Reducing concussions calls for brain power

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Recently I happened to watch a documentary called “League Of Denial” on KCTS. Essentially it was about the brain injuries suffered by football players.

Truthfully, I have been a skeptic regarding football injuries. But after watching that, I can no longer be silent.

The documentary gave considerable scientific histological proof by examining the brain tissue of athletes who have died and had their brains donated for medical study.

Of course, the National Football League is a multibillion dollar business that well compensates its athletes, who are or should be sufficiently aware of the dangers they face. And no one is forcing them to continue playing.

So, why am I writing this column? For two reasons: to suggest nutritional additions and impact absorption improvements.

As a chiropractor for 41 years who also taught physiology, anatomy and nutrition, I see many things and ask myself questions through that prism.

For example, why do some players succumb to these injuries and others don’t?

We are all different genetically as well as physiologically. For example, two siblings eating the same food can demonstrate different deficiency symptoms. In the same manner, some football players who’ve taken hard hits will exhibit brain damage while others don’t.

We can assume it’s the number of “hits” they get or any of a multitude of other variables. But why?

Let me give a simple explanation. Virtually everyone has banged an arm or leg against a hard corner and developed a big purple bruise. But in some people it is worse than in others. Something is different, and it could be nutritional or it could be genetic.

Would there be fewer or less severe brain injuries if players were on some special diet to strengthen their connective tissue? As yet, we can’t say, but I would recommend collagen-strengthening nutrients such as high vitamin C with rutin and hesperidin as well as a multitude of phytonutrients. Many health science articles have noted that rutin and hesperidin have protective effects on vascular strength. Those would tend to lower risks of bleeding in the brain from external trauma.

Turning to my second point, it was brought out in “League of Denial” that even some high school athletes demonstrate brain injuries, if not from outright concussions then from a multitude of lesser traumas. Most did not necessarily suffer concussions; it was the multiple lesser shocks to the brain that apparently added up.

Last week I began doing some deep thinking on the matter. I have examined X-rays of former high school and college football players. But only when one sees the microscopic damage to the brain tissue of deceased players can one grasp the seriousness of head injuries.

I am a football enthusiast and would hate to see the game affected because of injuries. I’ve given considerable thought tp helmets because they don’t seem to provide enough protection. They are in need of redesigning in a more radical way than currently pursued.

Let me explain:

Our brain is protected by what are called the meninges, the three layers over the brain itself between the brain and the inner skull. Between two of these layers is a space filled with fluid acting as a buffer against blows to the skull. In a concussion, the blow overcomes this protection and the brain is injured.

Look at it this way. If you take two flat stones of reasonable size and weight, one in each hand, and clap them together you will feel the shock of the collision radiate into each hand and even into the arms. This is essentially what happens when two of our current hard-shell football helmets collide. The shock in reality is transferred to both the cranium and into the cervical spine.

Yet even with the internal cushioning in the helmets, too much shock is transferred to the head and neck of the player.

Hence, my suggestion is this:

The inner part of helmets can remain the same, but rather than being so hard, the outer shell of the helmet should be able to absorb some of the shock. Some type of durable external cushioning material could be used to considerably lessen the contact shock of two helmets colliding.

I seriously hope that this column will find its way to someone responsible in the NFL who might consider redesigning helmets to this new standard.

Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes 41 years of practice plus teaching physiology, anatomy and nutrition at the college level. Now living in Walla Walla, he has written three books. For more information, go to drftrapani.com.

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