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Ban Fighting in Hockey: Poll - Globe and Mail article

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 9, 2013 12:10

It appears the nation is keen to clean up the national game.

A new Exhibit No. 1 in the court of public opinion was on gut-wrenching display Wednesday night at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, when Maple Leafs forward Frazer McLaren knocked out Ottawa Senators rookie Dave Dziurzynski with a single punch to the head.

Rarely has a player worn such an unfortunate nickname – “Call me Dizzy,” Dziurzynski recently told reporters who were tying their fingers in knots trying to type his name – as the 23-year-old forward suffered a concussion in the fight that took place barely 26 seconds into the game.

“It doesn’t appear to have been provoked at all,” says former Ontario attorney-general Roy McMurtry, who fought, and mostly lost, a high-profile legal battle against NHL violence in the 1970s.

“It’s just plain thuggery.”

It’s also a farce. The staged fight is the cartoon of professional hockey – “entertainment” apart from the main attraction – but it is increasingly seen as not funny at all. Particularly when players are injured.

This was the classic staged fight, all but guaranteed the moment the two coaches filled out their lineups and threw out players who should count themselves fortunate to see a few minutes of ice time on a fourth line.

There was a fight, but no punishment for stopping the game so abruptly and unnecessarily. Both players were given majors – let’s not call them penalties – and sent off (Dziurzynski was helped off once he regained consciousness). The teams then resumed play with five skaters a side.

McLaren, with his fifth fight of the shrunken season, will now be able to table his treasured major just as superior players will table their goals and assists come contract time. In the NHL, after all, you are rewarded, not penalized, for fighting.

It is perhaps the greatest absurdity in all of team sports. And, it appears, people are finally starting to see it as such.

“Staged fights, and indeed all fights in hockey should be banned, as they are in many great sports such as soccer,” says Dr. Charles Tator, founder of ThinkFirst Canada and project director of the Canadian Sports Concussion Project at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre at Toronto Western Hospital.

“We would have a safer game if we banned fighting.”

Nearly 40 years after McMurtry and his brother Bill tried to get gratuitous and unnecessary violence out of the game, a new survey contends that Canadians are sick of such thuggery.

Angus Reid Public Opinion recently surveyed the population at large, as well as a specific sample of self-described hockey fans, on a number of issues from when to introduce bodychecking to what should be done about fisticuffs in the game.

This week, The Globe and Mail reported on the first part of the survey – a vast majority of Canadians want bodychecking out of peewee hockey – and today the results are in on the public attitude toward fighting:

Three-quarters of Canadians (78 per cent) – and an identical percentage of fans of the game – want to see fights banned in all junior hockey;

Two-thirds of Canadians – fans as well as the general public – believe fighting should also be banned at the professional level;

Only 16 per cent of the country favours allowing fights at the junior levels;

One-quarter of Canadians (27 per cent) oppose eliminating fights at the professional level, while 5 per cent aren’t sure what to do;

While 95 per cent of fans believe skating is an “essential component” of the game, and 93 per cent believe shooting is important, a minuscule 7 per cent say the ability to engage in on-ice fights is important.

In other words, hockey’s cartoon can go.

The online survey was conducted between Feb. 22 and 26. It involved 1,013 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists and an additional smaller sample of 502 self-described hockey fans. According to the pollster, the margin of error in such a survey would be plus or minus 3.1 per cent from the larger sample of Canadian adults, and plus or minus 4.5 per cent for the smaller sample.

Respondents were asked if they would support a system in place in college and university hockey, where rules call for automatic ejection and suspension for those players engaging in fisticuffs.

By large majorities, they agreed there should be rules to bring an end, as much as possible, to fighting in hockey.

The survey did not break down fights into those that occur in the heat of the moment and those that occur for no comprehensible reason, as was the case when Dziurzynski and McLaren decided to hammer each other before the game had taken a second breath.

So while McLaren has another “major” to take to the bargaining table, Dziurzynski carries with him a history of concussion as he tries to establish what has already been a most unlikely hockey career.

The 23-year-old rookie from Lloydminster, Alta., came to the NHL only because the Senators have been so gutted by injury the team has had to reach far down into its minor-league system.

Dziurzynski did not play major junior hockey and was never drafted. His size – 6 foot 3, 204 pounds – and willingness to do whatever it takes made him an attractive quantity. He at times has appeared to be a late bloomer as far as ability and skills are concerned, but his main qualities remain size and toughness.

