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Study out of Boston University - Brain Damage and Contact Sports

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 5, 2012 00:08


The world’s largest study of the brains of dead professional athletes has found that the majority were suffering from a degenerative brain condition before they died, giving a sobering glimpse into the potential long-term impact of violent contact sport.

Of the 85 brains Boston University researchers studied, 68 were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease brought on by repetitive hits to the head and linked to depression, memory loss, aggression and dementia. Half of those 68 were former professional football players; 16 more played football as their primary sport.

The study is to be published on Monday in the scientific journal Brain. A copy was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

While the prevalence of CTE is unknown, the Boston researchers say their work shows a clear link between the disease and football – and potentially other sports played by donors in the study, including rugby, wrestling and hockey. The brains of five former hockey players were analyzed. Four were found to have CTE. Most played the role of enforcer. They were NHL stars Reggie Fleming, Derek Boogaard, Bob Probert and Rick Martin.

Donors in the study also included two NFL Hall of Famers, tight end John Mackey and running back Ollie Matson, and former NFL and CFL running back Cookie Gilchrist. All were found to have advanced CTE.

“I don’t think we can ignore it any longer. It’s not going to go away if we pretend it doesn’t exist. It does exist,” said Anne McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University and the study’s lead author. “And if you talk to any of [their] family members, they will tell you it’s devastating. Truthfully, working on this disease is really heartbreaking.”

The study is the first to classify the disease into degrees of severity, highlighting four stages as it slowly marches through the neurological system over decades.

Initially, CTE begins with damaged neurons in one area of the brain, and symptoms might include headaches or problems concentrating. In Stage 2, subjects may grapple with depression and impairment of their short-term memory, and then eventually progress to Stage 3, which includes difficulty with multi-tasking, planning and judgment. Stage 4 includes full-blown dementia.

Within the sample, which also included the brains of former soldiers, the authors also found that one-third of the CTE cases were diagnosed with additional degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Lewy body disease. Of the donors, seven died from suicide.

In most cases, the disease was the most severe in the athletes who died in their 60s, 70s and 80s, confirming what researchers already suspected: it is degenerative.

However, the researchers were perplexed to discover that a small number of the older donors had low-level CTE despite being exposed to brain trauma as young athletes. This suggests that a mystery factor – possibly genetic or environmental – may stop the disease from advancing in some people.

“It definitely opens up the question of why do the majority of people relentlessly progress with this disease, but not everybody. What is it unique about those people that don’t relentlessly progress? And that holds great hope, if we can figure it out, for treatment and prevention,” said Robert Cantu, co-author of the paper and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute in Boston.

CTE results from what Dr. Cantu called “total brain trauma” – which includes multiple hits to the head that cause the brain to rattle off the skull, something that doesn’t always result in a concussion. Generally, athletes suffered the repetitive brain trauma over many years. Certain sports (such as boxing and football), and certain positions played (linebackers in football and enforcers in hockey), appear more prone to these sorts of repetitive brain traumas, Dr. Cantu said.

While scientists say it is likely that CTE is rare, they still don’t know many things, such as who is most susceptible, how it can be diagnosed while players are still living, and what can be done to prevent or treat it.

Dr. Cantu emphasized that people should not assume there is a direct link between CTE and concussions, especially if the concussions are diagnosed and treated properly. In fact, he said, some of the brains found to have CTE came from people who had never been diagnosed with a concussion.

“Just because somebody’s had three, four, five concussions, don’t suddenly think you’re going to wind up with CTE – that’s not the way it works,” Dr. Cantu said.

He added that concussions should be taken seriously and treated properly to prevent other serious medical conditions, including post-concussion syndrome and second-impact syndrome.

Article from the Globe and Mail


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December Office Hours

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   November 30, 2012 16:59

If you were hoping to stop by our office, to give a donation or for a visit, this holiday season, please check out our December office hours. We'd love to see you!

SBIA Office Hours.pdf (107.38 kb)

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Connections: Fall 2012

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   September 24, 2012 12:32

The latest edition of Connections has been released.

Inside you will find information regarding the upcoming Fall Retreat, local chapter events, Photos from the Brain Boogie, an event notice for the Take Brain Injury Out of Play Pledge & Charter Signing, and MORE!

Download it below, and share it with your friends!

Connections-Fall 2012.pdf (796.93 kb)

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Moose Jaw Brain Boogie Article - Moose Jaw Times

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   September 17, 2012 11:26

For the first time, a walk-a-thon to raise awareness and funds for the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association (SBIA) is taking place in Moose Jaw.

