Tuesday, October 8, 2013

FRONTLINE: The Concussion Issue


I'm going to be watching Frontline tonight with great interest.  The concussion issue is a real concern when it comes to acquired brain damage, particularly as it relates to hydrocephalus.  I realize that everything isn't hydrocephalus related, but it IS one of the conditions that can be acquired by head trauma (TBI).  From the interviews about this particular episode that I've seen so far, there should be an interest in seeing if there is a connection, especially since two of the conditions that are frequently mentioned in conjunction with this issue are Alzheimer's and Parkinson's--which 5-15% of the time are the first diagnosis that someone with NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus) receive, possibly delaying prompt treatment, which is critical to a patient having the best outcome possible.

I do think that it is over-reacting for people to say that this is potentially the end of football.  Denial doesn't address the very real issue of brain damage and permanently altering players' lives so profoundly.  Trying to project that denial onto researchers who have devoted their careers to finding answers to brain issues is incredibly insulting to everyone.  There are always going to be those who, when told of the potential risks, will still jump into the fray.  There are also people who have no experience with brain injury, who honestly, can't appreciate just what that brain damage will cost them.  I've seen people who acquired hydrocephalus as adults, who DO see a big difference between life before their brain injury and life after. I'm not saying that they can't overcome some, or most, of the challenges, or that the fight isn't worth the effort, but it is a life changing experience.

I can't say, from a personal perspective, what it is to go from that before and after experience.  I was born with hydrocephalus and know nothing else.  I didn't have a life before hydrocephalus and after, although I do have the before and after of having my hydrocephalus arrested (not active).  That could change at any time, without notice.  I've had to find a way to not constantly think about it and to live the best life possible.

In talking with a friend yesterday, I posed the question if CTE (what the researchers are calling the football head injury related to concussive events) is, in some way, related to hydrocephalus.  Again, I realize that not everything head injury involves hydrocephalus, but it should still be part of the discussion.  So many unanswered questions!  This is where brain research is vital and interesting.

As I've said before, I'm not against brain research, I'm just not fixated on finding that 'cure' for hydrocephalus.  I'm sure that there is a lot more research and development to do to improve the shunt for the future and that could potentially improve a lot of lives.  Perxonally, I have always been interested in the research into growing one's own shunt, using the patient's own skin cells/dna to grow a shunt that wouldn't be seen by the body as a foreign object.

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