When the taller and larger McLaren asked right off the opening faceoff if Dziurzynski wanted to fight – McLaren has admitted he was trying to “spark” his team to a strong early start – the Ottawa rookie initially said no, but then went ahead and fought anyway.

If he was going to stick, he would have to prove himself.

But what he also proved is that, when it comes to fighting in hockey, we are getting a bit dizzy and nauseous.

Article from the Globe and Mail.

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News

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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News

Ken Dryden talks Head Shots in Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   May 1, 2012 16:27

It was the Stanley Cup final, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, 1964. The game was in Toronto.

Leafs goaltender Johnny Bower was 39. He had kicked around the minor leagues almost all his professional career but everyone knew he would do anything to stop shots, even put his maskless face in front of them. In the last few years he had earned his chance.

Gordie Howe had always been great. He had the hands to score, the elbows and attitude to command the corners, and the fists to embarrass anyone foolish enough to take him on. He was 36.

Bower and Howe were both from Saskatchewan, Bower from Prince Albert, Howe from Floral. They had fished together. They were great competitors.

The puck was shot into the corner in the Leafs’ zone. Bower moved toward the puck uncertainly, leaving himself exposed from behind. Howe bore down toward the puck. Howe, the toughest guy around, could’ve plastered Bower’s head against the glass, perhaps deciding the Cup.

Instead, he yelled: “Look out, John, I’m behind you.”

The Leafs won the Cup. I was 16, living in Toronto. I read the story the next day in the newspaper. Howe’s “Look out, John” comes to me 48 years later.

It was the third game of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes, 2012. Raffi Torres of the Coyotes crashes into the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa.

It was the perfect moment for a brain-rattling hit. Hossa didn’t see Torres coming. He had no reason to see him coming. He didn’t have the puck. He had every right to assume he was in no danger. So he let down his guard. It was Torres’s moment.

Torres did what he did not because it was survival but because the weak have it coming to them. He had been taught – if they have their head down or their eyes away from the play. And because he’d started toward Hossa while Hossa still had the puck, or almost still had the puck, Torres could say he was “just finishing his check.” That it was “just a late hit.” Torres crushed Hossa because he could.

It was the sixth game of the Coyotes-Blackhawks series, the third period. Michal Rozsival for the Coyotes was carrying the puck behind his own net, chased by Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews. Coming from the other side of the net was Chicago forward Andrew Shaw. Four games earlier Shaw had hit Coyotes goalie Mike Smith in the jaw with his shoulder as Shaw had turned behind the Coyotes’ net, sending Smith spinning to the ice. Smith was shaken, but continued. Shaw was suspended for three games.

This was Shaw’s first game back. Rozsival didn’t see Shaw coming. Shaw could’ve launched himself into Rozsival’s head the way Torres had into Hossa’s. But he didn’t. He hit Rozsival solidly in the chest with his shoulder. The puck went loose. Maybe Shaw let up because he had still in his mind his three-game suspension. Maybe Shaw realized it was his job to create a scoring chance, not to maim.

I love the first round of the playoffs. Everything is fresh, everything is possible. First seeds play eighth seeds that are just as able to win as they are. Upsets happen. By the last two rounds especially, when even the unworldly energy of the underdog seems to flag, talent tends to win out and the outcomes become more predictable. In the first round there are also games everywhere on the digital box, time zone after time zone. If the games don’t quite blend into each other, the emotions of them do. Every next game in a night seems more exciting because of the last one. Every next game seems more out of control because the last one was.

This year’s first round felt like a giant primal scream. The scream began when Nashville’s Shea Weber rammed the head of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg into the glass. It picked up volume after the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin took out Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, culminated with the Torres hit and in the days that passed before his final suspension was announced. By then, things seemed different than they had ever been before. You could hear it in the intensity of the talk on sports channels, on mainstream channels, in newspapers, and on the streets. Players going down one after another! What’s going on here?

The talk wasn’t just about which player was a disgrace or what coach should be fired, but the violence that seemed deep in the game itself. Yet people were watching. TV ratings were up. One writer explained that it was because of our fundamental human love of violence. But for most, it was simpler. The unimaginable was happening in front of our eyes every night; we couldn’t not watch to see what would happen next.

