper medical checkup, because it means playing a man short while the examination takes place.  That’s right, in soccer, as in many professional sports, winning trumps common sense and, for that matter, basic humanity.

Germany's Christoph Kramer 'Can't Remember World Cup Final' After Concussion Against Argentina
Metro / July 15, 2014

The German has now revealed that he has no recollection of the first-half of the final – with his memory of Germany’s World Cup winning triumph only beginning in the second period. ‘I can’t remember that much from the game,’ he said. ‘I don’t know anything from the first half. I thought later that I went straight off after the incident. How I got to the changing rooms I do not know. I don’t know anything else. ‘The game, in my head, starts only in the second half.’

Veteran Turns to Alternative Therapy for PTSD and TBI
KEYE TV / July 15, 2014

A combat veteran battling Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) turned to an alternative therapy called float therapy and says he's seen an improvement in symptoms and is now taking less medications. Cody Wayne Austell, 25, was born on post at Fort Hood and knew from a young age he wanted to join the military and follow in his father's footsteps. In 2007, Austell joined Fort Hood's 4th Infantry Division and deployed to Iraq for more than a year and was part of the security detachment for the 4th Infantry Division Commanding General. During his time in combat he sustained invisible wounds that led him to be diagnosed with chronic PTSD and TBI when he returned home. "I felt like no one really had any answers for me," Austell said.

'Ban' on Head Injury Footballers: Medics Want Players Who Suffer Concussion to Be Assessed by an Inedpendent Doctor Before Being Allowed Back on Pitch
Daily News, UK / July 14, 2014

Football players who suffer concussion should only be allowed back on the pitch after being examined by an independent doctor, say medics. The proposal backs the world players’ union FIFPro, which criticised FIFA over its handling of head injuries during the World Cup and in particular Uruguayan defender Álvaro Pereira overruling his team doctors’ advice to be substituted. In an editorial published in The Lancet Neurology, medics say that FIFA needs to get its house in order before the next World Cup: ‘Changes are clearly needed to protect athletes.’

Researchers Examine Which Teens Have Emotional Symptoms After Concussion
News-Medical.Net / July 11, 2014

After a concussion, teens who are sensitive to light or noise may be more likely to also have emotional symptoms such as anxiety, according to a study released today that will be presented at The Sports Concussion Conference in Chicago, July 11 to 13, 2014, hosted by the American Academy of Neurology, the world's leading authority on diagnosing and managing sports concussion. The conference will feature the latest scientific advances in diagnosing and treating sports concussion from leading experts in the field.The symptoms after a concussion can vary widely from person to person. Symptoms can include physical, emotional and cognitive difficulties.v"While most people recover from a concussion within a week, a number of factors affect people's recovery, and studies have shown that teenage athletes may take up to seven to 10 days longer to recover than older athletes," said study author Lisa M. Koehl, MS, and Dong (Dan) Y. Han, PsyD, of the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Doctors Have Ethical Obligation to Educate, Protect Athletes from Concussion
Health Canal / July 10, 2014

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the largest professional association of neurologists and a leading authority on sports concussion, is releasing a new position paper that states doctors have an ethical obligation to educate and protect athletes from sports concussion and clear them to play only when the athlete is medically ready, standing firm against objections from players, parents or coaches. The statement is published in the July 9, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the AAN, and is being released ahead of The Sports Concussion Conference, July 11-13, 2014, in Chicago, where the AAN will share the latest scientific advances in diagnosing and treating sports concussion. The AAN position statement calls for doctors to safeguard the future mental and physical health of athletes as a top priority, especially regarding return-to-play decision-making. Physicians also must educate patients and their families about the dangers of concussion in all relevant sports, according to the statement. The Academy has spent several years analyzing all of the available research and ethical issues to develop this official position paper, which corresponds with the AAN’s guideline on sports concussion.

 

DARPA Selects Lawrence Livermore to Develop World's First Neural Device to Restore Memory
ECN / July 10, 2014

The Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) up to $2.5 million to develop an implantable neural device with the ability to record and stimulate neurons within the brain to help restore memory, DARPA officials announced this week. The research builds on the understanding that memory is a process in which neurons in certain regions of the brain encode information, store it and retrieve it. Certain types of illnesses and injuries, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Alzheimer's disease, and epilepsy, disrupt this process and cause memory loss. TBI, in particular, has affected 270,000 military service members since 2000.

Probing Brain's Depth, Trying to Aid Memory
The New York Times / July 9, 2014

The man in the hospital bed was playing video games on a laptop, absorbed and relaxed despite the bustle of scientists on all sides and the electrodes threaded through his skull and deep into his brain. “O.K., that’s enough,” he told doctors after more than an hour. “All those memory tests, it’s exhausting.” The man, Ralph, a health care worker who asked that his last name be omitted for privacy, has severe epilepsy; and the operation to find the source of his seizures had provided researchers an exquisite opportunity to study the biology of memory.

The Science Behind TBI Recovery
Outside Magazine / July 9, 2014

When a skull slams into a hard surface, damage control typically happens in a rush. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) often require immediate surgery, and even during the slow recovery process an urgent question lingers: How much time do I have before permanent brain damage sets in? Previously, doctors believed that the maximum window for recovery was about a year after the injury occurred. But new research suggests the TBI-recovery timeline is longer than previously thought, giving injured athletes more opportunity to restore cognitive functions. Scientists have found that specific types of brain training can help improve brain performance years after injury.  People younger than 20 tend to recover skills and knowledge even after severe brain injuries, says Dr. Lori Cook, study author and director of the Center for Brain Health's pediatric brain injury programs. But learning new things may not come as easily.

Stress Causes Health Problems, Which Then Cause More Stress
National Public Radio / July 8, 2014

Stress is bad for your health. And bad health causes a lot of stress. Poor health and disability are common among people who say they suffer from a lot of stress, according to a by NPR, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. And it's not just those whose own health is poor. Serious illness and injury often impose enormous stress on entire families. Meet Staci Moritz, a 44-year-old mother of three young boys from Portland, Ore. She describes her life as "pretty idyllic" until about five years ago. Then her marriage foundered and she and her husband separated. Four years ago she got laid off from her job. And the next day, the biggest blow fell.

Children Affected by Wartime Deployment Get Little Help, Study Finds
The Sacramento Bee / July 7, 2014

Isaac McCorkle Jr., 8, wondered why his father could not wrestle or catch him with his arms anymore as years passed after the elder Isaac McCorkle, a first lieutenant in the Marines, came back from a second tour in Iraq. Morgan McCorkle, the boy’s mother, was not sure how much she could tell him about his father’s injuries, which included traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and a serious spine injury in the neck that resulted after his truck rolled over when the vehicle in front was hit by a roadside bomb in 2005. He has had two surgeries to replace two spine discs in the neck and fuse four vertebrae. “A lot of it was explaining ‘Daddy hurts. Daddy doesn’t feel good,’ ” said Morgan McCorkle, who lives in San Diego with her family.

Former Players File Objection to Proposed NFL Settlement
The New York Times / July 7, 2014

Seven former N.F.L. players accused the N.F.L. and the lawyers representing more than 4,500 retirees of failing to justify how they reached their proposed settlement that includes an uncapped amount of damages for players with severe neurological disorders. In a 58-page objection filed in federal court Wednesday, the seven former players, including Alan Faneca and Robert Royal, said the proposed settlement announced last week would fail to compensate many retired football players, including those showing signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., a degenerative neurological condition. Faneca, Royal and the other objectors said that players who were injured in the now-defunct N.F.L. Europe would not be covered by the settlement, and because the plaintiffs’ lawyers conducted no discovery, there is no record to determine if they struck a fair deal with the N.F.L.

Retired NFL Players Object to Proposed Concussion Settlement
The Los Angeles Times / July 3, 2014

In the first objection to the revised NFL concussion settlement, seven retired players claim the proposed agreement is riddled with “fatal defects” that “render it anything but fair.” Filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the 47-page objection targets, in part, the settlement’s limits on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) compensation and the 75% reduction in monetary awards to players who suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury unrelated to football. The objection also says the proposed settlement notice is “false and misleading” because it doesn’t indicate that players diagnosed with CTE after the settlement’s preliminary approval aren’t eligible for compensation. “It is a lousy deal for the retired players,” the objection said.

Study Finds Safer Treatment Options for Traumatic Brain Injuries
Baylor College of Medicine News / July 2, 2014

Blood loss resulting in low hemoglobin (the molecule in the blood that carries oxygen) can cause added neurological damage to those suffering from traumatic brain injuries. To try to prevent this, blood transfusions have been a standard of treatment in intensive care management despite potential side effects. In an effort to reduce the need for transfusions, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Harris Health Ben Taub Hospital used different treatment techniques for traumatic brain injuries during the early hospitalization and found that hemoglobin levels actually can be lower than previously thought before a transfusion is needed, lessening the risks associated with this treatment.

Anemia Treatments Don't Boost Recovery from Brain Injury, Study Finds
Health Day / July 2, 2014

People who suffer a severe head injury often develop anemia, but aggressively treating the blood condition may do more harm than good, a new clinical trial suggests. Experts said the findings, reported July 2 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, were disappointing: Treating anemia with blood transfusions -- and in some cases, the medication erythropoietin -- did nothing to improve brain-injured patients' long-term recovery. And when transfusions were used more aggressively, the risk of blood clots increased. Lead researcher Dr. Claudia Robertson said the results "will probably change clinical practice."

Officials Release Support Tools for Post-Concussion Sleep Issues
US Department of Defense / July 2, 2014

Officials at the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center have released new clinical recommendations and support tools to assist in the identification and treatment of a sleep disturbance occurring in patients after a concussion. The suite of products assists health care providers in the identification of a sleep problem and provides recommendations for its treatment, officials said. "Sleep disorders are common after a person sustains a concussion," said Army Col. (Dr.) Sidney Hinds II, DVBIC's national director. "The prompt identification and treatment of sleep disorders are an important part of the recovery process for concussion. Sleep is critical to the brain's healing and recovery processes. Research shows that if sleep is regular and adequate, restorative processes are promoted."

