Articles Posted in Brain Injury

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Our Chicago personal injury lawyers have been very concerned about the relation between sports such as football and traumatic brain injury. Yesterday, scientists announced that they found signs of damage in the deceased Chicago football player’s brain, which may shed light on his recent erratic behavior. The findings, of course, add to questions about whether the ultimate cost of playing football could be higher than anyone imagined and poses a more significant question of whether the National Football League (NFL) should do more to protect its players.

The former Chicago Bears player, prior to shooting himself this past February, had expressed his desire for his brain to be studied for signs of traumatic brain disease. Scientific studies show that his brain tissue suffered from “moderately advanced” case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that is associated with repeated blows to the head, which often occurs in football. The deceased football player’s brain showed pronounced changes in the frontal cortex amygdala and the hippocampus. These parts of the brain control judgment, inhibition, impulse, mood control, and memory. Overall, CTE has been found in more than two dozen deceased professional football players. The NFL expressed its sympathy to the victim’s family and stated its wish that the findings will contribute more to the understanding of CTE. The NFL has also reported that it is working to expand the support system for retired players and advocating laws to better protect young athletes in any sport who suffer concussions.

Not only have football players been affected by traumatic brain injury and CTE, but many of our armed forces overseas are returning home with traumatic brain injury. An important medical concern of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is the long-term effect of mild traumatic brain injury, particularly from blast explosions.

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According to www.madisonrecord.com, a medical malpractice lawsuit was recently filed by a woman in St. Louis alleging that she suffered a stroke due to her doctor’s negligence.

In 2002, following Cheryl Unterreiner’s aortic valve replacement, Dr. David Pernikoff prescribed her an anticoagulant called Warfarin. Warfarin is a type of medication that is used to prevent blood clots from forming or growing larger in your blood and blood vessels. Warfarin is customarily prescribed for people with replacement or mechanical heart valves, or individuals with certain types of irregular heartbeat. This type of medication is measured by international normalized ratio, otherwise known as INR. Doctors must keep track of INR to ensure an adequate, yet safe, dose is taken.

In Cheryl’s case, six years after starting Warfarin, her INR levels began to fall below normal. After noticing her levels were dropping, she contacted Dr. Pernikoff in April of 2008. According to her complaint, Cheryl states that Dr. Pernikoff simply increased her Warfarin dosage, without monitoring her INR levels and without seeing Cheryl in his office.

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A new study of an Indiana high school football team shows that athletes are suffering brain injuries that go undiagnosed and allow the players to continue getting battered. Of the 21 high school players monitored for the season, 4 individuals who had never been diagnosed with concussions were found to have suffered brain impairment that was at least as bad as that of other players who had been determined to have concussions and then removed from play.

The reason for the discrepancy is that the undiagnosed injured players do not exhibit any outward signs and continue to play. The cognitive brain injury is actually worse than the one observed with the concussed players, according to the associate professor at the school of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. According to a report published in the latest edition of the Journal of Neurotrauma, some players received more than 1800 hits to the head during practices and games. Some of the hits causing brain injury come with a force 20 times greater than what a person would feel while riding a roller coaster. The Purdue study also shines a light on personal injuries that are more insidious than full-blown concussions, ones that do not always result in outward symptoms but could add up to cause serious long-term cognitive problems.

Studies are now shining light on what is more damaging: the intensity of an individual hit or the cumulative impact of repeated collisions. One researcher warned that there could be brain changes that may not affect the player now, but may affect them 10 or 20 years later.

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The New York Times reported this week that a university has quietly stopped research at a well-known brain imaging center after federal investigators found that it had regularly injected mental patients with drugs that contained potentially dangerous impurities. The brain imaging center is regarded by experts as the nation’s leader in the use of positron emission tomography (“PET”) for psychiatric research. However, the federal investigations revealed that the brain imaging center repeatedly violated Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) drug safety regulations over a four-year period.

PET research is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or picture of functional processes in the body. In the university’s brain imaging center, the FDA found in a series of inspections that the center had failed to correct manufacturing problems in a lab that makes experimental drugs injected into psychiatric patients to help capture images of brain activity. In one product liability warning letter, an FDA office described problems dating back to at least 2004 citing a litany of violations, including a failure to reject batches of medication that did not pass required tests.

More information on the FDA violations is available at the New York Times website.

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CNN.com reported that NFL medical heads recently met to discuss brain injuries, which can seriously affect football players both short-term and long-term. Even without symptoms, neurologists warned at the meeting that blows to the head can be deceptively severe. One doctor at Johns Hopkins University stated that blows to the head “can lead to long-term consequences or later emergence of symptoms.” The doctor added that symptom severity is not a clear indicator of how badly the brain is injured.

The NFL has been accused in the past of minimizing evidence about the dangers of football concussions and blows to the head. One brain injury study showed that an average college football player endures nearly a thousand blows to the head during a season. Physicians opine that duress on the brain – such as over and over during a season – can accumulate over time. Some helmet technology allows for real-time monitoring of the impacts of hits to the head, which the Chicago brain injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti should be utilized. This is a serious problem – last year, CNN.com reported that dead athletes’ brains show serious damage from concussions.

During the meeting, four major topics were discussed, including (1) asymptomatic effects of blows to the head and their consequences, (2) head injuries and their relation to cognitive dementia, decline, and depression, (3) chronic traumatic encephalopathy, repeated head injury, and (4) how long it takes for the brain to recover after a significant hit. We hope that these topics remain on the forefront of NFL officials. In the meantime, players continue to take blows to the head and may be suffering long-term brain injuries.