The SBIA is putting on a Brain Boogie in Connor Park on Saturday. Registration is at 10 a.m. and the walk will begin at 11 a.m. After the boogie, there will be a barbecue and a Two Bits Family Fair that will include educational games from noon to 2 p.m. 

“We know that there are people who are looking for programs and looking for an opportunity to get together with other people who may share some similar situations,” said SBIA executive director Glenda James. “So we also use the Brain Boogie as a social gathering, as a way for people to come out and meet other folks.”

All of the funds from the Brain Boogie raised will stay in Moose Jaw to support activities and programs in the city for those with a brain injury, James said. The rest of the money will go to support SBIA events such as retreats around the province.

“One of the things that I hear a lot is that people who are brain injury survivors and their families experience a lot of isolation because a lot of things change for the family and everything is just harder to do,” said James. “A lot of our activities are just to give them a chance to get out, to be aware that they’re not alone (and) that there (is) support in the community.”

Article from the Moose Jaw Times

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Brain Injury and Violence - In progress Research

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   September 12, 2012 13:00

Traumatic Brain Injury and Violence: Reducing the risks, improving the outcomes (CIHR Strategic Teams in Applied Injury Research)


Patients suffer Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at seven times the rate of breast cancer and 30 times the rate of HIV/AIDS each year. TBI is responsible for more trauma deaths than injury to any other region of the body, accounting for 50% or more of all trauma deaths in Canada. For severe TBI, immediate medical costs are more than $400,000 at the time of injury. Added post-treatment costs can amount to more than $60,000 each year, with indirect costs 10 times higher. In industrialized countries like Canada and the USA, it is estimated that 2% of the population live with lifelong disabilities resulting from TBI and roughly one in four adults with TBI are unable to return to work one year after injury because of physical or mental disabilities.

In addition to the substantial financial costs of TBI, adverse long-term behavioural and personality changes resulting from TBI may predispose individuals to violent behaviour. Of the more than 100,000 people in Canada admitted to hospital with mild to moderate closed head injury, 85% will have injuries to the frontal or temporal lobes. People with TBI, especially those with frontal brain dysfunction, often develop traits such as disinhibition and impulsivity, display aggressive behaviour and engage in violent acts.

While it is unknown how much violent behaviour is directly linked to TBI, it's possible that a substantial proportion may be linked and, in turn, a substantial proportion of these violent acts result in TBI among victims, thus perpetuating the cycle.

Studies have shown that individuals with disabilities are at a greater risk of violence, abuse, and neglect but very little research has focused specifically on persons with TBI.


This research program is intended to improve our understanding of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and its link to violence. It is our hypothesis that vulnerable populations carry the mutual burdens of violence and TBI for which there are shared, modifiable risk factors. The research program will examine the social causes and social, cognitive and behavioural effects of TBI and the reciprocal links between TBI and violence. 


  1. TBI and Vulnerable People: This section aims to identify the links between TBI and violence in various vulnerable populations.
  2. Culture and TBI: The objective of this section is to examine aggression and TBI in sports and assess the influence of culture in promoting violent behaviour.
  3. TBI and Society: The series of studies that form part of this subgroup will investigate community and societal level impacts of TBI and violence in Canada.
  4. Knowledge Translation: The objective of this group of projects is to raise awareness of the risk factors for TBI and violence in vulnerable populations, as well as to develop a variety of interventions in order to influence policy and educate the public.

For more information about the research, and how you can become involved, check out the St. Michael's website.


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Regina Brain Boogie Article in Regina Leader-Post

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   September 10, 2012 09:28

Nicole Wall could have felt angry and cheated out of her childhood when her mother and father suffered brain aneurysms. Instead, she stepped in to help her parents on the long road to recovery.

Nicole was 13 when her mom, Monica Wall, had an aneurysm 10 years ago. Three years ago, Nicole’s dad, Kim, suffered three aneurysms — one which is inoperable. He manages the condition with medication and by staying fit.

“They both needed emergency surgeries to save their lives,” Nicole said. “My dad’s neurosurgeon said he’s never seen a husband and wife have aneurysms and survive.

“Our family dynamic changed a whole bunch especially when my mom got sick. I took on a mom role with my little brother because my mom was in the hospital for almost a year. She’s never returned to work, never got her driver’s licence again, but she’s still here every day and I love her dearly. My dad has been lucky enough to go back to work and gone on to be a provincial mountain bike gold medalist. He’s a champ and I love him too.”

Nicole is on the board of directors of the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association (SBIA) and helped to organize the Brain Boogie — Positive Steps in Motion walk-a-thon held Saturday morning in Wascana Centre.

According to the association, acquired brain injury (ABI) is the leading cause of death and disability in children and young adults worldwide. Approximately 70 per cent of survivors are between 18 and 28 years. Every year, more than 2,200 Saskatchewan people sustain a serious brain injury — most are young.

“I just want to get youth and young people in our community involved to hopefully prevent some of these brain injuries from happening,” Nicole said.

Monica was among more than 80 people participating in the walk. The 53-year-old credits the SBIA for providing her with a lot of moral support.

“It’s been a long road to recovery,” Monica said. “It left me with vision difficulties, hearing difficulties and I have a lot of cognitive problems, but I’m very fortunate that I’m up and walking.”

According to the SBIA, half of all brain injuries are the result of motor vehicle collisions. The rest are caused by sport injuries, work-related injuries, assault, falls, illness or firearms.

Gord Fisher injured his brain when he was three weeks old and thrown out of a vehicle that rolled three times.

“When people drive, they should slow down or when you play football, don’t hammer your head on other heads,” Fisher said.

The 45-year-old Reginan collected $3,768.21 in pledges for this year’s Brain Boogie.

“I went door to door to door raising money,” he said. “It’s something I like doing.”

The Brain Boogie was also held in Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Yorkon on Saturday. More information about the association is available at or by calling toll free: 1-888-373-1555.

Funds from the walk support local and provincial programs for brain injury survivors and their families.

“This is the kickoff to our fall programs,” said Glenda James, executive director of the SBIA. “There are about 56,000 brain injuries in Canada each year and that’s cumulative. A brain injury never ends, it’s lifelong. Prevention is the only cure so our organization strives to prevent brain injuries, but also to make sure that the quality of life for brain injury survivors is improved.”

Article found in the Leader-Post

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BIAC Newsletter - August 2012

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   August 24, 2012 10:00

BIAC has released the August 2012 edition of their Impact Newsletter. Catch up on all the things the national organization is doing!

Full Edition: Impact-August 2012.pdf (2.14 mb)

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How does brain injury affect other family members?

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   August 23, 2012 10:00

Brain injured people often experience a change in personality following their injury and this can be difficult for the injured person’s family to adjust to.

On 28th June representatives from Pannone LLP attended the British Association of Brain Injury Case Managers (BABICM) Summer Conference in Bristol. The focus of the conference this year was “Relationships after head injury”, and we were lucky enough to hear from Professor Jeffrey S. Kreutzer who was visiting from Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. Professor Kreutzer spoke about “The Impact of Brain Injury on Family Relationships” This talk highlighted common problems experienced by the family of a brain injured person, such as feeling trapped or isolated, feeling that other family members are criticising the care that is given to the brain injured person, and feeling misunderstood. It was emphasised that role changes will inevitably take place in the family when an adult becomes dependant or less responsible, and that the care-giver must ensure they take care of themselves in order to continue giving good care to the brain injured relative.

Professor Kreutzer shared some surprising research findings on the effect that traumatic brain injury (TBI) has on family members, for example, 79% of the wives of someone with TBI identify themselves as suffering from depression, with 32% feeling that they are married to a stranger. (Mauss-Clum & Ryan) The talk highlighted the most frequent problems reported by relatives at 5 years post injury as being violence, temper, irritability, memory problems, slowness and personality change.

Professor Kreutzer went on to outline the Brain Injury Family Intervention Program that he is implementing with his patients and their families. The goals of this program include helping families to better understand how brain injury has affected each member of the family, teaching effective problem solving strategies and communication skills, and identifying progress and personal strengths. Each family member completes a family change questionnaire in order to identify how the brain injury has affected them and their role within the family. Feedback from families was very positive and it certainly seems that this program is an invaluable tool that could also be used to support the families of brain injured individuals in the UK and elsewhere.

Article from Pannone Blog

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Connections: Summer 2012

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   August 22, 2012 09:39


Check out the latest edition of Connections, our quarterly newsletter!

Inside you'll find the report from this year's Survivor and Family Camp, as well as some great pictures from the event. You will also find the AGM report with an excerpt from our Annual Report, and a list of this year's board members.

There are also some great upcoming events highlighted including the BIAC National Conference!

Full Edition: summer 2012-colour.pdf (1.02 mb)



Connections: Spring 2012

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 8, 2012 11:48

Check the latest edition of Connections. Inside you'll find reports and photos from our Spring Retreat and Brain Blitz weekend. There is also information regarding upcoming events including: Bike Safety Week, Camp, Walk-a-Thon, and our Take Brain Injury Out of Play campaign. Be sure to check it out and share it with your friends!


Connections-Spring 2012.pdf (1.07 mb)

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