Earlier this month, Jeff Miller of the NFL made a historic comment during a discussion on concussions before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. As the senior vice president of health and safety for the NFL, his comments reflect a major shift in the NFL’s fight with researchers, doctors, and scientists regarding the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.
CTE is a disease that is caused by repeated traumatic brain injuries, or concussions. The disease leads to inability to focus, disorientation, mood swings, severe personality shifts, anxiety, depression, and loss of memory. Unfortunately, it is only diagnosable after death.
Before a committee of legislators, officials from other sports leagues, doctors, and military officials, Miller was asked if there was a link between football and CTE. He "Well, certainly Dr. McKee's research shows that a number of retired NFL players were diagnosed with CTE, so the answer to that question is certainly yes, but there’s also a number of questions that come with that.”
For years, the NFL denied a connection between the injuries associated with football and the degenerative brain disease that plagued players like Junior Seau, Frank Gifford, Dave Duerson, and 87 other professional football players. Many players and their families, like Darryl Talley and his wife Janine, have been sharing their stories of players living with CTE symptoms in order to raise awareness. They also noted that CTE studies skewed in favor of players who were already likely to have CTE based on their symptoms, rather than study NFL players as a whole.
Dr. Matthew Antonucci, Plasticity Brain Centers’ Director of Neurological Performance and Rehabilitation, believes that it’s crucial to establish a baseline for neurological function early. Even when athletes are not exhibiting any symptoms, quantifying brain performance can help clinical neurologists compare function over time—preventing or detecting CTE well before it manifests.
Clinical neuroscience utilizing principles of neuroplasticity continues to emerge as an effective treatment option for football players with chronic brain injury. Because neuroplastic treatment rebuilds or creates new neural pathways in the brain, it restores functions like coordination, eye tracking, focus, memory, and emotional regulation. All of the symptoms of concussive injury can be addressed through neuroplastic principles, which have been scientifically recorded for decades but have only recently been adapted to a clinical setting. As a result, players who are unresponsive to traditional therapies can find new hope in neuroplastic treatment.
In April, our own Dr. Antonucci will present our findings and outcomes to the Allegheny Health Network’s Orthopaedic Update 2016. He’ll be discussing the long-term consequences of concussions, as well as the advantages offered by neuroplasticity. By spreading the word about the outcomes of clinical neuroscience, our doctors will be able to help far more student and professional athletes prevent the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other degenerative brain conditions.