Study finds brain differences in athletes playing contact vs. noncontact sports

A study from researchers at Indiana University in the journal NeuroImage: Clinical has found differences in the brains of athletes who participate in contact sports compared to those who participate in noncontact sports.

The differences were observed as both groups were given a simple visual task. The results could suggest that a history of minor but repeated blows to the head can result in compensatory changes to the brain as it relates to eye movement function. Or it could show how the hundreds of hours that contact sport players spend on eye-hand coordination skills leads to a reorganization of the brain in the areas dedicated to eye movements.

While more research is needed, senior author Nicholas Port said the findings contribute important information to research on subconcussive blows—or “microconcussions”—that are common in sports such as football, soccer, ice hockey, snowboarding and skiing. Interest in subconcussions has grown significantly in recent years as the long- and short-term risks of concussions—or mild traumatic brain injury—have become more widely known and understood.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Early Physical Activity After Concussion May Reduce Risk of Persistent Symptoms, Researchers Say

A Canadian study published in JAMA turns the current thinking on postconcussion physical activity on its head. According to researchers, early return to physical activity within 1 week of concussion may actually decrease the likelihood of persistent symptoms in the pediatric population.

The prospective cohort study included 2,413 children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 18 years. At 7 days and at 28 days postinjury, participants filled out questionnaires about their physical activity and rated their postconcussion symptoms using the Post-Concussion Symptom Inventory. Of the respondents, 30.5% rested for the first 7 days, and 69.5% participated in some sort of physical activity, including light aerobic exercise, sport-specific exercise, noncontact drills, full-contact practice, or full competition.

Full story of physical activity benefits after concussions at APTA

PTs Included in Reintroduced Youth Concussions Legislation

Legislation that recognizes the ability of physical therapists (PTs) to make return-to-play decisions for youth sports participants has been reintroduced in the US Senate and House of Representatives.

Called the Supporting Athletes, Families, and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth Act (SAFE PLAY Act), S. 436/H.R. 829 was introduced by Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Reps Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Lois Capps (D-CA). Supporters, including APTA, believe the legislation could lead to better management and awareness of some necessary aspects of sports safety, including concussions among student athletes, their families, and their coaches.

Full story of PTs and youth concussions at APTA

Study: Prolonged Rest No Better Than Usual Care for Adolescents With Concussions

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics asserts that when it comes to treatment for concussion, rest is a good thing–but it may be possible for adolescents to get too much of it.

In a paper e-published ahead of print on Jan.5, researchers report on findings from a study of 88 patients, aged 11 to 22, who reported to a Wisconsin emergency department (ED) and were diagnosed as having experienced concussion. Of that number, 43 were prescribed “usual care” of 1–2 days of rest followed by a gradual return to activity, while the remaining 45 participants were prescribed strict rest for 5 days (no school, work, or physical activity).

Assessments were performed in the ED and at 3 and 10 days after injury. Participants also completed activity diaries that included a 19-symptom Post Concussive Symptoms Scale (PCSS).What researchers found was that while neurocognitive and balance tests showed no significant differences in the groups as they recovered, 50% of the participants assigned to strict rest took an average of 3 days longer to report symptom resolution. Additionally, the strict rest group reported higher PCSS scores than the usual-care group.

Full story of adolescents with concussions at APTA

FDA: Beware of Dietary Supplements That Claim to Speed Concussion Recovery

Think those claims that dietary supplements can help speed concussion recovery sound too good to be true? You’re right. And the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agrees.

This week, the FDA released a consumer update on companies that market dietary supplements that purport to heal—and in some cases prevent—concussions. The advertising has received more attention with the start of fall school sports, and the agency is stepping up its enforcement actions to warn companies when their claims are false.

Full story of dietary supplements for concussion recovery at APTA

PT’s Movie Review on ESPN Also Educates on Consecutive TBI

An APTA member’s review of a new documentary on traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been featured on ESPN. Stephania Bell, PT, CSCS, OCS, senior writer for ESPN, gave a strong, positive review for the new documentary “The Crash Reel,” but perhaps just as important, seized the opportunity to provide readers with valuable education on consecutive TBI and its impact on developing brains.

