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Warning if you are Hitting the Slopes this Winter

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 30, 2011 09:00

Jason Byrd, a brain injury attorney based out of Houston, TX, wants to caution those taking ski and snowboarding vacations in the coming months. He wishes to draw attention to the very real risk of brain injury on the slopes.

“I think people have this misconception that since they’re dealing with snow, they don’t have to worry because their fall will be padded. But that simply is not true,” Jason Byrd informs. “When you hit your head on that packed down snow, you may as well be falling off your skateboard or bicycle on a paved road.”

Pointing to the CPSC study performed by a government agency way back in 1999, the brain injury attorney draws attention to the fact that an estimated seven thousand head injuries occur on the slopes each year.

He goes on to clarify that “I’m not saying stay away from the slopes. I’m saying be smart about it. Wear a helmet!”

It is a timely message meant to keep holiday skiers from ruining their vacations and needing a brain injury attorney.

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Wyoming Bill to Assist Brain Injury Survivor

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 28, 2011 12:30

A Wyoming program that helps the disabled has a long waiting list, but a state bill to be introduced next year could help.

The Star-Tribune reports that a bill to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session would provide $28 million in state and federal funding for Wyoming's Home and Community Based Waiver Program (

The waiver program provides services for people with disabilities. More than 450 people in Wyoming are waiting for adult, child or brain-injury waivers.

The waiting list includes people like 27-year-old Melissa Dixon, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She's unable to leave home because she has poor motor skills, but she craves independence.

"It makes her feel like she's still a little kid," said D.J. Dixon, her adoptive mother. "And she'd prefer to be around people who have more in common with her."

If the Dixons could get a waiver, the money could pay for an assistant who helps her with social skills and job training. Melissa's been on the waiting list for a year and a half.

"It's not that we want money or anything like that," D.J. Dixon said. "We just want her to have services so she would be able to feel good about herself."

Wyoming established the waivers to help people with developmental disabilities remain in their communities, rather than be institutionalized. The state's adult and child disabilities programs began in the early 1990s and now provide services for more than 2,000 people. Another 170 adults receive assistance through the acquired brain injury program, which began in 2001.

Wyoming expects to spend about $214 million on the waivers over the next two fiscal years, with about half the cost paid with federal dollars.

The funding isn't enough to meet existing demand for the waivers. As of the end of November, 184 disabled adults, 199 disabled children and 72 people with acquired brain injuries were on waiting lists. Disabled adults spend an average of more than two years on the list; children and people with brain injuries each typically wait more than a year.

"They only have a set amount of money," said Rep. Keith Gingery, R-Jackson, who presented the bill to a legislative committee earlier this month. "Until someone goes off the program, they can't let someone else on."

The bill would provide funding to cut assistance gap times to six months for adults and children and one month for people with brain injuries. It would also require the governor to inform lawmakers whenever those times exceed the guidelines.

Gov. Matt Mead has offered his own funding proposal. He has recommended the state spend $12.5 million, rather than $14 million, to shrink the waiver waiting lists. His budget would eliminate brain injury assistance gap times, but would cut adult and child waits to a year, rather than six months, spokesman Renny MacKay said.

The exact funding details can be worked out, Gingery said. But the waiting list issue should be addressed, even amid a time of budget tightening.

"No one with a child should have to wait two or three years to get services," Gingery said. "For these adults who want to be independent, we should be doing everything we can to help them be independent."

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CTV Saskatoon Reports on the Dangers of Head Injury at Every Age

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 27, 2011 19:00

Head injuries in sports have always been a problem, but they've been in the spotlight lately due to a number of star athletes missing significant time on the ice because of concussions.

But the injuries don't just affect NHL players. Young Saskatchewan athletes deal with the reality of concussions every time they lace up their skates.

