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Brain Injuries to Soldiers and Student Athletes

April was Brain Injury Awareness Month. In a mid-month hearing before the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged that understanding and treatment for brain injuries suffered by service members is deficient.

“We should — we have to — continue to invest in world-class treatment for mental health issues, traumatic brain injury and for combat stress,” he said.

This newfound attention to brain injury in the military coincides with a growing awareness of the dangers posed to student athletes. This is especially true among football players susceptible to permanent brain damage. A Colorado jury recently awarded $11.5 million to a man whose family sued helmet maker Riddell and his coaches over brain injuries from a high school football practice in 2008.

An hour-long documentary has been released to help educate parents and their children, as well as school athletic personnel, about how to make high school sports less dangerous. The Smartest Team was produced by MomsTEAM Film and articulates six pillars of concussion risk management for high school football teams.

One of the resources available on the film’s website is information about smartphone apps — some meant only for professionals — that can assist parents and coaches when confronted with a possible concussion on the field. Of course, the danger of concussion is not limited to football.

Common symptoms of brain injury include:

  • Memory loss
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Limited muscle control
  • Changes in personality
  • Nausea

Locally, the Center for Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University has been in the forefront of researching head injuries in the NFL. the so-called silent epidemic is not longer silent.

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