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Paul Woody is a journalist for the Richmond Times Dispatch who happens to cover sports. There are not many sports writers these days whom I would call '"journalists." Starting today, the RTD is running an important series of stories to raise public awareness of the devastating effects of traumatic brain injuries (also referred to as concussions or head injuries). That's right, a concussion is a brain injury.

Indeed, the Concussion poster hanging in every NFL locker room, "Concussion, A Must Read for NFL Players," begins with and includes the following statements from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Concussion is a brain injury that alters the way your brain functions.

Most concussions occur without being knocked unconscious

All concussions are not created equally. Each player is different. [i.e., while some recover from the effects of concussion in a short period of time, others may never recover from a similar concussion]

According to CDC, "traumatic brain injury can cause a wide range of short- or long-term changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, or emotions." These changes may lead to problems with memory and communication, personality changes, as well as depression and the early onset of dementia. Concussions…can change your life and your family's life forever.

I mention the NFL Concussion poster, because Paul Woody's series of stories about "Head Injuries The Invisible Epidemic," begins with an article entitled, "It took four suicides to raise public awareness of how devastating head injuries can be in football." One of those suicides by former NFL players happened right here in Richmond. Last spring, former Collegiate high school, University of Richmond, and Atlanta Falcons star football player, Ray Easterling, committed suicide following 22 years of struggling with anguish, depression, insomnia, and dementia. An autopsy revealed that Mr. Easterling suffered chronic damage to his brain. Mr. Easterling's story can be found here.

I commend Mr. Woody's series to all who want to know more about brain injury cause, prevention, and treatment. The science is constantly evolving, and Mr. Woody appears to have taken the time to understand the current literature, much of which has come out as a result of the epidemic of brain injuries suffered by our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as from the studies of the brains of deceased NFL players who have donated their brains to science. War and football are raising the public's awareness. However, as Mr. Woody correctly points out, the two most common causes of head injuries are falls in the home and automobile accidents. Sudden and forceful acceleration/deceleration of the head causes the brain to crash into the inside of the skull. The brain can also rebound off the inside of the skull and crash into the opposite side of the skull. If you think about it, this is why a football player can damage his brain while his head is covered by a high-tech, protective helmet.


  1. Gravatar for Mark Picot

    The fact remains, boxing type truama suffered by NHL fighters, football players struck under the chin and soldiers who experience chin strap forces from IED blasts are not being properly protected. Dr. Robert Cantu's latest statements on whether oral appliances can protect against concussion from these forces is not really the issue. Whether these specific mechanisms are the culprit in the development of CTE. Cantu states " the jury is still out" on whether these prevent concussions, but the concussion is not the problem, it's the formation of CTE. Cantu has embarked on a collaboration with military research, in the investigation of a specific type of oral appliance that has shown in preliminary data to protect against the boxers Glass Jaw. Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction, or Glass Jaw is diagnosable and is common in athletes with concussion history. Correcting this "Glass Jaw" condition with an adaptive oral appliance has shown promise in re leaving Tmd symptoms of nausea, headache, dings, ear ringing. More research needs to focus on this region, quite frankly, because it is exactly the area where CTE forms. It's common sense, force trauma is unimpeded when the cartilage of the Tmj is compromised, allowing forces to drive, bone on bone, to the skull base, exactly to the medial temporal lobe where CTE manifests. First found in boxers, the Glass Jaw is a very real factor. Yet there is no real research that investigates what this is.

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