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Domestic Violence and Abuse

Concussion: Using Cooling Helmets to Combat Brain Injuries in College Football

I’m Kevin Jackson. I am a senior research scientist here at the University of Illinois.One of my jobs, besides being a senior
research scientist, is being a sports injury monitor for, specifically for football and the athletic department. Part of that detail is being able to evaluate, from a different perspective than athletic trainers and team doctors who are on the field, to give them another set of eyes that are higher up, to see things that they may miss and call
down to be able to say, “Hey we need to evaluate a certain player.” Can we check number 47 who is coming to the bench? Whether it’s a foot or toe injury, whether it’s an ankle or shoulder injury. But one of the biggest things we want to make sure of, if a person has a head injury
or concussion, who doesn’t show any clinical signs that they are concussed; but may be doing certain things that I may notice, then we might want to pull to them to the
side and just evaluate them real quick. Certain things that I look for, obviously being a former player, we try to mask that we are hurt. You know, you have that warrior mentality. When you think about head injuries, a lot of players will grab their face mask couple times. And they keep grabbing it, over and over again. And I start evaluating, why does he keep grabbing his face mask? Either something is wrong with his helmet or he is trying to shake off the hit he just did. Everybody knows what a concussions is. If they see it on the field… a person is knocked out… they think that is what a concussion is. But a mild disruption in
brain function is a concussion. You can go back out and function just fine. It still is a mild concussion. Those are some of the things that I had to educate myself on in understanding what a true concussion was. And what the world is trying to understand what a true concussion is itself, because the definition has changed so many different times. There are several things that can happen after you get a concussion. You can get headaches, sensitivity
to light, sensitivity to sound, nausia. It varies between each person. And that’s the hard thing about diagnosing is true concussion It can happen in volleyball. It can happen in tennis. It can happen in other
sports that we normally just don’t talk about… even auto car racing, bull riding,
cheerleading. You name it, concussions can happen. You think about football and taking constant repetitive hits, but you don’t show any clinical signs of a concussion or head injury… those are the groups that have more interesting to me because… you look fine, everything looks normal… but, if we do any type of brain function test of brain analysis, there may be some disruption that we may be able to pick up that we didn’t think about before. I played here from 1990 to 1994 at the University of Illinois as a running back. Twenty-something years ago, we didn’t have all these concussion tests that they have now to test an athlete. So I probably had two or three in my lifetime. When I first started playing, we rarely talked about long-term problems with brains. Now we are starting to see that people are having these constant headaches, memory loss, earlier dementia, earlier Alzheimer’s. People are starting to see that they are some long-term complications with concussions. But where does it start? You can’t say that because played in the NFL they have these things. What happened in high school and college when they played these sports? We have four or five years with these players. We have certain tests we can run on them every year to get a better assessment of certain things that are happening within their brains. When a brain injury happens, there is a certain cascade of events that occurs. The blood brain barrier is one of the things that is disrupted. That causes certain things that leak
into your blood. If you heard a biomarker research, we shouldn’t see them normally in blood. But if we do see those markets being expressed in blood, we obviously know there’s an integrity loss in the blood brain barrier. Brain temperature has been shown to have an effect on concussions and head injuries in animal studies. By cooling, cooling can help alleviate some of that problem by bringing the blood brain barrier back into its intact state so you don’t get that leakage. When you play a sport, your brain temperature is elevated from 98 to about 102 degrees. The quicker we can get the brain back down to normothermia, which is that 98, the quicker the brain can start working on dealing with the injury itself. So we got interested in using a special cooling cap that neurosurgeon John Wang, out at Carle Hospital, and doctor Bill Welkins developed. They had a grant from the military to do this cooling device in military personnel. Well, when I saw it, being a former athlete, it was like, “Why don’t we use these in athletes? Why can’t we use these for concussion?” And that’s where it took off from there. from us being one of the first groups to talk about post-injury being a small intervention, not to get an athlete back on the field faster, but to deal with some of these long-term complications that we have been seeing with repetitive head hits. This is one of the cooling devices that
that we use. This is more of a short-term cooling What we are interested in this, this is more of twenty to thirty minutes worth of cooling. So, after a practice, after an injury, we can
put this on a player immediately and they can wear it for ten or twenty minutes. The main areas that we try to focus on, obviously, is the frontal lobe here… we try to get here, there are ice packets… as well as the neck region. So this goes all around the back of the neck. And we have a long-term one which pumps cold water throughout the entire time, which is more of a four to five
hours worth of cooling at one time, where this is more of a short-term, immediately after an injury. The good thing about this is that each player can have one of their own. So they can just take this and put it on at any time. They can take it home with them and put it in their freezer. It’s more like a fancy ice pack for the athletes. So right now our first study is basically going to look at using these cooling devices to see what effect it has on brain temperature
monitoring in athletes. And, if it does have an effect, what role can we play in using that for the prognosis in putting it on athletes after an injury or before an injury happens itself? So that’s part of the first part of the project. And then we start looking at evaluating better assessment tools that we can develop is the second phase. One of the hardest things when evaluating athletes for concussion is they use one standardized test right now that this subjective to me asking you certain questions where, as an athlete, you may be able to say, “I feel fine,” or you can point a finger or do certain things. One of the tests that we want to try to design, maybe part with virtual reality, some of the biomarkers pre and post, is to take it out of the athelete’s hand and do more biological aspects. So everything is based on having a
baseline, and then, after an injury, taking that assessment into consideration. These are some of the things that we’re trying to collect data on. And it is not just us. I’m part of a bigger group, which is the Big Ten-Ivy League Collaboration of researchers, athletic trainers, and medical doctors who have come together to try come up with better assessment
tools, better diagnosis tools. So we can start being able to diagnose… What type of hits? How long this person was out versus how long this person was out? Do genetics play a role in this? Are certain biomarkers being
expressed after a head injury that we know gives us a symptoms diagnosis? Being able to follow these
athletes may give us a better understanding about how to deal with
concussions. Because that’s one of the biggest issues we have right now is… What do you really do with a concussion when a person has one, besides sit them out and cognitive rest?We’re not just protecting them to say, “We are going to get you back out there in seven days.” We are looking at long-term prognosis and long-term health. We want these athletes be healthy. And that’s the biggest part that
I want to make sure of is saying, “Hey, I know you want to play. I’ve been there. I’ve done that.” “But you have to think of safety first,
being aware that these are long-term complications… and not just short-term things.” And by me being a part of this, I want them to see that I’m not just a person who is a researcher. I’m also person who has been where you have been, trying to help you not just be a better athlete, but be a better person… so you can protect yourself and all facets of life… whether it’s academically, whether it’s
physically, whether it’s mentally… that you have some type of way of protecting yourself.

Cesar Sullivan

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