Photo: Tara Haelle/AHCJNFL free agent Josh Cribbs captivated attendees with his own experiences, talking about the lengths that players would go to conceal possible concussions and game the tests.
Conversations about concussions, traumatic brain injury and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) have become more common in recent years as many military veterans return with disabling head injuries and the impact of football injuries on the brain gets more scrutiny in medical research.
The recent movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, raised even more awareness of the sports side of the issue. The higher profile in the media about sports head injuries, specifically in football, was the focus of a well-attended panel, “Covering the Concussion Crisis: Research and Real Life,” at the Health Journalism 2016 conference last month. Continue reading
Bloomberg’s David Armstrong has assembled an investigation of a huge Florida center for brain injury rehabilitation with a record of serious patient abuse, and the system which has allowed it to keep running for so long.
Armstrong talked with 20 current and former patients and their families, examined criminal and civil cases, and went through “over 2,000 pages of court and medical records, police reports, state investigations and autopsies.”
Patients’ families or state agencies have alleged abuse or care lapses in at least five residents’ deaths since 1998, two of them in the last 18 months. Three former employees face criminal charges of abusing FINR patients – one of whom was allegedly hit repeatedly for two hours in a TV room last September.
But before you get lost deep in the details of Armstrong’s report, take a minute to appreciate his deft aggregation of scores of disparate resources through convenient hyperlinks and attachments. His entire work is truly integrated with the Web in way that, even today, few investigations are. Just as importantly, it’s tied to the bigger picture and what this scandal shows about extended care for Americans with brain injuries.
The complaints underscore the problems that 5.3 million brain-injured Americans are having finding adequate care. Their numbers are growing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as better emergency medicine and vehicle safety mean that fewer die from traffic accidents, bullet wounds and other causes of traumatic brain injuries.
The long-term ills range from memory loss and physical handicaps to the inability to control violent anger or sexual aggression. Yet because insurance benefits for rehabilitation are scarce, less than half of those who need it receive it, according to the Brain Injury Association of America.
The Philadelphia Daily News has released “Deadly Aftershocks,” an in-depth look at the effect of the day-to-day bumps and knocks of a football career on players’ brains. Reporter Mark Kram talked to brain researchers who found damage associated with chronic traumatic encephalopathy was almost common among football players; even athletes as young as 18 showed some indications of it.
Cross-section of the human brain, courtesy of the NIH.
According to Kram’s sources, the only way to overcome the sport’s macho culture of shaking off injuries and jogging back into the fray would be to set up strict guidelines designed to protect the players from themselves.
The brain damage caused by football is cumulative and slow to develop, which makes it particularly tricky to prevent during the heat of athletic competition. Kram looks at the human and physical destruction wrought by this incremental descent into CTE through a series of anecdotes and profiles, drawing the story together with medical and physiological research.
Stories in the package:
AHCJ has some resources about brain injuries: