How Are Football Brain Injuries and Blast Injuries the Same?

Researchers like Dr. Lee Goldstein are studying the effects of repetitive brain injury whether sustained over a season on the football field or in milliseconds from one combat blast.

See more videos with Dr. Lee Goldstein.

That's a great question about whether these injuries are related between football and the blast injury. And indeed if we look at the neuropathology, the human neuropathology, the pathology is indistinguishable. And that makes sense because the injury mechanism that we have uncovered here really is identical. The difference being this: In football, or in hockey, or boxing, or other types of contact sports the inciting injuries seem to be linked to repetitive traumatic injury, whether it be concussive or subconcussive. So there is a vulnerable period after an initial trauma where the brain is trying to resolve the initial trauma, and if there is a 2nd hit in that period of time the brain is particularly vulnerable and may then be really primed for a sustained, long, chronic course. This is still somewhat--demands more--experimental evidence, but a lot of people are thinking that including myself. I think that is right. What happens in blast is that we see multiple injuries very quickly over a period of milliseconds, so when I say that the head is bobbling or oscillating this can be between 4 and 14 different movements over a period of 3 to 8 milliseconds, so that if we think about repetitive injury on the football field happening one day and then the next day and maybe another one the next day this is being compressed now into milliseconds-- damage, damage, damage, damage-- and that is why we think that one exposure may be in some ways a compression of multiple injuries. So from that perspective in many ways the blast injury is another way of impacting the brain and traumatizing it. It's not fundamentally different from the standpoint of physics from what happens on the football field.
Posted on BrainLine February 28, 2013.

Produced by Brian King, Vicky Youcha, and Erica Queen, BrainLine.