NFL Doesn't Want Players Going to Too Many Bars -- in Their Face Masks
The Washington Post / July 1, 2014

NFL players often find the league’s penchant for making rules that restrict their self-expression to be the bane of their existence. Now the NFL is restricting its players ability to channel “Bane” in their gear. According to nfl.com reporter Ian Rapoport, the league is banning “non-standard and overbuilt facemasks.” Rapoport said on Twitter that Troy Vincent, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, “explained to teams non-standard facemasks more regularly fail safety tests, aren’t as safe.”

Brain Injury in Veterans Tied to Higher Alzheimer's Risk
USA Today / June 26, 2014

Veterans who suffered brain injuries while in the service were more likely to develop Alzheimer's decades later, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology. Although it has long been known that boxers who suffer severe repeated blows to the head are at higher risk for dementia in old age, studies have been mixed about whether head trauma can lead to the mental decline of dementia. In the new study, researchers at the University of California-San Francisco and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center looked at the records of 188,764 U.S. veterans, age 55 and above, who had been seen at a VA medical facility in the early 2000s and at least once since. None of them had dementia at the beginning of the study. By the end, 16% of those who had suffered a serious head injury had been diagnosed with dementia, compared to only 10% of those without a brain injury — a 60% increase in those with head injuries.

NFL Makes Open-Ended Commitment to Retirees in Concussion Suit
The New York Times / June 26, 2014

The N.F.L. has made an open-ended commitment to pay cash awards to retirees who suffer from dementia and other diseases linked to repeated head hits, according to documents filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Wednesday. The guarantee is part of a revised settlement in the contentious lawsuit filed by about 5,000 retired players who accused the league of hiding from them the dangers of concussions. In August, the league agreed to pay $765 million to settle the suit with the retired players, with $680 million of that amount set aside for cash awards. But Judge Anita B. Brody rejected the proposal in January because she said she doubted whether there would be enough money to cover all the claims over the 65-year life of the settlement.

Athletes Testify on Traumatic Brain Injury
CBS News / June 26, 2014

All too often young athletes feel they are invincible, immune to any sort of long-term consequences from a blow to the head during practice or game. But two former pro athletes who told their stories to Congress today are living proof of how serious the consequences can be. Chris Nowinski, a Harvard graduate and former professional wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment, and Ben Utecht, former NFL player for the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts, still suffer years later as a result of these all-too-common injuries. Today both went before the Senate Special Committee on Aging to talk about bearing the long-term burden of repeated head injuries. Nowinski, who is the founding executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit to raise awareness and funding for concussion research, told the committee he was first injured during a wrestling match when he was 24, but continued to compete despite persistent headaches.

US Women's Soccer Stars Take Lead on Risks of Heading
The New York Times / June 25, 2014

Long before millions of Americans decided that the United States men’s soccer team was so cool that they couldn’t live without tuning in to watch it, the players on the 1999 women’s national team — remember them? — had set the bar for the sport’s popularity. They were the summer’s sports rock stars: players like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and, of course, Brandi Chastain, who tore off her shirt after knocking in the final penalty kick to win the 1999 World Cup, then flexed her bare abs and biceps, forcing the world to see what it looked like for a female athlete to roar. On the backs of a vast television audience whose numbers for soccer were broken only by the United States men’s team on Sunday, those women inspired hordes of girls and boys to pick up a ball and start kicking it and heading it.

World Cup 2014: Many Say FIFA Hasn't Done Enough to Treat Concussions
The Washington Post / June 25, 2014

Earlier this week, FIFA staged a special news conference to address medical issues at the World Cup. A dais of experts detailed a variety of pressing health concerns: player cardiac arrests, fan safety, care for volunteers, communicable diseases. It wasn’t until nearly an hour passed and reporters were allowed to ask questions that anyone mentioned the one topic the international soccer world seems all too eager to ignore: head injuries. Even when the question about concussions was finally posed, there wasn’t much in the way of self-reflection from the sport’s largest governing body. “We have done everything to manage the concussions accordingly,” announced Jiri Dvorak, FIFA’s chief medical officer.

Survey: Many Vets with PTSD or TBI Say Treatment Doesn't Help
Air Force Times / June 24, 2014

Echoing recent concerns about the effectiveness of military mental health efforts, a new American Legion survey of veterans found that nearly half thought clinical help they received for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury had little or no effect on their conditions. The study, designed as a point-in-time look at the challenges facing injured veterans, is not a scientific sample of the population as a whole. But it does echo larger concerns that the extra focus on treating those illnesses has not produced clear, reliable metrics for care. In a report released June 20, the Institute of Medicine found the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments lack a “consistent, well-developed, evidence-based system” for treating PTSD, despite billions of dollars spent on the problem over the last decade.


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