At 65, Arthur Halls is dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, severe angina, coronary blockage of the heart and hypertension – together these things have severely impacted his way of life. “Two years ago, there was very little I could do,” says Halls. “With your lungs and your heart and that, you’ve got to be very very careful.”
But that changed after he began fall-prevention therapy with the Medical Interactive Recovery System, or Mira, which uses video games for physical rehabilitation. Through a series of games that get users to do the kind of moves they’d normally be doing in physiotherapy, Halls feels like he can do a lot more.
“It’s about building the confidence up,” he says. “Now I have the confidence to do these games without any serious damage, unless I was very stupid and did something strenuous.”
Exercise is just as good for the brain as it is for the body, a growing body of research is showing. And one kind in particular—aerobic exercise—appears to be king.
“Back in the day, the majority of exercise studies focused on the parts of the body from the neck down, like the heart and lungs,” says Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “But now we are finding that we need to go north, to the brain, to show the true benefits of a physically active lifestyle on an individual.”
Exercise might be a simple way for people to cut down their risk for memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, even for those who are genetically at risk for the disease. In a June study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, Okonkwo followed 93 adults who had at least one parent with Alzheimer’s disease, at least one gene linked to Alzheimer’s, or both. People in the study who spent at least 68 minutes a day doing moderate physical activity had better glucose metabolism—which signals a healthy brain—compared to people who did less.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.