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Concussions

Rebecca Agabian, Staff Writer

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    Recently, a new movie starring Will Smith came out in theaters, titled Concussion. While any upcoming movie has its anticipation, this ones seemed to reach beyond the big screen. With the possible link between the high-contact sport of football and head injuries, the movie was sure to have its critics.

While there is no one disease that is officially a direct result of concussions, there are a multitude of conditions that feature repeated “head trauma” as one of their causes, most of which are widely known because of their link to former professional athletes. People such as professional boxers Floyd Patterson, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Muhammad Ali are all suspected victims of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which lists repeated head traumas one of its causes and includes symptoms such as memory impairment, speech and gait problems, Parkinsonism, tremors and lack of coordination, eventually leading to full blown dementia. One of the disease’s most recent victims was former NFL running back and flanker Frank Gifford, who passed away this past August due to natural causes, but was believed to have also been suffering from CTE after a team of pathologists diagnosed his condition.

“It’s common for kids to sustain head injuries due to sports accidents, everyday play, falls, and other mishaps. It’s important for parents to understand that concussions are more than ‘just’ a knock on the head-they can negatively affect children for the rest of their lives.” Says Dr. Breiner, who practices family medicine at The NeuroEdge Brain Performance Center- a division of Breiner Whole-Body Health Center in Fairfield, Connecticut.

The main character in the movie, Dr. Bennet Omalu, first made the discovery in 2002 when he examined the brains of four former NFL players who had a history of repeated concussions. His finding were identical to those found in dementia pugilistica (DP), causing him to rename the disease what it is known as today. The disease is commonly characterized by the buildup of tau, a toxic protein, in the form of neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs). The abnormal tangled clumps of protein are often found in the nerve cells in the brain. Although the use of helmets can help to prevent concussions, CTE itself can only be diagnosed using special tests that are not routinely performed.

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Concussions