Then one moment chilled my spine. It was the reported words of some of the coaches saying if the NHL isn’t going to do something, we’re going to have to do it ourselves. But if they take it into their own hands, how far does that go?

Players commit themselves to their teammates and to their teams. It’s what they love about their teammates, and what their teammates love about them. It’s what the fans love about them too. If these players are asked to do more, they will do more. Yet something keeps them from committing to what they shouldn’t commit. In the 1980s, if opponents of the Edmonton Oilers had truly done everything to win the Cup, they would’ve gone after Wayne Gretzky’s head. It wasn’t Gretzky’s enforcer teammate, Dave Semenko, who stopped them, nor the referees nor the league officials and the suspensions they would have levied. The players wouldn’t do it. Some basic humanity, some basic belief in the essence of a game holds us back.

That all seemed on shaky ground in the first round this year. In this atmosphere, if the teams were to do it themselves and not wait for the league, it might mean not just a fist for a fist but a head-shot for a head-shot. This after news of the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty” on opponents to injure them, and the curdling words of Saints assistant coach, Gregg Williams, about a San Francisco 49ers running back: “We’ve got to do everything in the world to make sure we kill Frank Gore’s head.” Where are we going? Is there anything we won’t do?

Now, with fewer games to build up the collective temperature, and with the consequences clearer – of the injuries more so than the suspensions – maybe things will settle down. Maybe they will revert to teeth-gritting, eyes-popping normal playoff intensity.

Don Cherry likes to talk about how the implementation of the instigator rule changed the game. Teams had employed enforcers to protect their star players but, with the new rule, enforcers might draw an extra penalty as “instigators” when they intervened. This proved too high a price for teams to accept, star players went unprotected and, according to Cherry, made them increasingly open to abuse and injury, throwing the game out of control. But control doesn’t come only from enforcers like Semenko. The league could act as its own enforcer, to shut down the most dangerous and exaggerated aspects of its play. This it could have done. Make no mistake: in round one it wasn’t the league as enforcer that settled things down. Brendan Shanahan’s 25-game suspension of Raffi Torres was shooting a fish in a barrel. The real enforcer was the public. They’d had it and they said so. They don’t believe Gordie Howe and Johnny Bower are wusses.

Article from The Globe and Mail

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Ken Dryden | News

Ken Dryden Talks Brain Injury in Hockey

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   April 15, 2012 13:31

What Ken Dryden saw on the first night of the Stanley Cup playoffs is evidence that the NHL isn't taking a strong enough stance against blows delivered to the head.

As the final buzzer sounded to end Game 1 of the Western Conference quarter-final series between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings, Preds captain Shea Weber hit Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg from behind, before grabbing his head and slamming it into the glass.

Weber was issued a twominute roughing penalty, which he didn't serve because Nashville had completed a 3-2 victory, and was fined $2,500 - the maximum amount permitted under the collective bargaining agreement - but was not suspended.

"It's ones like that that are totally disturbing," said the Hall of Fame goaltender, who won six Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens.

"It turns out that Zetterberg is OK - it seems. There's no inevitably to that. In the nature of that kind of hit, he could be out for a couple of months.

"A hit to the head is an intent to injure (play). That's what it is. Even if Shea Weber is a terrific player, a good guy, all of those other things, that's fine and it's good for him. But that doesn't mean good guys don't do lousy things. By what he did to Zetterberg, he put Zetterberg's future in question by doing that.

"That's serious stuff. At what point do you stop making excuses for it and see it as it exactly is?"

Dryden is the keynote speaker at a pair of Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association concussion symposiums in Regina on April 27 and in Saskatoon on April 28.

The Saskatoon event will be more of a gala in nature, while the night in Regina will feature doctors, researchers, doctors and athletes returning to play from concussions.

The goal each symposium is to create an open dialogue, thus creating more awareness about how to prevent and properly diagnose head injuries.

"Nobody individually has a confident, clear answer as to what to do," said Dryden, who now teaches at Montreal's McGill University - his Alma mater.

"But what we do know is this is something that's not bad luck. It's not something that next week will be different. It's an ongoing question and an ongoing problem. So start into it."

Dryden said he became interested in helping address the issues surrounding concussions after reading many obituaries of deceased football players who struggled to cope with "life consequences" in the final years of their lives because of injuries sustained on the field.