Bryden Serafini, a forward from the Prince Albert Ice Hawks says dealing with a concussion is not easy for an active player. "You don't know what to do. You can be going for two weeks of no symptoms, than you ride a bike and its boom, you're back to square one. It's a tough thing to deal with; you don't know what to do. It's not like a broken arm you can put in a sling, it's your head."

Serafini says he's now suffered from two concussions in his career. But like many, it hasn't stopped him from playing.

Allan Pasloski, the Ice Hawks general manager, says the league is taking action to prevent the injuries. "We don't get a lot of head shots anymore, because it simply isn't tolerated, you get 3 major head shots in the year, you're done for the season. We've really cracked down on headshots and checking from behind."

Signs of a concussion can include dizziness, headaches, loss of vision, and an uneasy feeling. With many athletes refusing to admit when they're hurt, it may fall on others to look out for their well-being, and to make sure they don't return to action too soon.

Parkland Ambulance EMT Lyle Karasiuk says it's important to recover fully from a concussion before getting back on the ice. "Coaches, parents, teachers alike need to be reminded. Don't send them back to the sport, don't say ‘sit out this period' or ‘sit out this game', they need rest, need to see a doctor, and return them to the sport properly."

Pasloski thinks a big reason for many concussions is a lack of respect in sports. Many players are looking for the highlight reel hit, which has led to young hockey superstar Sidney Crosby being put on the shelf indefinitely with concussion symptoms.

"You don't want to see guys like Crosby, one of the best players ever to play the game, being gone for this long. It hurts everybody. You've got to give these guys a bit of respect and let them play, because it makes the game more enjoyable," says Pasloski.

Medical professionals say the best way to prevent a concussion is to wear the proper protective gear. And that doesn't just mean wearing a helmet; it means finding one that fits properly to protect the brain from injury.


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Kevin Pearce, Snowboarder, Back on the Snow After Brain Injury

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 27, 2011 09:30

Kevin Pearce was known as one of Shaun White's fiercest snowboarding competitors – but on New Year's Eve of 2009, suddenly everything changed after he incurred a traumatic brain injury on the half-pipe.

Almost exactly two years since his death-defying accident, Pearce got back on his board at Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado.

"It felt so good," Pearce, 24, told PEOPLE shortly afterward. "It just feels so much like before. There's nothing really new for me that I have to relearn, so that was nice."

Says Pearce: "I'm really in the right state to be snowboarding right now."

The Vermont-based athlete – who says if it were up to him instead of the doctor, he would have been back at his craft a year ago – explains the difficult recovery he continues to undergo since his life-changing injury.

"I've been working hard at a lot of things, whether it's physical therapy or eye therapy," Pearce says. "I got eye surgery about a month and a half ago. Even though my eyes are a lot better now, they're not perfect, so I have been doing exercises with them. And I've been in the gym, working out. I've been getting everything together and working on my balance."

Still, he faces significant challenges that will never go away.

"A brain injury is always a brain injury, and unfortunately I'm always going to be a brain-injured kid," Pearce says. "The real issue I have is my memory. It's hard to explain, because everyone's always like, 'Oh, my memory sucks, too.' But nobody has any idea how much my memory affects me on a day-to-day basis."

"And," he says, "my balance is really bad. I used to have really, really good balance."

Pearce, who stays "positive and hard working," says the support of his loving mom, Pia, has helped his recovery along.

"She was really nervous [about me going back out there]," he says. "I think she dealt with it really well, though ... I couldn't even imagine how I'd handle it if my son almost died, and then he tried to go back and do it again. She just wants me to do the best I can. She's just there for me all the time."

Kevin Pearce Snowboards Again Two Years After Traumatic Brain Injury| Health, Real People Stories


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New Technology for Detecting Brain Injuries at Accident Sites

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 23, 2011 09:44

US researchers have created a prototype handheld near-infrared imaging device that can quickly detect traumatic brain injuries.

When accidents that involve traumatic brain injuries occur, a speedy diagnosis followed by the proper treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

A research team, led by Jason D. Riley in the Section on Analytical and Functional Biophotonics at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has created a handheld device capable of quickly detecting brain injuries such as hematomas, which occur when blood vessels become damaged and blood seeps out into surrounding tissues where it can cause significant and dangerous swelling.

The device is based on the concept of using instrumental motion as a signal in near-infrared imaging, according to the researchers, rather than treating it as noise.

It relies on a simplified single-source configuration with a dual separation detector array and uses motion as a signal for detecting changes in blood volume in the tough, outermost membrane enveloping the brain and spinal cord (see video).

One of the primary applications for the finished device will be the rapid screening of traumatic brain injury patients before using more expensive and busy CT and MRI imaging techniques.

In cases where CT and MRI imaging facilities are not available, such as battlefields or on the scene of accidents, the team believes near-infrared imaging will help to determine the urgency of patient transport and treatment, as well as provide a means of monitoring known hematomas at the bedside or outpatient clinic.

The study has been recently published in the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.


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Brain Injuries in the NHL: Something to Worry About

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 19, 2011 15:00

No matter what the statistics might tell us, the optics are bad and getting worse. The NHL has something wrong with its head, specifically the concussed brains of its rank-and-file stick carriers, and no one is sure what to do about it, or if there is anything that can be done to make an inherently dangerous game substantially less a killing field.

Nothing on the KO front should surprise us anymore, but the hockey Twitterverse exploded Thursday night when the Flyers revealed that captain/hardened warrior Chris Pronger would be shut down for the duration, including the playoffs. Diagnosis: severe postconcussion syndrome. Bruins fans know the drill all too well, given the histories of Patrice Bergeron (now doing very well) and Marc Savard (not expected to resume his career).

Pronger’s move to neuropsych purgatory after missing 11 games came the week after the Penguins said superstar center Sidney Crosby, after playing in only eight games (2-10-12), would need more time out of action. Sid the Kid came back only last month after getting cranked twice within a week at the start of January.

According to multiple reports, the 24-year-old Crosby figures it was an elbow from the Bruins’ David Krejci Dec. 5 that exacerbated his latest woes. Krejci, it should be noted, is tough enough to withstand the daily NHL grind, but he is anything but a mauler. If Crosby can’t withstand Krejci-like knocks, his troubles may be far from behind him, possibly irreparable. At this point, no one would be surprised if, like Pronger, Crosby were to shut it down for the season, rest, and try again come training camp in September 2012.

Headed into weekend action, Pronger and Crosby were joined by fellow brothers of the concussed Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn (both Flyers), along with the high-profile likes of Milan Michalek, the league’s top goal scorer from Ottawa, and Jeff Skinner, the Hurricanes’ scoring whiz who was last season’s Rookie of the Year. The slick Giroux recently topped the list of the game’s top point-getters.

The fact that such talented players are getting concussed brings a brighter, hotter spotlight to a persistent and difficult issue, but brain injuries have to be taken seriously, no matter if the player is a fourth-line plumber or a face of the franchise (see: Crosby, Pronger).

To its credit, the league has paid attention for a while, implementing baseline testing and return-to-work protocols that were ahead of, or at least in lockstep with, other professional leagues. Sadly, it dragged its feet disgracefully, if not negligently, in the days when Colin Campbell was meting out discipline from his corner office at league HQ. Players were egregiously smashed over the head by opponents (see: Matt Cooke’s hit on Savard) and Campbell too often let offenders skate, noting that the league’s rulebook didn’t give him the language or the license to suspend or fine the perpetrators. While he rifled through the pages to find only excuses, and the Lords of the Boards hemmed and hawed, heads remained on sliver platters, and nitwits such as Cooke feasted at the table of wanton destruction. Nice governance.

