Athletic trainers – uci study taps brains of high school football players to better understand head injuries brain anoxia

View slideshow dr scott li left prepares jimmy russell 17 of long beach for an MRI at the toshiba research center in irvine russell plays for the servite high school football team christian labow left servite highs spring football practice early on a recent afternoon to undergo a brain scan the 17-year-old varsity center wasnt injured he was contributing to the growing body of research on football and neurological health labow joined a novel UC irvine study last month that is looking for evidence of microscopic brain bleeds among high school football players MRI results from 100 teen players will be compared with brain scans from a control group of male students who dont play the sport I was like oh thats kinda cool to see how my brain works said labow who lives in huntington beach I was thinking I should probably do this because I use my head a lot in march the NFL publicly acknowledged for the first time that football is connected to the degenerative brain disease found in nearly 100 former professional players beyond those well-publicized cases far less is known about how blows to the head affect the still-developing adolescent brain A 2013 report by the institute of medicine found that high school football players sustain more concussions than college players but drew no conclusions on whether they lead to long-term damage dr mark fisher a UCI neurologist and a football fan wants to find out how early evidence of trauma might show up in young players theres great concern regarding the relationship between playing organized football and head injuries and the brain changes that may result fisher said we have the opportunity of either providing some reassurance for the safety of the activity or to determine whether there are any red flags radiologists will review the scans for cerebral microbleeds which are small areas where bleeding has occurred microbleeds would not normally be seen in teens unless they had suffered a significant head injury fisher said they are also a possible risk factor for chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE which has been diagnosed by autopsy in players including most recently former oakland raiders quarterback ken stabler dr robert cantu a boston neurosurgeon and author of concussions and our kids said the UCI study sounds worthwhile noting that early stage CTE has been found in the brains of deceased high school football players CTE symptoms include memory loss impaired judgment and depression but cantu said so far theres no medical consensus on what should be done if microbleeds are found particularly if the player is asymptomatic he said he wouldnt want parents to assume that the absence of microbleeds means their child wont have neurological problems in the future or that microbleeds automatically means he will right now we cant correlate the two cantu said it is true you might one day be able to and you only will if you start following players chaz kekipi head athletic trainer at servite said the anaheim private schools involvement in the study promotes the kind of transparency that the sport has lacked in the past which has led to declining participation he said the program was also among the first in the state to implement return-to-play concussion protocols for player safety I like the fact that were contributing to greater awareness and greater education and hopefully better research on how to handle some of these brain injuries and lingering issues that student athletes have kekipi said hopefully this research will help us continue to better manage these concussion episodes so were really tailoring each protocol to the athlete UCI will share any abnormal results with the students and their parentsbefore the scan players provide a health history including any past symptoms of concussion fisher who is still recruiting players plans to publish his findings after the study is completed at the end of the year jimmy russell 17 who plays with labow on the varsity team enrolled at the suggestion of his mom laura russell he wore a black servite football T-shirt for his scan and dozed during the 40-minute procedure that flashed colorful images of his brain on a computer monitor I was intrigued since ive never had a concussion russell said I want to see if its actually taken a toll laura russell of long beach said she worries about the possibility of head injuries she said the MRI will serve as a good baseline measure of her sons health we try to keep him with the best helmet she said and pray some helmet manufacturers are introducing sensors to monitor head impacts in real time while virginia tech provides independent safety rankings on which helmets best reduce risk of concussion even without any results yet the UCI study has already spurred interesting conversations between the athletes and their parents on the way to the toshiba scanning facility in irvine labow and his mom heather labow talked about what they would do with the findings I was saying that if the results came back and it showed there was something that could be detrimental to his health down the road that wed have to reevaluate and possibly give up football heather labow said her son who aspires to play professionally felt differently he describes the feeling of winning like fireworks in his heart I would find ways to keep myself safe he said I wouldnt quit football because of a lone little problem labows parents did not allow him toplay tackle footballuntil he started high school because of their concern about concussions heather labow said they were glad to participate in research that can help inform the decisions of younger players and their families its a really important topic and its hot right now heather labow said its exciting to be a part of something that can make a difference in the future contact the writer cperkes ocregistercom 714-796-3686

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