Sports Concussions: Play now, pay later

Written by ryan. Posted in Uncategorized


Published on September 16, 2010 with No Comments

Neuroscience researcher Mark Underwood discusses the growing problem of traumatic brain injuries in sports and reviews a promising new biotechnology for addressing the memory loss and dementia which often plague athletes in later life

It seems like every week another NFL player misses a game with a concussion.
Just last year Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, the Redskin’s Clinton Portis, Arizona’s Kurt Warner and Eagles’ Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson have all missed playing time due to taking hits to the head on the playing field.

Football is not the only sport where players’ heads get knocked around though. Soccer, basketball, boxing and hockey are also potentially brain-bruising pastimes.
It is not just the professional player who gets sidelined when helmets clash and heads collide, thousands of concussions take place on college, high school and middle school playing fields each year.
The short term effects of a traumatic head injury can be confusion, temporary amnesia, headache, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, slurred speech and fatigue,” neuroscience researcher Mark Underwood said.
But it is the long term consequences of a concussion that Underwood and other researchers find more problematic.
We are seeing a link between concussions on the playing field and the early onset of chronic memory loss and dementia in many athletes,” Underwood said.
Underwood points to a retired player quality-of-life study commissioned by the NFL that found former players between the ages of 30 and 49 experience memory-related diseases at a rate 19 times higher than men who did not play.
“Taking impact to the head thousands of times appears to trigger a process that slowly causes brain cells to die,” Underwood said.
According to Underwood and other researchers, the death of brain cells is not a direct result of physical impact itself but results from the chemical changes that take place in the neurons in the days, weeks, months and years after the impact.
As an apparent protective mechanism, the brain elevates calcium levels within the neurons after a trauma,” Underwood said. “It’s the elevated calcium levels that inactivate and then kill the neurons, bringing about cognitive dysfunction, memory loss and in some cases dementia in the athletes.”
While research is now underway to design more protective helmets for players, Underwood is focused on ways to slow or prevent calcium overload from occurring within the neurons after they are traumatized by impact.
We have developed a protein supplement which binds to excess calcium in the neurons and lowers its concentration,” Underwood said. “Non-athletes in test groups have reported improvement with their memory and other cognitive function after using it, and we anticipate tests of athletes who had concussions on the playing field will show they can derive benefit from its use as well.”
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Mark Underwood is neuroscience researcher and co-founder and president of Quincy Bioscience in Madison, Wisc. Mark is responsible for researching the “calcium binding protein” found in jellyfish and developing it for use as a calcium regulator in the human nervous system.   Mark is the author of “Gift From the Sea – How a Protein From Jellyfish Fights the Aging Process”  and a contributor to the “Brain Health Guide,” which offers practical tips to help keep our brains functioning at optimal capacity in aging.

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