An announcement last week by New York’s University of Rochester received little attention in the national media, but deserves more. According to a news release from the university’s medical center, researchers there have made a significant breakthrough in the study of sports-related traumatic brain injuries, especially to children.
The medical center says the development of a new testing model “provides a foundation for scientists to better understand and potentially develop new ways to detect and prevent the repetitive sports injuries that can lead to the condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).” The key to the research is the discovery “that mice with mild, repetitive traumatic brain injury (TBI) develop many of the same behavioral problems, such as difficulty sleeping, memory problems, depression, judgment and risk-taking issues, that have been associated with the issue in humans.”
As the news release goes on to explain, the lack of a reliable animal-based testing model has held back research on repetitive TBI and other sports injuries. If the model stands up to further peer-reviewed research it could, over time, prove to be crucial not only in the diagnosis and treatment of sports injuries but in developing new treatments, equipment and procedures to prevent them. The news release quotes one of the Medical Center’s doctors summarizing the importance of the findings: “While public awareness of the long-term health risk of blows to the head is growing rapidly, our ability to scientifically study the fundamental neurological impact of mild brain injuries has lagged.”
Anything that would allow the research on this topic to catch up with public awareness should be welcomed. Over the last few years I have regularly used this blog to highlight the dangers of TBI and the extent to which young people are particularly vulnerable. Not only are their brains and bodies still growing and, therefore, more subject to injury, but few middle school or high school athletes enjoy the kind of careful medical support and monitoring that are much more common at the professional and elite college level.
As a Portland sports injury attorney with a special focus on injuries to children I will watch the results of this announcement, and any studies that may grow out of it, with interest. Everything that helps scientists better understand sports injuries helps all of us prevent them. I’m especially interested in the fact that this new testing model will focus on mild, repetitive injuries – the kind that are so worrisome among young people. Awareness is growing every month that repeated minor blows to the head that may not immediately seem serious can, over time, lead to debilitating, permanent injuries. Anything that can help all of us prevent that has to be welcome news.
University of Rochester Medical Center: Model Sheds New Light on Sports-related Brain Injuries