This post is a bit of a stretch from my norm, but I really think it deserves a look.
I encouraged my son to start playing football in 2nd grade. I thought it would be a great way to build character, endurance, and I really thought it would help me as a single mom teach Zachary more about respect and discipline. Ok, and let’s face it, everyone wants their child to become an athletic super star.
I’ve always encouraged Zachary to dream big, and now that he’s finishing his freshman year of high school, he is dreaming big. He does want to play college level football for Ohio State University. It’s been his dream since he was in the fourth grade, and following that he dreams of playing for the NFL. I have never discouraged him. I believe he can do anything he wants to do, but after I sustained my brain injury, I’m looking at his “career” in football in a whole new light.
Tonight, I read another account of a retired NFL player committing suicide. My heart goes out to his friends and family, and I really believe that his physical trials after playing football need to be addressed.
Here’s the reality folks, a brain injury is a brain injury, and though there are MANY ways to have trauma to the brain, it really is all the same.
Let me clarify, I’m not saying that EVERYONE who has a brain injury has the same symptoms, but an injury to the brain is an intense injury, and it is an invisible injury to the rest of the world.
If you saw someone in a wheelchair, you have an immediate awareness that this person has a disability, but there are no external indicators that tell you a person has a brain injury. You really have no way of telling.
Trust me, before my injury, I would speak to people through my job, and I would immediately assume that they were really, really stupid. Some people, I talked with, I knew they had an injury because their speech was impacted, but for those where it wasn’t apparent as soon as they started speaking, I seriously judged their intellect.
I know better now.
Whether you were in a car accident, you fell down and hit your head, you were in sports like boxing or the NFL, or you just got into one too many fights, it’s important to realize that you may have life long issues related to these occurrences. AND please be aware, even just one event can cause these life long issues.
Okay before you start walking around with a helmet strapped to your head, in most cases, one bump to the head won’t cause permanent damage, but it is anticipated that more than 1.2 million people or more experience mild traumatic brain injury.
To differentiate, a person with a Traumatic Brain Injury usually needs to be hospitalized for their injury, and in regards to a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, a person sustains ongoing issues after receiving a hit to the head, but did not require hospitalization. However, it is believed that there could be a significantly higher number of people with MTBI. The following quotes come from the CDC. In 2003, they were approaching congress to obtain more funding to study MTBI:
First, no standard definitions exist for MTBI and MTBI-related impair
ments and disabilities. The existing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
definition for TBI surveillance is designed to identify cases of TBI that result in hospital
ization, which tend to be more severe. MTBI is most often treated in emergency depart
ments or in non-hospital medical settings, or it is not treated at all. Few states conduct
emergency department-based surveillance, and current efforts do not capture data about
persons with MTBI who receive no medical treatment. Additionally, neither hospital- nor
emergency department-based data can provide estimates of the long-term consequences
In 2003, the Center for Disease Control defined Mild Traumatic Brain Injury as this:
The Definitions Subgroup developed a conceptual definition of
MTBI based on clinical signs, symptoms, and neuroimaging; and an operational defini
tion to be used in identifying cases of MTBI in administrative databases, medical
records, and survey and interview results. The Methods Subgroup evaluated surveillance
databases and identified those that would best capture the types of data needed to determine the full magnitude of MTBI and related impairments and disabilities.
The conceptual definition of MTBI is an injury to the head as a result of blunt trauma or
acceleration or deceleration forces that result in one or more of the following conditions:
● Any period of observed or self-reported:
◆ Transient confusion, disorientation, or impaired consciousness;
◆ Dysfunction of memory around the time of injury;
◆ Loss of consciousness lasting less than 30 minutes.
● Observed signs of neurological or neuropsychological dysfunction, such as:
◆ Seizures acutely following injury to the head;
◆ Among infants and very young children: irritability, lethargy,
or vomiting following head injury;
◆ Symptoms among older children and adults such as headache,
dizziness, irritability, fatigue or poor concentration, when
identified soon after injury, can be used to support the diagnosis
of mild TBI, but cannot be used to make the diagnosis in the
absence of loss of consciousness or altered consciousness.
Research may provide additional guidance in this area.
Based on this conceptual definition, separate operational definitions of MTBI are
recommended for cases identified from interviews and surveys, administrative health
care data sets, and patient medical records.
The conceptual definition of a prevalent case of MTBI is any degree of neurological or
neuropsychological impairment, functional limitation, disability, or persistent symptom
attributable to an MTBI.
The operational definition of a prevalent case of MTBI-related impairment, functional
limitation, disability, or persistent symptoms is any case in which current symptoms are 3
reported consequent to MTBI or made worse in severity or frequency by the MTBI,
or in which current limitations in functional status are reported consequent to MTBI.
Symptoms and limitations are described on pages 19-21. (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/mtbi/mtbireport.pdf)
Ok folks, so what does all of that MEAN?