On the ice, Dryden watched as Sidney Crosby was sidelined for the better part of 14 months after concussion and neck issues. But he also cited a who's who of the game's great talents that were shelved as an impetus behind getting involved.

"At a certain point what happens is that it's less the individual name and more the volume of names," said the former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager. "There have been stretches during the season where you say to yourself, 'This is unbelievable.' Each night on the sports (cast) there's somebody new that's gone down."

The biggest problem Dryden sees is there is a disconnect between what's permissible in the NHL compared to minor hockey.

Hockey Canada instituted a new rule before the 201112 season stating that any contact to the head will be punished with a four-minute double minor penalty.

During the latest concussion symposium he attended in Peterborough, Ont., last month, Dryden was told that officials had become "gun shy" to levy the penalty because of increased backslash from parents.

"If there are things that are acceptable in the NHL, for a lot of parents at a lot of those crunch moments, they seem acceptable at any level," said Dryden. "There's no doubt about it. What happens in the NHL affects what happens in Regina.

"I think there is a gap there. It makes it that much harder for Hockey Canada and other local hockey associations to do as well as they need to do."

Dryden said he believes he's suffered two mild concussions in his life - one was when he was hit during a football game when he was 12 years old and the other occurred when he was skateboarding with his son years ago.

He said the most intriguing part of the symposiums is listening to young athletes who have had to miss significant time from their favourite sport and then spent years dealing with the residual recovery.

"Those are lost years, but those are not lost years to everybody else around you," said Dryden. "Every other 14-year-old around you is doing and experiencing.

" ... After three or four years, you start to feel a little bit better, but you've lost those three or four years and you're in a very different place than your friends. Out-for-a-year is a very easy phrase that trots off your tongue, but it's inside those words where the real impact is."

So learning about the symptoms of concussions and addressing the lasting lingering impacts is essential, said Dryden.

While the NHL should take the lead, Dryden said various organizations like the NHLPA, the International Ice Hockey Federation and Hockey Canada must also play leading roles to solve the problems at hand.

"The only pointing a finger that matters is that you don't point them at each other, you point them at the issue," he said. "You need every set of fingers pointed at the issue.

"The NHL is in a bind over this. OK, that's fine, so try to find an answer out of that bind. It matters too much. It matters to the NHL, it matters to the players, it matters to minor hockey players and it matters to hockey."

Article from The Star Phoenix

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Ken Dryden | News

A Brother Reflects on the Loss of his Brother

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 22, 2012 17:12

Article by: Sheldon Kenny

This past November I lost my brother Lyndon Kenny to suicide.

Lyndon was a very good hockey player. He was drafted by the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and he was not only a highly-skilled defenceman and strong skater, but also the toughest person I have ever known.

His ability to scare opponents and produce game-changing hits and fights was unparalleled for someone of his age.

Unfortunately, this enforcer style of play made my brother vulnerable to multiple concussions and, therefore, more susceptible to depression.

Enforcers are the designated tough guys on a hockey team. Players in this role often struggle with depression not only because they suffer numerous and severe head injuries, but also because they must deal with the pressure of fighting almost every game in order to keep their spot in the lineup.

Lyndon was no exception.

My brother became addicted to alcohol and drugs at an early age. His addictions carried on through most of his life, even with multiple stints in rehab centres.

He was not a drug addict like those on TV shows, though. He hardly let it show in his personal life. He was the most loving and caring person I knew and was constantly looking out for others.

He struggled to explain his problems to me and our family, however, and for a long time he turned away from those closest to him — as the archetypal tough guy, he tried to cope with his struggles alone.

It was only recently that Lyndon came to understand that he needed help. He began to open up to our family and made an effort to guide me down a better path of life than he had taken.

He had been drug- and alcohol-free for two months before he took his own life on Nov. 1.

The depression and anxiety proved too much for him.

Only a few weeks before his death, Lyndon left a comment on a sports medicine website indicating his struggles.

“I’m 27 and have been on a serious decline since [my] early to mid teens,” my brother wrote.

“I have had hundreds of blows to my head since I was around age five. Most occurred from my reckless style of hockey throughout my teens. Here’s a list of symptoms I have — Lack or loss of knowledge, insight, judgement, self, purpose, personality, intelligence, opinion, reasoning, train of thought, motivation, relationships, thinking, humour, ability to process information and learn, organize, planning, communicating, finding speech, decision making, visualizing, interest, sensitive to sound, ears ring, trouble sleeping, head aches, PCS [Post Concussion Syndrome] etc.”