Again to its credit, the league has since moved Brendan Shanahan into the chief disciplinarian role and also placed him in charge of player safety. Things are improving under Shanahan’s watch, at least from a penance-and-pay standpoint. If the Lords and general managers let him keep up the heat, and the NHL Players Association supports his decisions rather than tosses up picayune objections, then it will become a safer workplace. Nothing gets a player’s attention like lost wages.

There are numerous other ways to dial back on the concussions. Such as:

- Shoulder pads and elbow pads need to be made smaller and their materials less destructive. In the last 15-20 years, manufacturers have preached improved protection through greater size and granite-like materials. Some of the paraphernalia has been softened. But even when not deliberately used to hurt people, the armor is hurting people.

- Stiffer penalties on hits to the head. The league last spring finally upgraded the rulebook, making some targeted hits to the head illegal. But brain injuries continue, and it’s increasingly clear that the Lords need to punish all hits to the head. They are in the business of selling violence, and as the game’s fathers they don’t want to give up what sells. As fathers, would they stop selling if these damaged players were their biological sons and not merely their issue of profit?

- Contrary to myth, people get hurt in hockey fights, often severely, and some suffer concussions. The NHL, when I asked again on Friday, would not reveal statistics on concussions. The game has grown five-fold from its Original Six days. It is a multibillion-dollar industry. The NHL is a tremendous product and will be all the greater when it realizes it can relegate its bar fights strictly to its Board of Governors meetings.

- When the most recent lockout ended in the summer of 2005, I was among those who saw the need of opening up play, and lauded the idea of taking the red line out of the offside equation. Good idea, bad result. Some of these concussions are because of incredible heads of steam that players gain now through center ice. There has to be a better way to mitigate trapping, grappling tactics in the neutral zone. I am convinced a slower game would diminish concussions. It would also lead to better, more artful puck control and playmaking. Bonus.

- Finally, the helmet. There has to be something better. And players need to be smarter about wearing their helmets properly, tightly, with fitted mouthguards. NHL icon Mark Messier a few years ago put his name on a Cascade product, its design borrowed from lacrosse. Be it Cascade or a different vendor, it’s time for a better mouse trap.

Some of these suggested fixes, despite varying degrees of pushback from both sides, and even from the audience (what, give up fights?!), are easy to implement. A handful of bright guys could get in a room today and cherry-pick from the list provided here and substantially change the culture of the sport and still maintain its entertainment factor.

When they all finally face the reality and get down to business, let these words be their guiding light: brain injury is not sport.


LA has found its new king

When the Kings were on Causeway Street Monday night, with John Stevens substitute teaching for fired coach Terry Murray, all the talk was that Darryl Sutter would be the new coach of the Crowns. Stevens was still the bench boss last night, with the Kings in Detroit to take on the Red Wings. But Sutter, who was fired a year ago as the Flames’ general manager, has agreed to take the job, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Sutter coached in San Jose when Dean Lombardi, now the Kings’ GM, ran the Sharks. There had been some thought that another NHL club had reached out in hopes of hiring Sutter. But the Times report said Sutter will take over the Kings Tuesday.

Back to where it began

Teemu Selanne, 18-plus years removed from his rookie season with the Jets when he scored 76 goals, made his first return to the city’s new NHL franchise last night. One of the game’s greatest goal scorers, he was shipped to Anaheim midway through his fourth season (1995-96) with the Jets. “I was totally shocked,’’ the Finnish Flash recalled last week. “Two weeks before that trade, the club told me, ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to be a big part of our future in Winnipeg.’ ’’ The trade came in February ’96, only weeks before the Jets left town to do business in Phoenix as the Coyotes. “I felt like I failed,’’ said Selanne, now 41 and likely playing his final NHL season in his second tour with the Ducks. “I was from Finland, and no one ever gets traded in Finland.’’