“The Crash Reel” follows the rise, devastating injury, and recovery of elite snowboarder Kevin Pearce, who at age 22 suffered a head injury during training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Pearce’s recovery continues, and he is now a motivational speaker and sports equipment consultant. Earlier this month he carried the torch at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Full story on the movie review and TBI at APTA

Understanding pain: can the brain provide all the answers?

We now know that there’s much more to pain than simply what is happening in the painful body part, and attention has turned to the role of the brain. But not even this mysterious organ can tell us everything we need to know about pain, at least not yet.

You may wonder why the brain is part of the discussion about pain at all. After all, we’re not talking about a brain disease such as Alzheimer’s or stroke.

But we think that the brain is actually the best place to look when trying to understand pain; after all, pain is a purely subjective experience.

The problem is that pain cannot be “seen”. While a flinch, a limp, or a grimace may provide us with clues, ultimately we only know that someone is in pain if they tell us they are.

And it doesn’t necessarily make sense to only consider the part of the body that’s sore – sometimes people report pain in a body part that no longer exists, known as phantom limb pain.

Full story of brain helping with pain at Science Alert

How best to celebrate Christmas with a person with dementia

Christmas can be a stressful time for hosts and guests alike, and it’s more so for carers of people living with dementia.

It’s difficult to give general advice about how to get through the holiday season with as little fuss as possible because everyone is unique, and the various types and stages of dementia affect behaviour in different ways.

So I’m going to tell you a story of how one couple is getting through. Hopefully, their strategies will suggest things other families can do for a better Christmas.

Tom and Nola are not real people. Their portraits below are based on my experience working with people with dementia, and on conversations I’ve had with these people, their carers and service providers about how to cope at Christmas time.

Tailoring Christmas

Tom was diagnosed with dementia about three years ago.

“My memory is not so good now,” he says. But Nola, his wife and carer, says that he’s still sociable and enjoys food and company.

Full story of celebrating Christmas with Dementia at The Conversation

Zen and the Art of Alzheimer’s

I sat across the room from my father on Thanksgiving night. He looked at me pointedly. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“I’m Mary,” I answered.

“Mary… ” he prompted.

“Mary McLaughlin,” I said, wondering if he would recognize that my last name was the same as his.

“Mary McLaughlin,” he repeated slowly. He listened to the syllables as they floated in the air. Then he shook his head. No, it didn’t ring a bell.

My father, a few months shy of his 91st birthday, has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Though he still has good days, he has forgotten most of the things that just a few years ago he would have listed as evidence of a life well-lived — his three college degrees; his two successful careers; his five grown children; his 57-year-and-counting marriage to my mother. They — we — are all shadows now. Glimpses. Points of information that he finds fascinating and puzzling, but that evaporate almost as soon as they are spoken to him.

It’s all lost.

I’ve played that Thanksgiving night conversation through in my head a hundred times since it happened and it stings every time I do. And then, with each replay, I continue through to the second part of our conversation until I get to the part that salves the sting.

Full story of the Zen of Alzheimer’s at The Huffington Post

U.S. Stroke Deaths Fell 30% Over Past Decade

Stroke deaths in the United States have been dropping for more than 100 years and have declined 30 percent in the past 11 years, a new report reveals.

Sometimes called a brain attack, stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability.

Stroke, however, has slipped from the third-leading cause of death in the United States to the fourth-leading cause. This, and a similar decline in heart disease, is one of the 10 great public-health achievements of the 20th century, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even so, there is still more to be done, said George Howard, a professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Howard is co-author of a scientific statement describing the factors influencing the decline in stroke deaths. The statement is scheduled for publication in the journal Stroke.

“Stroke has been declining since 1900, and this could be a result of changes leading to fewer people having a stroke or because people are less likely to die after they have a stroke,” Howard said in a university news release. “Nobody really knows why, but several things seem to be contributing to fewer deaths from stroke.”

Full story of stroke death rates at Web MD