Lyndon’s comment ended with an appeal: “Protect yourselves and loved ones! What a scary situation. I feel so bad for my family.”

His final wish came in the form of an unsent text message intended for me. Lyndon wanted to have his brain donated to research at the Boston University School of Medicine so we could have the answers he had sought for years.

Concussed

A concussion is defined as a short-lived loss of brain function due to head trauma. A direct blow to the head is not required to sustain a concussion; any sudden and jolting motion to the body that causes the brain to move around inside the skull can do the same.

For a concussion to occur the brain must bump against the skull, which can cause bruising. In some cases the brain will rotate inside the skull, and when it rubs against the bony surface of the skull it can shear off brain nerve fibres. In all cases there are no visible injuries to the brain that an MRI or CT scan can detect.

In addition to blurry vision, dizziness and confusion, the symptoms can be much worse: difficulty sleeping, a sensitivity to noise and light, nausea, ringing in the ears, trouble concentrating, difficulty tolerating alcohol or stress, difficulty speaking, communicating or understanding instructions, long- or short-term memory loss and a decreased sex drive.

People suffering the after-effects of concussions can also exhibit changes in behaviour including aggression, stubbornness, anxiety and depression. These effects may be noticed for a week or more after a concussion, but with Post Concussion Syndrome one might deal with the effects for months depending on the severity and treatment of the concussion.

With each concussion suffered it becomes easier to sustain another, and with multiple concussions the symptoms and side effects become more obvious.

With repeated head injuries, one can develop CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Lyndon was adamant that he suffered from CTE.

He knew everything about it and the pursuit of the answers he needed led him to many medical professionals who could have helped him. However, he was extremely frustrated by every doctor’s complete refusal of his claims and he was angry with himself because he felt like he could not explain to them exactly how he was feeling.

It has recently been released that legendary professional hockey players Bob Probert and Derek Boogaard both suffered from extreme cases of CTE, which is no doubt directly related to their roles as enforcers.

When a team needs something to give them a momentum boost, enforcers are counted upon to go out and get a big hit or to get in a fight. This physical playing style leads to more blows to the head, resulting in concussions.

But the evidence does not stop with Probert and Boogaard. Rick Rypien and Wade Belak both committed suicide this past summer after lengthy battles with depression. Both players played a tough game and they no doubt suffered many concussions.

While we have yet to hear the results of the tests performed on Lyndon’s brain at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy in Boston, it is obvious looking back at all the conversations we had and the symptoms he listed that he had battled with CTE for a long time.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease most commonly found in athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. It is a variant of dementia with symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression, and may appear months or years after initial trauma — unlike Alzheimer’s, however, it does not develop genetically.

It’s uncertain how many concussive injuries it takes to develop this brain deterioration, how severe the concussions must be for symptoms to begin and how long it takes symptoms to start developing.

Upon studying the brains of deceased individuals, researchers have diagnosed CTE as black spots on the brain tissue, which is the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. Poor recovery of head trauma is linked to this protein when it is found in excess in the fluid that surrounds the brain.

Sadly, there is no known way to reverse the effects of concussions. Even sadder is the fact that CTE can only be diagnosed after death.

As of 2009, only 49 cases of CTE have been researched and published by medical journals.

However, the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which was founded in 2008, recently began a clinical study of over 150 former NFL athletes aged 40-69 and 50 athletes of non-contact sports of the same age, all of which are still alive and participating in sport. The goal of the study is to develop methods to diagnose CTE before death, which can hopefully lead to a cure in the future.

The Future

After witnessing my brother go through all he did, all I want is to see a higher level of understanding for concussions. They are deadly.

The cultures of all sports, not just hockey, need to change to adjust for this growing problem. Most importantly, the stigma of being the one to leave a game due to a concussion needs to stop because, in hindsight, the ones who take a step back and admit that there is something wrong are the tough ones.

I would be lying if I said I was not scared for myself.

I’ve played a lot of hockey in my life, have suffered a number of hard hits to the head and have been knocked unconscious twice.

In the past few years I have dealt with depression and anxiety and, although it can’t be proven, the fact that they may be a result of my concussions is a very real possibility.

I have also started to notice that I am dealing with some of the same symptoms that my brother felt he was experiencing. I have noticed a loss of personality, intelligence, motivation and humour. My ability to learn and communicate has decreased and I have had trouble sleeping.

I hope for my own and my family’s sake that I am simply reacting to the loss of my brother, but right now I cannot be certain.

Article from the Sheaf

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News

Brain Blitz - Saturday, April 28, 2012

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   March 5, 2012 10:46

Our annual fundraising dinner is fast approaching. Please contact us for tickets or sponsorship inquiries. 

We are excited to announce that Ken Dryden will be coming to Saskatoon as our keynote speaker. He will also take part in the Round Table, about concussion in Saskatchewan, on Friday April 27. 

Ellen Kolenick will be performing at the dinner with Straight from the Fridge. Chantel Huber and Graeme Bell will the Masters of Ceremony for the evening.

We are also please to announce that BHP Billiton will be presenting the event, and are very excited to be partnering with them for the Brain Blitz weekend.

Any other questions please check out the invitiation below.

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Ken Dryden | News | Newsletter

Teenagers Suffer most from Concussions

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   February 28, 2012 10:55

Teenagers between 13 and 16 years of age suffer greater effects from a concussion than younger children or adults, new Canadian research suggests.

As a result, far greater care needs to be taken with adolescents who show signs of being concussed, says Dave Ellemberg, a Universite de Montreal neuropsychologist who conducted a two-year study on the effects of concussions in young people.

This was the first study that compared children ages nine to 12, adolescents ages 13 to 16 and young adults in their early 20s specifically in terms of the effects of concussions.

The study looked at athletes involved in contact sports, such as soccer, hockey and football, half of whom had suffered a concussion half of whom had not.

"Concussions are as common in youth athletes as they are in adults. We think that about one in five athletes have a concussion per season," said Ellemberg.

The subjects were tested on average six months after having been diagnosed with a concussion, and the study made two important findings.

"The first is that children actually suffer the consequences of a concussion as much as adults do," said Ellemberg.

"We found that kids had deficits that were equal to those of adults. That is surprising because often parents and coaches believe that children can play through a concussion because it is believed that the younger brain is more resilient.

"The second finding is that adolescents are even more affected by the concussion than are the adults, so we found that the deficits measured are even bigger."

The athletes were tested in two ways, first with "neuropsychological tests that look at memory, working memory, attention, problem solving, and we found that when they performed these tests all groups had deficits with their working memory," said Ellemberg.

Working memory refers to short-term memory, such as language comprehension, reasoning and learning skills.

"The second thing that we did was measure the electrical activity of the brain, that is the responses of neurons while they were doing these tasks."

The findings revealed that working memory, most often controlled by the front part of the brain, is the same physical area hardest hit by injury.

"So we find that not only are the concussed less efficient on the tasks we assigned them, not only is their working memory not as good, but we see that the neuronal responses associated with working memory function are weaker. And these responses are even weaker in adolescents than they are in the adults or children."

A concussion's effects are measured by its impact and intensity and on whether the sufferer has had concussions in the past.

Once someone has suffered a concussion, they are five to seven times more likely to have another one and even a much milder blow can lead to a concussion.

While it was previously assumed a child's brain was better able to absorb head trauma, Ellemberg's study suggests otherwise and indicates that untreated concussions can cause peripheral problems, potentially leading to issues at school and in the youngsters' social lives.

One of the keys to improving treatment for young people is better education and quick action, he said.

"Superstar athletes get the attention, where as parents worry more about Crosby's return to play than they do about their own kids who do have concussions every week. Parents and coaches have to know that concussions are real and they do have consequences that are grave and important for learning."

Despite the risks inherent to certain sports, Ellemberg said he's not trying to scare parents and kids away from sports.

"We want to educate people; we want to make people aware that there is a danger and to make sure that their kids do get the right diagnoses. But we do want people to practise sports. Practising a sport is important for a person's physical health, for their mental health, and for the health of a society."

Article from the Vancouver Sun

 

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NASCAR and Head Injuries

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   February 22, 2012 17:26

If Michael Waltrip were to count up all the concussions he has sustained over a NASCAR career that stretches back nearly 30 years, he'd certainly hit 10 — and probably keep going.

Safety measures since Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001 have gone a long way toward preventing head injuries, and NASCAR officials have taken steps to improve the way they identify and treat concussions. But Waltrip knows that won't undo all those hits he took in the 1980s and '90s.

"I whacked my head — a lot," Waltrip said. "If you think about this, I showed up in '85, when it was relatively 'safe.' We thought we had it figured out. I raced all the way through 2001 when people were getting killed. And all through that time, I was hitting my head and knocking myself out and getting concussions and going to the hospital. And I don't know what that means to me in 10 years. But I know it's a concern."


The 48-year-old Waltrip gets uneasy when he hears stories about NFL players and other athletes who are having serious neurological problems after they retire, issues that a growing amount of research indicates may have been caused by repetitive brain injuries they sustained during their playing days.

Could that happen to him, too?

"I would be the perfect case study to see what's going to happen," Waltrip said. "Because I can go back and look at the races and count up times I was knocked unconscious that I can't count on both hands."

Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson says he has had two concussions racing stock cars, and probably many more racing dirt bikes when he was younger.

"We're not immune to concussions," Johnson said. "And certainly after severe concussions or being concussed several times, the numbers change. We know that. The dynamic is there. I think we've reduced the opportunity for it to happen, but ultimately, it can happen. I just think the odds are a lot better today than they've ever been."

Earnhardt's death in the 2001 Daytona 500 — which came after drivers Kenny Irwin, Adam Petty and Tony Roper all were killed from similar head injuries — forced NASCAR to get serious about safety.

Today, drivers must wear a head and neck restraint, while impact-absorbing SAFER barriers have been installed on racetrack walls and NASCAR completely redesigned race cars to reduce the risk of injury. Racing seats used to look a lot like passenger car seats; now they look more like something out of a spaceship, with foam-padded supports on each side of the helmet that barely allows a driver's head to move during a crash.

It's working. Going into Sunday's Daytona 500, there hasn't been a death in NASCAR's top three national series since Earnhardt's.

"If I'm Kasey Kahne or Kyle Busch, I don't have those concerns any more," Waltrip said. "We've got the cars and the tracks, we've got it all fixed. You can still get hurt. You're running 200 miles an hour. But the chances of getting hurt are slimmer. The chances of hitting your head and hurting it are really slim."

NASCAR officials say they've identified 29 concussions in their top three series since 2004 — and only 11 of those happened in the past five seasons.

"Not huge numbers, when you see it," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's senior vice president of racing operations. "But with each of those, each one's different, we've had to assess each one differently. Knock on wood, we haven't had as many to have to deal with."

And while there have been some drivers who experienced long-term effects from traumatic head injuries over the years — including Bobby Allison, Ernie Irvan, Jerry Nadeau and Steve Park — O'Donnell says NASCAR doesn't see any evidence of widespread health issues related to multiple head injuries, as the NFL and other sports are.

"There's always concerns for any driver that's been in the sport," O'Donnell said. "But in terms of drivers formally approaching us and saying, 'Hey, I want to talk about this or look at it,' we haven't seen that occur, in terms of what you're seeing in other sports right now. We'd certainly be open to working with anyone, if we see that, in helping to stop any trend that we saw."

In response to reports of football players, hockey players and other athletes having serious neurological issues in retirement, researchers at the Boston-based Sports Legacy Institute have studied brain tissue of deceased former athletes. They've found evidence of a degenerative brain disease known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy that has been linked to repetitive brain injuries.

O'Donnell said NASCAR officials have noticed.

"Absolutely," O'Donnell said. "It's something we pay attention to on any aspect of other sports, what they're doing. Can we learn from it? Can we implement some of these things? We're open to working with any other sport as well."

For now, veteran driver Jeff Burton is trying to gather as much information as he can about the long-term effects of concussions. Burton's father-in-law is a physician and has attended sports medicine conferences on his behalf.

"I think anybody that has any sense at all has to understand that it doesn't matter if you're playing football or hockey or racing a car, head injuries can have bad ramifications later in life," Burton said. "It appears to be the case. I think we are exposed to less of it. But at the same time, when we do have them, they can be big hits."

The 44-year-old Burton started racing in NASCAR's top division in 1993, well before the post-Earnhardt safety advances.

"I can tell you that in retrospect, there's been many times that I've had concussions," Burton said. "And the definition of concussion is a very widely used term, and how you actually define a concussion has changed over the years. But there's no question that with hitting concrete, not having (today's safety equipment), there's no question people had concussions. No question."