Helmets a fitting choice

Jay Bijeau was an assistant hockey coach for the men’s club squad at the Naval Academy a few years ago when the team, after consulting with the players, opted to buy Cascade helmets in hopes of better protecting the players’ heads. “Two of our guys had concussions at the time,’’ recalled Bijeau, these days a lieutenant commander on the USS Alaska submarine. “We felt it was the way to go.’’ The helmets arrived, soon followed by complaints, the players saying they didn’t like the fit. Twice, said Bijeau, Cascade reps visited and made certain the fit was perfect for each player. Bijeau eventually realized that the fit was fine, but the players simply didn’t like the look of the slightly larger Cascade design. “Top-of-the-line helmet, best product out there,’’ said Bijeau. “But the kids decided it wasn’t the helmet for them - and the bottom line was, they just didn’t like the look. And trust me, that’s all it was. The captains came up and said, ‘Look, no one wants to say it, but the reality is, the guys think they look goofy in these things.’ ’’ To his chagrin, said Bijeau, vanity ruled the day and the players went back to their old helmets. “Except the two guys who had the concussions,’’ said Bijeau. “They knew what it was like to live with that kind of injury.’’

Black and Golden oldies?

The disdain here for the canned music played at TD Garden during Bruins games is nothing new to my regular readers. As offensive as it has been in recent years, it seems even worse in 2011-12, and I know that may sound like an old man yelling from his porch, telling his kids to get off the lawn. So be it. But I can tell you that I’ve asked a number of 20-somethings and 30-somethings in the building to name those tunes, only to get blank stares or shrugged shoulders as response. In my opinion, it’s audio porn. Before the season’s over, I’d love to have one intermission - just one - when organist Ron Poster takes us through the tattered pages of John Kiley’s playbook. Ah, house lights down, a little “Norwegian Wood’’ (Beatles, ’65) over the PA and a picture of the smiling Kiley up on the Jumbotron. Please!


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Advanced Imaging Assists in Brain Injury Treatment

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 12, 2011 16:00

Improvements in the imaging of a human brain during maturation may allow for more effective understanding and treatment of brain injuries incurred during youth and adolescence.
Research published in Neuron has examined the structural changes that occur in the brain during development and is the first comprehensive study of coordinated anatomical maturation.
The study has highlighted a number of sex specific differences in brain development and found that functionally-connected brain regions often mature together, which could inform treatment strategies in the cause of traumatic injury.
Dr Armin Raznahan, from the National Institutes of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, said that developments in this area of imaging have progressed "rather slowly" to date.
He said: "We drew from the largest and longest-running longitudinal neuroimaging study of human brain maturation … to analyse patterns of correlated anatomical change across the sensitive developmental window of late childhood, adolescence and early adulthood."
Earlier this week, researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute announced that they had successfully conducted the first realistic 3D reconstruction of a brain circuit, bringing scientists closer to understanding how the brain can be damaged.

News brought to you by Serious Law specialists in brain injury.


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Ski-Helmet Law in Nova Scotia

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 9, 2011 16:00

Nova Scotia bolted into the lead this week in the epic race among North American jurisdictions to make us slightly safer — barely overtaking King County, Wash., which in June banned swimming and wading in rivers without wearing a life jacket.

Bill 131, tabled Tuesday at the House of Assembly in Halifax, would make it illegal to ski or snowboard without a helmet, effective Nov. 1, 2012. A helmet cuts the risk of head injury by at least 60%, according to a news release from the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. And Minister Maureen MacDonald assures me there will, indeed, be helmet cops on the slopes. The minimum fine is $250.


Ms. MacDonald offers two justifications for this: brain injuries, and the terrible consequences they often entail; and the money it costs to treat them. According to the province, a “traumatic brain injury” costs roughly $400,000 a year to treat. And since 2000, 11 helmetless skiers and snowboarders have suffered such an injury on the slopes of Nova Scotia. Call it one a year.


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Headaches Common in Brain-Injured Children

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 9, 2011 12:00

Kids who have a concussion or other traumatic brain injury are more likely to develop headaches for up to a year afterward than children who have had a bodily injury, according to a new study.