The CDC realized that in regards to mild trauma to the head, those hits that don’t require hospitalization, are being ignored in the medical community as causing a problem. They understand that these is a serious lack of understanding regarding the brain trauma that occurs after something as simple as whiplash in a car accident or a hit in the head during a boxing match. In order to try to obtain information for those that are being injured, but aren’t being hospitalized, the CDC created the above definitions for hospitals and doctors to use to try to document these cases. So, the above information is a guideline set up by CDC, so that they could start researching this issue further.
They set up the definitions in two parts. The first part is more of the physical symptoms that present and establish that a person might have experienced a MTBI, and the second part is the cognitive effects a person might experience after having a MTBI.
They are stating that doctors should pay attention to both definitions, the conceptual and operational.
This means, YOU should pay attention to both as well because if you fall down and are disoriented, you might experience ongoing issues. However, that does not mean that you WILL experience ongoing issues.
It is anticipated that approximately 30% of those who experience a hit to the head will experience temporary issues, but only 5 to 7 percent of that 30% will have permanent ongoing neurological or cognitive issues.
It is also believed that MTBI’s tend to build, and this brings us back to our NFL football players. If you had just one hit to the head or maybe two or three, the chances of your having a permanent brain injury are pretty remote, but if you started playing football in 2nd grade, and continued to sustain hits through high school, college, and then into the NFL, well by the time you’re in your early 40’s, your brain is going to start turning to jelly. Ok, not literally jelly, but figuratively.
So that brings us back to, you can’t see the injury, and most people don’t understand what’s happening to them. You fell off your bike, and you weren’t wearing a helmet, and you haven’t been quite the same since. You might go to your doctor. They might order a few tests, but brain injuries do not always show on a MRI or CT scan, or by the time a doctor orders it, the inflammation that the images detect has subsided, and you probably start to feel just a little bit crazy.
You don’t feel the same. You can’t think as clearly as you did before, but your doctor does not see anything in your scans. YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE GOING NUTS. Then, you get depressed. No one believes you. Your doctors are telling you there’s nothing wrong. Your spouse doesn’t understand what’s happening to you. You get depressed, and you don’t feel like life is worth living.
Folks, it’s time to understand that you aren’t alone, and no matter how you received your injury, you have an injury. It’s an unseen injury, but you aren’t crazy, and you deserve and need to get help, cognitively, psychologically and physically.
Ray Easterling, former Atlanta Falcons defensive back, died from suicide this weekend. He suffered from memory issues, headaches, dementia, and other health issues.
The NFL is being sued because it is believed that the league was aware that continuous concussions were causing these injuries, but they did not make players aware of the risks, and in some cases denied players ongoing health coverage to help with their medical problems (http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/Ray-Easterling-death-ruled-suicide-Atlanta-Falcons-041912).
In 2007, there was a fund created by the NFL to cover medical costs of retired NFL players, however this fund does not cover older NFL team players, and they do not choose to cover everyone’s costs. There is a panel that decides whether or not a former NFL players medical costs will or will not be covered. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/sports/football/21duerson.html)
For information on the 88plan: https://www.nflplayercare.com/Default.aspx
Another great website regarding medical assistance for former NFL players: http://www.gridirongreats.org/
It is important to understand that the name used for the brain injuries that these football players had is Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), but this is the name of a disease related to chronic brain injury, either TBI or MTBI.
Other NFL players that have committed suicide after brain injury (CTE):
Andre Waters (2006)
Dave Duerson (2011)
Rick Rypien (age 27)
Corwin Brown (suffering from brain injury, attempted suicide, but luckily survived)
Owen Thomas (COLLEGE FOOTBALL player with Penn State had the same injury as the NFL players above).
Please note that the above football players lost their lives, but thousands of others are living with TBI and MTBI, and are at risk.
It is also important to note that it is not just football players, but cheerleaders, boxers, martial artists, kick boxers, soccer players, etc that can also receive these injuries. It’s also important to understand that something as simple as being in a car accident that causes whiplash can cause this injury.
It’s really important to spread the word regarding how this unseen injury is impacting people in their every day, and to understand that if you experience things that just aren’t right for you (unexplained headaches, nausea, memory loss, fatigue, visual or hearing disturbances, attention problems, etc…SEEK HELP. You might be wondering what your next step is after you have been told by a doctor that nothing is wrong; call your local hospital and ask about neurocognitive testing with a psychologist or a neuropsychologist. In most cases, your insurance will cover this type of testing, but you might need a doctors referrel.
In the end, DON’T GIVE UP. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!
PLEASE, if you are experiencing issues that you don’t understand and need help: LEAVE A MESSAGE here or you can also contact the http://www.biausa.org (that’s the brain injury association).
I really recommend online support groups. It’s AMAZING to talk to people who are LIVING with the same types of issues that you are.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-suicide (1-800-784-2433) or you can go online to crisischat.org. OR go to your nearest emergency room.
In the end, you are not alone, and even though your life has changed and it’s not easy, you can get help and you can learn ways to live and adjust to your injury.
Here are a following broadcasts regarding concussions and mild head injury in sports:
Sports in General:
Head trauma related to the pituitary gland and how head trauma impacts your hormone function: