06-15-2007, 08:08 AM
The New York Times continues to investigate the catastrophic consequences of recurring brain trauma injuries that NFL players incur during their careers. Today's article is about Justin Strzelzcyk, who played OL for the Steelers from 1990-98 and died in a road rage/nervous breakdown traffic accident in 2004. Scary reading
Mary Strzelczyk spoke to the computer screen as clearly as it was speaking to her. “Oh, Justin,” she said through sobs, “I’m so sorry.”
The images on the screen were of magnified brain tissue from her son, the former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, who was killed in a fiery automobile crash three years ago at age 36. Four red splotches specked an otherwise tranquil sea — early signs of brain damage that experts said was most likely caused by the persistent head trauma of life in football’s trenches.
Strzelczyk (pronounced STRELL-zick) is the fourth former National Football League player to have been found post-mortem to have had a condition similar to that generally found only in boxers with dementia or people in their 80s. The diagnosis was made by Dr. Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In the past five years, he has found similar damage in the brains of the former N.F.L. players Mike Webster, Terry Long and Andre Waters. The finding will add to the growing evidence that longtime football players, particularly linemen, might endure hidden brain trauma that is only now becoming recognized....
Omalu remained confident that the damage was caused by concussions Strzelczyk might not have reported because — like many players of that era — he did not know what a concussion was or did not want to appear weak. Omalu also said that it could have developed from what he called “subconcussive impacts,” more routine blows to the head that linemen repeatedly endure.
Not to worry - the league office and Gene Upshaw no doubt will continue to fight any claim that a player is entitled to full disability for brain injuries incurred during his career.
06-15-2007, 08:24 AM
Thats sad news indeed.
Interesting article on PFT on the same subject.
FOR CONCUSSIONS, THREE APPEARS TO BE THE MAGIC NUMBER by Mike Florio and Larry Mazza
One of the concepts that will be discussed at the June 19 concussion summit in Chicago is the clearer-than-ever link between multiple concussions and chronic changes in the brain that cause depression and other problems for former athletes.
And the magic number, one leading expert in the field believes, is three.
On June 13, Dr. Julian Bailes, the Chair of the West Virginia University Department of Neurosurgery, explained to us new findings linking multiple concussions to significant changes in the brain. Dr. Bailes, the only physician from a non-NFL city who has been invited by the NFL to provide expertise regarding the issue of traumatic brain injuries, explained that autopsies performed on former pro football players like Steelers center Mike Webster revealed apparently normal brain tissue. After applying a certain type of test, however, changes that could cause serious cognitive problems were discovered.
Three concussions is the threshold, Dr. Bailes explained, for problems like depression and dementia after retirement from the game. "They've got really strive to not get that third concussion, because based on our data, which is the only thing out there, that's where the threshold is."
Per one of the studies in which Dr. Bailes was involved, it was found that a player who has three or more concussions is five times more likely to have "MCI," or mild cognitive impairment. Thirty percent of all persons who develop MCI are later diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Per another study, three or more concussions resulted in a triple incidence of depression.
Dr. Bailes will be sharing his opinions and findings at the meeting in Chicago. "I want to make a contribution. Hopefully, I will still be optimistic when I leave [Chicago] on Tuesday night.
"For the first time, the new Commissioner has invited outside experts to meet with the committee," Dr. Bailes said. "Under Commissioner [Paul] Tagliabue it was rather closed. So what our reception is going to be in Chicago, I'm not certain. I hope they have the best motives. But this is troubling, troubling evidence. And there's more to come."
As to the notion that the NFL might eventually conduct its own study of retired players in order to show that there is no long-term consequence of concussions, Dr. Bailes said, "Well, I hope they do, and I hope they prove us wrong for the sake of the sport. But I'm not optimistic that real research will do that. . . . If they do their own study, it's going to take them two to three years to do it, another year to get published. Who suffers in the interim if we're right?"
A big part of the problem is the common failure of players and teams to acknowledge that a concussion has occurred. "There's a lot of concussions that go unrecognized," Dr. Bailes said. "Players don't quite still understand. If you're seeing stars, if you don't quite feel right, if you're memory's a little off or if you're confused about your assignment, that can be a concussion. Only five to ten percent of the athletes who get a concussion get knocked out, so 90 to 95 percent of the time they're walking around talking. So I think education [is important], and that will trickle down to the 1.3 million playing high school football."
Dr. Bailes also advocates a more conservative game day approach, along with a strong effort to ensure that a player doesn't get that third concussion.
Better helmets aren't the answer. "Helmets cannot prevent this," Dr. Bailes said. "They can mitigate it some. . . . This is what we call an acceleration/deceleration injury. The brain floats in a bath of cerebral spinal fluid. It has about a centimeter or a centimeter-and-a-half of play. And so it's going to continue to go forward. It doesn't matter if there's a lot of padding. It's going at a certain speed and it suddenly stops."
And regardless of any changes to the equipment or the rules, the reality is that "as the cliche goes, players are getting bigger, stronger, and faster," Dr. Bailes said, "as that occurs, there's just going to be higher velocity injuries."
It remains to be seen where this all leads. But if the NFL ultimately agrees that players can't afford to have a third concussion, there could eventually be rules changes aimed at reducing head impacts.
Though we've heard nothing specific in this regard, we could envision an elimination of all low blocks and tackles, which would limit the number of times that a player might be kicked or kneed in the head. A more radical possibility would be the elimination of the three-point stance, which would take out of the game that collisions between helmets that occur as the linemen strike each other.
Regardless of the specific changes that are imposed, some type of change will be necessary if/when the NFL accepts as valid the findings of folks like Dr. Bailes.
06-22-2007, 11:04 AM
i just heard a great interview with dr. mark lavelle of UPMC who is also the head of the NFL concussion committee. i didnt know he had a website but it looks to be a great resource of information. one shocking stat he revealed is that the latest CDC (centers of disiease control) study indicates there could be approximately 3.8 million sports related concussions every year nation wide. these numbers used to be 300,000 but those are the cases where the athelete are actually "knocked out".
he said alot more research is needed and in the case of autopsies such as strzelczyk's the doctors such as himself need to see the scientists and brain specialists speciofic results to learn more.
excellent site with links to many related articles: http://impacttest.com/
06-22-2007, 11:11 AM
I haven't seen this anywhere else, and it seems appropriate here:
NFL taking more steps to limit concussions
NFL.com wire reports
ROSEMONT, Ill. (June 19, 2007) -- The NFL's whistle-blower system of protecting players from being pressured to take the field with a concussion will begin when training camps open next month.
"It's an important element of what we're trying to accomplish here," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said after a conference with medical personnel from every team in the league. "I have said repeatedly and will continue to say that medical decisions must override any competitive decisions.
"And if anyone feels they are being forced onto the field when they are not ready to play, we want to know about that and look into it."
Although details need to be worked out with the players union, the new system allows anyone to anonymously report when doctors are pressured to clear players or when players are pressured to play. It's one of several changes the league is making in its effort to manage concussions.
The deaths of four players in recent years have raised awareness of the issue, and the meeting was held to discuss the latest information on treating the condition.
Besides implementing the whistle-blower system, the league will require all players to undergo baseline neuropsychological testing starting this season. Rules requiring players to properly buckle their chinstrap will be enforced. And a brochure will be distributed to players to help educate them and their families about concussions.
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