By Dhimant J. Balar, DO
The recent announcement that Pro Football Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Joe DeLamielleure and former NFL All-Pro Leonard Marshall have been diagnosed as having signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy has again brought sports and head trauma to the forefront in the national consciousness. This degenerative condition, also known as CTE, is believed by many scientists to be caused by blows to the head and is linked to depression and dementia.
CTE is a pathologic neurological disease of the brain characterized by the buildup of tau protein complexes, an abnormal complex of cells that destroy areas of the brain that are important in memory, emotion and other important functions. Research has shown that traumatic brain injury, including concussions, may be one etiology of the development of these toxic proteins. Autopsies of more than 50 ex-NFL players including popular perennial all-pro Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year, found concentrations of tau.
The professionals at Raritan Bay Medical Center and its Human Motion Institute understand the implications of the data and research on the relationship between head trauma and sport and are working hard to educate the public, promote wellness and build a strong prevention program, especially through the ImPACT program. ImPACT is designed to help trainers, coaches and physicians monitor athletes’ symptoms so they do not return to sport before their brain has healed, hopefully preventing neurological damage. It is important to understand that the key to preventing concussions is recognition. Recognizing symptoms, close monitoring, helped with ImPACT can enable a safe return to play.
Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT) was first developed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and is widely recognized as the gold standard for concussion evaluation. ImPACT testing provides a baseline record of a patient’s cognitive function, attention, memory, reaction time, and visual processing speed. In the event of a concussion, the patient is retested and the results are compared to the original readings. Patients involved in physical activity such as sports will not begin a stepwise process of return to play protocols until they meet their baseline test score. This process reduces the potential for further injury and long-term damage.
Dr. Balar is the Director of Sports Medicine for the Human Motion Institute at Raritan Bay Medical Center. For more information or to make an appointment with him or any specialist at the Human Motion Institute, call 855.5.MOTION.
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