TBI- traumatic brain injury- NFL, US Armed Forces, Vehicular Accidents…

Even though the brain, with the consistency of custard, is sealed inside the skull (and surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid), it constantly adjusts to stress (both physical and mental).    As I said earlier, the NFL is beginning to recognize that its players undergo numerous brain injuries. (Oh, so many plays on words come to mind.).  As a result, they are now subjecting recruits to a series of brain tests.  No, they are not expecting them to be budding creators.  They are seeking baseline brain function- so, when and if- they reach the big leagues and get hurt, there will be a comparison to determine if the brain is injured.

How is this manifested?  Our brains are comprised of neurons.  As you can see from the picture, there are long axons connected to a small central body.  That axon sends and receives chemical (electrical) impulses- and that’s how communication among neurons occurs.  The axon is comprised of a series of microtubules, which slide past one another as the nerve cell stretches and shrinks.  These microtubules provide a support structure, as well as afford a means for protein transport along the neuron.  Enzymes continually rebuild the neurons- they take apart the ends and rebuild them over and over.  This function becomes critical during certain brain injuries. (You can see a diagram of the neuron here.)

Brain trauma occurs due to direct impact with the brain and subsequent deformation of the matter.  Diffuse Axonal Injury is a common time of brain injury that results from shearing forces in the brain, as a result of rapid acceleration or deceleration (or both)- such as occurs during vehicle accidents (whiplash), shaken baby syndrome, or being tackled on the field.

When the brain is subject to injury (from a vehicle accident, rapid tackling on the field, or an IED that throws the body), it rapidly expands and contracts.  After all, the custard is free to move about in the CSF layer.  However, after the injury, kinks develop in the axons.  [This is very similar to what happens when you fold and unfold (quickly) a water hose or a very long extension cord.]  And, generally, within 30 to 40 minutes, the kinks return to normal.  Unless they don’t.  Then, after about an hour, the area of the kink swells to about 50 times its normal size- which then disappears- the entire neuron falls apart at the site of the kink.  The thinking is the enzymes detect the kink as an end that needs to be broken down and rebuilt.

We have no drugs for this injury.  The only thing we can do is prescribe rest; as the brain undergoes repair, there are some (mental) exercises which can re-educate the brain.  [Army Wives, LifetimeTV, has been providing good coverage of TBI- see episodes 11 and 13.]

Now, President Obama has promised our troops that treatment for PTSD and TBI will improve.  So, why aren’t our Armed Forces doing the same tests as the NFL for all new recruits?

About RAAckerman@Cerebrations.biz

A polymath whose interests span chemical engineering, medicine, biotechnology, business, management, among other areas. Among my inventions/developments: dialyzer, dialysate, neurosurgical drill, respiratory inspirometer, colon electrolyte lavages, urinary catheters, cardiac catheters, water reuse systems, drinking water system, ammonia degrading microbes, toxic chemical reduction via microbes, onsite waste water treatment, electronic health care information systems, bookkeeping and accounting programs, among others.
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