Saturday, January 7, 2017

Should I let my son play football?

Should I let my son play football? That's the question being asked by millions of American parents as they tune in to the big NFL playoff season that starts today. League of Denial, the name of a PBS show, outlined the frighteningly large numbers of former and retired football players who suffer dementia, depression, and suicide from decades of brain trauma. Here is an excerpt from our new book on Brain Trauma, Healing the Brain.

Other Factors that Influence Recovery 
Genes Evidence suggests that genetics play a role in how quickly and completely a person  recovers from a TBI. For example, researchers have found that apolipoprotein E ε4 (ApoE4) — a genetic variant associated with higher risks for Alzheimer’s disease — is associated with worse health outcomes following a TBI. Much work remains to be done to understand how genetic factors, as well as how specific types of head injuries in particular locations, affect recovery processes. It is hoped that this research will lead to new treatment strategies and improved outcomes for people with TBI. 
Age Studies suggest that age and the number of head injuries a person has suffered over his or her lifetime are two critical factors that impact recovery. For example, TBI-related brain swelling in children can be very different from the same condition in adults, even when the primary injuries are similar. Brain swelling in newborns, young infants, and teenagers often occurs much more quickly than it does in older individuals. Evidence from very limited CTE studies suggest that younger people (ages 20 to 40) tend to have behavioral and mood changes associated with CTE, while those who are older (ages 50+) have more cognitive difficulties. 
Compared with younger adults with the same TBI severity, older adults are likely to have less complete recovery. Older people also have more medical issues and are often taking multiple medications that may complicate treatment (e.g., blood-thinning agents when there is a risk of bleeding into the head). Further research is needed to determine if and how treatment strategies may need to be adjusted based on a person’s age. 
Researchers are continuing to look for additional factors that may help predict a person’s course of recovery. 

Can TBI Be Prevented? The best treatment for TBI is prevention. Unlike most neurological disorders, head injuries can be prevented. According to the CDC, doing the following can help prevent TBIs: ● Wear a seatbelt when you drive or ride in a motor vehicle. ● Wear the correct helmet and make sure it fits properly when riding a bicycle, skateboarding, and playing sports like hockey and football. ● Install window guards and stair safety gates at home for young children. ● Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. ● Improve lighting and remove rugs, clutter, and other trip hazards in the hallway. ● Use nonslip mats and install grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower for older adults. ● Install handrails on stairways. ● Improve balance and strength with a regular physical activity program.

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