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Articles Posted in Brain Injury Detection

A recent study by European doctors may heighten the level of care that physicians must provide patients who are comatose due to a brain injury. According to an article by the London National Health Service, a four year hospital trial found that a brain scan could identify which patients were likely to wake up from their coma. Positron emission tomography, also called PET, is a specific type of brain scanning technology. With it, doctors were able to identify “hidden levels of consciousness” within the brains of a third of the patients studied.

The trial reportedly involved 126 patients. Of those patients, 41 of them were previously classified in a persistent vegetative state. Doctors, using the PET scan, determined that 13 patients demonstrated some consciousness, leading to the conclusion that they were misdiagnosed by their previous physicians. Out of the 13, nine came out of a coma within one year of the study. Three died from unrelated complications and one remained comatose. This reflects an accuracy rate of 74% compared to a 56% accuracy rate for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is most commonly utilized.

PET scans are commonly used for cancer patients, but not in the area of brain injuries. They are completed with injections of radioactive tracer, which create 3D images of activity within the cells. Alternatively, MRI scans demonstrate the level of blood flow within the brain. This blood flow alerts doctors to brain activity. According to the article, PET technology is expensive and challenging to use, but scientists hope that these types of findings will assist in making them more financially accessible and easier to use.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

A traumatic brain injury is caused when an outside force, such as a blow to the head, damages the skull, or causes the brain to move inside the skull, in turn damaging the brain.

Some brain injuries cause focal, or localized, damage, such as when a bullet enters the brain. Closed brain injuries cause diffuse brain damage, or damage to several areas of the brain. In some instances, both sides of the brain can be damaged, and nerves spread throughout the brain, in what is called diffuse axonal injury (DAI).

On April 15, 2013, thousands of runners began the annual Boston Marathon with thousands of spectators lining the route to watch. Unbeknownst to authorities, runners, and spectators, two pressure cooker bombs were placed at the finish line on Boylston Street near Copley Square. The two explosions rocked the finished line at 2:49pm, killing 3 and injuring at least 264 others. The injured were treated at 27 different local hospitals.

Many of the individuals present at the scene of the explosions refused medical attention, stating that they only heard some residual ringing in their ears and felt fine enough to go home. The majority of patients treated in the hospitals were not treated for concussions but rather for shrapnel-related injuries. However, new research on explosions shows that many Boston Marathon victims may have experienced traumatic brain injuries without even realizing it.

Researchers conducting research on individuals present during explosions, such as during the Gulf War, initially seemed fine and unaffected by the explosions. However, later, these same individuals began displaying signs of traumatic brain injury, such as dementia. Research has shown that primary blast waves during explosions can cause concussions or mild traumatic brain injuries, even without a direct blow to the head. The injury itself is caused by the blast of wind that causes the head to swing back and forth rapidly.

Like a freight train, more and more information continues to come out building the case for the long-term harm caused by all forms of brain injury. Far more than we previously knew, damage to the head can impact so many areas of one’s life. Beyond the physical damage, there is social, mental, and emotional harm that plagues many who are hurt. This is true no matter the injured party–from children to the elderly. When considering the legal ramifications when negligence is a cause in the harm, the expansive nature of the consequences must be factored.

Young Depression

The latest news on the subject comes from a new study presented at the national conference this week of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Researchers took a look at a subject that is well-known in adults but less understood in children: the link between brain injury and depression.

Perhaps no area of study today is more fascinating than neuroscience. As researchers delve into the mysteries of the brain, many assumptions are shattered about how and why people act the way they do. At the same time, new knowledge regarding how the brain works is the crucial variable needed to ultimately discover new treatment methods for brain injuries, from TBIs to degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

On that front, several news outlets reported last week on the release of a new report from the National Institute of Health (NIH) on the future of neuroscience. The report (view it online here) is worth reading in depth for all of those who want a thorough understanding of what is known and unknown about the body’s most complex organ.

Fulfilling the BRAIN Initiative

If you thought that the apparent $765 million settlement in the NFL brain injury case would lead to the end of controversy about football concussions–think again. For one thing, many connected to the NFL have already voiced disapproval at the settlement. There will undoubtedly be intense pressure on the league to live up to its promises to do everything possible to keep players safe.

College Football Head Injuries

On top of that, there remain legal battles still in the works involving college football. Former players for various teams have filed lawsuits against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). New players continue to come forward sharing stories of serious long-term injury that they believe are tied to their playing days.

Most brain injury lawsuit news space is gobbled up by talk of the legal challenges against the National Football League. NFL officials, among other things, are accused of downplaying information about serious head injury risks to professional athletes and encouraging hard hits that ultimately caused serious harm to thousands of players.

Often forgotten is that many of those same plaintiffs also pointed to other liable parties, including the makers and manufacturers of the equipment used in the sport. By far the leader in this regard is the helmet-maker, Riddell. The company was hit by many different lawsuits. A jury verdict recently came down in the latest of these, resulting in a significant renunciation of the company’s practices.

$11 Million Riddell Verdict

Brain injury awareness is at an all-time high, thanks in large part to high-profile lawsuits related to head injuries in sports. This increased knowledge is helpful in re-iterating that even seemingly “minor” brain injuries can have serious consequences in both the short and long-term. For this reason, all those who suffer hard head contact need to be incredibly vigilant about their condition, seeking out proper medical care when necessary.

But what exactly is the line between a “hard knock” and an injury that needs professional aid? It is impossible to say with certainty.

Recently, a helpful UT San Diego story discussed this issue in relation to toddler injuries. All those with young children appreciate that it is likely impossible to prevent all bumps and bruises to youngsters as they grow up. Those learning to walk, exploring new spaces, or otherwise engaging with the world will undoubtedly take some tumbles, hit some corners, and injure themselves. But how do parents know when an injury is truly minor and when professional help is needed?

Troubles continue to mount for the National Football League, as more and more brain injury lawsuits are being filed by those who claim to have been affected in one way or another by the league’s action (or lack of action) which allegedly led to athlete head injuries. As we have discussed frequently, many former NFL players claim that the league knew (or should have known) of long-term harm that came to players because of the sport. Claims suggest that the NFL downplayed those risks and otherwise encouraged certain conduct on the field which increased the risk of player head injury. For many of these former players, their years on the gridiron have led to significant problems in retirement, with early dementia and other cognitive disabilities.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In the past, most of the claims against the NFL sought to assist those players who were struggling with the effect of long-term brain injury. However, this week several news outlets reported that two wrongful death lawsuits were recently consolidated with the concussion-cases. The Journal Times noted that the two cases both stem from the suicide of NFL superstar Junior Seau. One of the lawsuit was filed by Seau’s parents and the other by his four children.

Earlier this week we discussed the new lawsuit filed by the family of Junior Seau alleging that the National Football League failed to properly explain the long-term brain injury risks caused by the game, hid information, and encouraged game tactics that increased the risk of long-term harm. Seau committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest last May. After an autopsy was performed on his brain it was determined that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopahty (CTE). CTE is essentially a form of brain damage that causes a myriad of problem, including dementia, depression, and other behavioral changes. In has been linked to many former athletes, particularly those in high-contact sports.

In the past, CTE could only be identified by examining a player’s brain after their passing. This obviously made it difficult to fully understand the scope of the problem, because only certain individuals would have the full investigation performed after their death to possibly target the condition.

However, as the New York Times reported last week, all of that may soon change as, for the first time ever, medical experts seem to have identified CTE in living patients. New techniques allowed doctors to see the degenerative brain conditions without the need for tissue samples from the deceased.

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