How Can Studying The Brains Of NFL Players Help You?
Ask yourself if you have ever:
• Blacked out for a few seconds?
• Seen stars?
Have you ever:
• Played football, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby or hockey?
• Fallen out of a tree, down the stairs, off a horse, a bike or a skateboard, or crashed while skiing or snowboarding?
• Been in a motor vehicle accident (even a simple “fender-bender”) or physically assaulted?
If you answered “yes” to any of these, you may actually have injured your brain—even if you didn’t get diagnosed with a concussion.
So how can you find out?
In a helpful demonstration of the usefulness of SPECT imaging for identifying brain-based disorders, a new study shows that current and former NFL players experience low blood flow to the brain, compared to a healthy group. The researchers examined the brains of the largest group of retired and current NFL players investigated to date; a total of 161 individuals with an average age of 52. The results of the study, recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, may help physicians to provide better treatment to people with head injury.
“Without functional imaging studies like SPECT, it is very difficult to know if brain trauma is present and which areas are affected,” points out lead author Daniel G. Amen, MD. “Structural studies often appear normal but what we can do better with functional neuroimaging with SPECT is not only pinpoint specific areas of the brain that are unhealthy with low blood flow, but also demonstrate their improvement with successful brain rehabilitation treatments in persons like football players.”
This study further supports that fact that brain SPECT imaging is one of the best tools available to identify areas of the brain hurt by an injury. A CT (“CAT”) scan or MRI will tell you if there is any damage to the anatomy or structure of your brain, but these scans cannot tell how your brain is functioning. In fact, many times a CT or MRI will be normal after a head injury, when there is actually functional damage to the brain that can be detected with SPECT.
Co-author Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in former football players as portrayed in the movie Concussion, added, “What our current work is doing, in addition to other imaging modalities, builds the foundation for identifying the negative effects of head trauma on the brain while the patient is still alive so that we can intervene with better treatments.”
CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) thought to result from repeated hits to the head. It is important to note that undiagnosed sub-concussive blows may also contribute to CTE. However, the actual diagnosis of CTE can be confirmed only with an autopsy.
According to Dr. Amen, The two big takeaways from the study are:
1) You don’t have to wait until you’re dead to be diagnosed with a brain injury. With SPECT, we were able to see traumatic brain injuries in virtually all of the football players we studied, and some are recently retired.
2) We determined that you’re not stuck with the damage you have, you can get treated.
Dr. Amen and the physicians at Amen Clinics are very knowledgeable about the consequences of repetitive blows to the head, including how to identify them and heal the brain. If you are concerned that you or a loved may have a head injury, a call to our Care Center can answer your questions and provide you with valuable information that can lead you to a better brain and a better life. Find out how. Call 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit today.