Waltrip said he blacked out after an accident in practice at Las Vegas in 1998, but kept it to himself.

"Hit the wall, got in the backup car, made a couple laps, went to the hotel, woke up the next morning, didn't even know how I got there," Waltrip said. "You could just fake people out back then. 'Yeah, I'm fine, I'm fine.' They didn't care. 'OK, you're fine.'"

Today, any driver involved in a significant accident must visit the infield medical center, where checking for signs of a concussion is standard procedure. If there's reason to suspect a concussion, the driver will be sent to a local hospital. From there, the driver will need to be cleared by a neurosurgeon with at least five years' experience in sports-related head injuries before he or she can race again.

"They always ask you," Burton said. "The key to that, though, is honesty. Unless it's obvious. Sometimes you can tell. But a lot of times, in football and in every sport, people say, 'I'm fine.' It's hard if you don't tell them the truth to help you."

Burton acknowledged that drivers, along with athletes in other sports, have an incentive to hide symptoms.

"There's fear in not being able to do what you want to do," Burton said. "NASCAR's always been really good saying, 'Look, we don't want to keep you from racing unless it's in your best interests.' They've been pretty good about that. People are always nervous, I think, in any sport to stand up and say I'm having these issues, because they want to race or they want to play. But if NASCAR doesn't want you to race, then you probably shouldn't be racing."

Article found at the Tahlequan Daily Press

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Concussion on Everyone's Mind at All-Star Game

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   January 29, 2012 17:44

A break in the NHL's schedule hasn't come with a break from the focus on concussions.

Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux -- two of the biggest names participating in the NHL's all-star weekend -- made an appearance at Friday's launch of the Bauer "Re-akt" helmet, which is designed to protect against rotational-force impacts. They both touched on the rash of concussions players have suffered recently.

"I think it was alarming the last year and a half the amount of concussions that are being diagnosed and the amount of time that guys are missing," said Stamkos. "Obviously, with (Sidney Crosby) and his situation, that opens up a lot more eyes as well and we talk about it more and people become more aware.

"I've really started to take an interest in knowing more about the technology and the equipment and what's the safest."

Giroux wore the "Re-akt" helmet for the final three games the Philadelphia Flyers played before the all-star break while Stamkos has so far just tried it in practice with the Tampa Bay Lightning. They'll both have it on for Sunday's all-star game at Scotiabank Place.

"It's a lot better than the helmet I had before," said Giroux. "I just feel more comfortable with it."

He missed four games earlier this season with a concussion and can sympathize with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby, who remains sidelined with a head injury. His absence is notable here this weekend.

"Concussions are just the worst injury," said Giroux. "You can't really control anything after that when it happens. I think just time, it's going to help him. That's pretty much all he can do."

Article from TSN.com

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Canada Pledges $1.5 million to the Reduction of Concussion

posted by SK Brain Injury    |   January 23, 2012 11:39

The federal government will spend $1.5-million to help reduce concussions in kid's sports.

The money goes to ThinkFirst Canada, Hockey Canada, the Coaching Association of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport to support efforts to reduce the rate and severity of sports-related head injuries.

Montreal Canadiens Max Pacioretty lies on the ice after being hit into a glass stanchion by Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara during the second period of NHL hockey play in Montreal, March 8, 2011.

The groups will work on increasing awareness of the problem among coaches, players and parents.

Among other things, they hope to develop guidelines for fitting helmets, and provide better information about the risks and signs of head injuries and when it's safe to return to playing after an injury.

The groups will look at the information about concussion and head injuries that's currently available and try to fill in any gaps.

Concussions in sports have become a hot topic in the last year, especially in the wake of the problems of NHL star Sidney Crosby, and the program aims to raise people's awareness and knowledge about head injuries.

Bal Gosal, the federal Minister of State for Sports, said it's estimated that 90 per cent of severe brain injuries can be prevented.

“We want our children to be active, healthy and have fun while participating in team sports and physical activity,” he said. “But we also want our children to be safe.”

The government says accidental injuries are the leading cause of death for people under the age of 19. More than 40 per cent of brain injuries in children and youth aged 10-19 years treated in hospital emergency departments result from sports and recreation activities.

Much of the new information will be aimed at producing low-cost or free information that can be easily downloaded, including a brain injury and concussion mobile app.

Article from the Globe and Mail

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