While not entirely surprising, the results point to a difficult long-term problem for kids and their parents because adequate treatments are lacking, researchers say.

"It's an issue because they may have problems with sleep, and the headaches can make it harder to concentrate," said lead author Dr. Heidi Blume at Seattle Children's Research Institute.
More than half a million children go to the hospital each year for brain injury.

Blume and her colleagues tracked more than 400 children who had come into the emergency room with a brain injury -- 402 kids had a mild injury and 60 kids had a moderate or severe injury.

Oftentimes the damage was caused by rough play in sports, falls and car accidents.

Blume's team compared these head-injury cases to kids who had come into the emergency room with an arm injury.

Parents and children kept a diary of any headaches the kids reported for a year.

After three months, 43 out of every 100 kids who experienced a mild brain injury complained of headaches.

Among kids with moderate or severe brain injuries, 37 out of every 100 complained of headaches.

In comparison, 26 out of every 100 kids who had an arm injury reported having headaches three months later.

Blume said headaches can have a big impact on kids' lives, affecting their performance in school and forcing them to drop out of sports, band or other activities that could potentially trigger headaches.

It's unclear why the children with mild brain injury were more likely to have headaches than those who suffered more severe damage.

"That is a conundrum that we don't fully understand, but it's been noted before" in research on adults, said Karen Barlow at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary, Canada.

"There might be something about the moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries that interfere with the mechanisms of sensing pain," Barlow speculated, "but we haven't gotten to the bottom of that."

The researchers did not determine whether kids who suffered a brain injury were also more likely to have had headaches before the injury than the kids who had an arm injury.

They did find that the risk for having headaches after a head injury was especially pronounced among girls.

Girls who had a mild brain injury were more than twice as likely to have headaches as girls who had an arm injury, whereas boys had nearly similar rates of headaches regardless of the type of injury.

"I'm not surprised about this because it's what I see in clinic," Blume told Reuters Health.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, did not determine why there was a difference between the sexes.

Girls might be more likely to report headaches, Blume said, "but I don't think it can all be chalked up to a difference in reporting. I think there's something else going on."

Women and girls are more likely to suffer migraines than men and boys, which could be due to hormone levels, and perhaps hormones might also play a role with headaches after brain injury too.

The greater chance of having headaches among girls could also reflect changes in the way boys' and girls' brains develop, Blume said.

The challenge for any child suffering headaches after a brain injury is that there are few ways to treat them.

"Right now we have no studies to guide the treatment of post-traumatic headaches in children," said Barlow, who was not involved in the new study.

Rest and hydration are usually offered, but Barlow said there's only anecdotal evidence backing them up.

Fortunately, it appears that 12 months after a brain injury, the headaches seem to go back to the levels seen among kids who have had an arm injury.

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David McGuire Finishing up His Cross-Country Run

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   December 8, 2011 12:00

A man from New Westminster has been running a marathon a day since April to raise awareness about brain injuries.

In 2005 David McGuire woke up in hospital, nine days after taking a simple bath. He says no one really knows what happened.

"That's the last thing I remember," he says. "So what we know, well, what happened was I either slipped and fell in the bathtub and hit my head causing my brain to bleed more, or my brain started to bleed causing me to lose consciousness."

Frustrated with the lack of support for people recovering from brain trauma, the 38-year-old decided to take control.

McGuire began to run about 10 km a day, which he says was the only thing he could do on his own.

Fast forward six years and McGuire is on the last leg of a cross-country run to get people talking.

"To me it's starting that conversation, like what seatbelts were like when we were kids. You didn't legally have to wear seatbelts so it's changing the dialogue to get it to the point where you buy a bike, you do the stuff, you have a helmet.

"It's doing simple things," McGuire stresses. "Like putting on a helmet or telling someone if you hit your head that will make all the difference."

He plans to finish his run on Dec. 9 at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria.


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