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Thread: Concussion serious for rugby players

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    Legend Contributor Flamethrower's Avatar
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    Concussion serious for rugby players

    Concussion serious for rugby players
    By MICHAEL DONALDSON - Sunday Star Times | Sunday, 28 September 2008
    Concussion serious for rugby players - New Zealand's source for sport, rugby, cricket & league news on Stuff.co.nz

    A word of caution if your name is Leon MacDonald and you're reading this ... it could be disturbing.

    But it's also something we should be talking about.

    The news came out of the US last week that several retired American football players are planning to donate their brains to a new research centre at Boston University's School of Medicine devoted to studying the long-term effects of concussions.

    A dozen athletes, including six NFL players and a former US women's soccer player, have agreed to donate their brains after their deaths to the Center for the Study of Traumatic? Encephalopathy. The research centre has already dissected the brains of six deceased NFL players and announced on Friday that former Houston Oilers linebacker John Grimsley, who died recently, was found to have brain damage commonly associated with boxers.

    The New York Times reported that former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, one of the players who has agreed to donate his brain, hoped the centre would help clarify the issue of concussions' long-term effects, which have been tied to cognitive impairment and depression.

    The NFL argues the long-term effects of concussions are uncertain but evidence gathered so? far appears to spike their case.

    ''I shouldn't have to prove to anybody that there's something wrong with me,'' said Johnson, 35, whose neurologist has said multiple concussions from 2002 through to his 2005 retirement resulted in permanent and degenerative problems with memory and depression.

    Johnson added: ''I'm not being vindictive. I'm not trying to reach up from the grave and get the NFL. But any doctor who doesn't connect concussions with long-term effects should be ashamed of themselves.''

    In New Zealand, a lot of emphasis has been placed on the frightening problem of spinal injuries in rugby. That's fair enough as those injuries are a stark and dramatic reminder of the dangers inherent in our national sport.

    But concussion is potentially a more serious issue. According to ACC it is the most common injury in rugby but because players can recover from a concussion there's a tendency to overlook the long-term but devastating consequences of repeated knocks to the head.

    There is research being done on the frequency of brain injuries in rugby but there are some who suggest they are under-reported. That's possibly because some are so mild as to be not noticed by the player or his team-mates or because a player just wants to get back on the field.

    In recent years, MacDonald has been the highest profile player to most obviously suffer a brain injury? and let's not beat about the bush here, a concussion is a brain injury? but don't forget that captain fantastic Richie McCaw also went through a period where serious questions were being asked about his ability to withstand constant blows to the skull.

    The big problem with concussion is that there's simply not enough information available. There is no definitive number of times a person can be concussed before being forced to retire (I have a friend who had to give up rugby as a teenager because of concussion); it depends on the player involved, the medical treatment and advice they receive.

    Some research indicates the likelihood of serious long-term injury increases when a mild traumatic brain injury is repeated. In athletes with symptoms from a previous concussion, a second blow to the head?? known as ``second impact syndrome''? may cause brain swelling, coma or even death.

    With the All Blacks there's plenty of testing available that will tell a player whether he's ready to go back into battle. But in lower grades it's a different story and there may be literally hundreds of players putting themselves at risk of serious long-term brain damage by taking repeated blows to the head.

    It's worth noting that contrary to some people's belief, head gear does not reduce the effects of concussion. That's because concussion is caused by sudden violent movement of the head, usually in a tackle and is due to the brain hitting the inside of the skull. The most serious damage is caused by rotation due to a blow to the side of the head. Head gear has no effect in those situations. And if you've suffered a concussion the worst thing you can do is don head gear the next week and think you'll be OK.? The high incidence in helmet-wearing NFL players should prove that no amount of head protection makes you safe.

    Dr Ann McKee, an associate professor of neurology and pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine and a co-director of the new brain study centre, told the New York Times that of the six brains of former NFL players already donated, five have been found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The other belonged to a 24-year-old running back who was too young to have developed serious damage.

    ''I've seen thousands of brains of individuals with neurogenerative diseases and debilitating diseases,'' McKee said. ''I can say this is identical to the pugilistica dementia that I've seen in boxers in their 70s and 80s. It's milder because the patients are younger. But once triggered, it seems to progress. The people that develop this disease, most of them show symptoms 10 or 20 years after retirement. It progresses inexorably until death.

    ''Yes, it's only five cases,'' she said. ''But it's also 100 percent of cases for something that is exceedingly rare in the average community dweller, if you want to look at it that way.''

    What we shouldn't do is turn a blind eye to the risks. You can find more information on the ACC website.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Lote should donate his brain........wait a minute.....didn't think that one through!

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    C'mon the

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    Legend Contributor Flamethrower's Avatar
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    That only took 4 minutes.

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    Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

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