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Punch Drunk

After a concussion forces him to retire, a former pro-wrestler starts an institute to study the neurological effects of repeated brain injuries.

By | December 1, 2011

Chris "Harvard" Nowinski (right) wrestling Jeff Hardy in 2002.WWE

In the middle of a July night in 2003, Chris Nowinski woke up on the floor of his hotel room in Terre Haute, Indiana. The lamp on the bedside table was broken, as was the table itself, and he had no idea what had happened. According to his girlfriend, he had stood up on the bed, tried to climb the wall, and then jumped off the bed, taking out the nightstand on the way down. All he could remember was trying to catch something that was falling, but apparently it had all been just a bad dream.

Though he had never sleepwalked before, Nowinski, a professional wrestler, had an idea why the strange episode had occurred. About a month earlier, he had taken a blow to the head during a match. “Bubba gave me a boot to the chin that I was too close to,” Nowinski recalls. “It was just like a real kick to the head.” Since then, he had been dealing with daily headaches, memory problems, nausea, and other symptoms typically associated with severe concussions. Having played football in high school and then at Harvard, Nowinski had been hit in the head before, but the symptoms had always been short-lived. This time, they were worse—and they were lingering. It didn’t take him long to decide it was time to quit wrestling.

Over the next few years, Nowinski started digging into the scientific literature on repeated concussions. He even wrote a book, Head Games, on the topic. “I realized that if everybody knew what I was learning about brain trauma and sports, we would change how we played the games,” he says. Then, in 2007, he teamed up with Robert Cantu, a neurosurgeon at Emerson Hospital in Massachusetts, to launch the Sports Legacy Institute to study the treatment and prevention of brain trauma in athletes. In 2008, the Institute joined forces with Boston University School of Medicine, forming the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, to which more than 350 current and former athletes, including 60 retired NFL players, have pledged to donate their brains for study. Many of the athletes have also agreed to be monitored over the years for mental and physical changes.

Nowinski pointing to scan of a 50-year-old former NFL player’s brain (yellow) next to a control (blue).
Nowinski pointing to scan of a 50-year-old former NFL player’s brain (yellow) next to a control (blue).
ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY IRELAND

Blows to the head are a common occurrence in contact sports, including football, hockey, and boxing, among others. Concussions can result in headaches and transient neurological impairment, but the effects are usually short-lived, and the vast majority of patients recover within a week or two. Some individuals, however, particularly those who have suffered repeated blows, may appear to have recovered but later suffer more serious, progressively worsening effects, including personality changes, memory problems, difficulty processing information, and even full-blown dementia. (See “Vital Signs,” The Scientist, April 2011 and “Personalized Athletics,” The Scientist, August 2011.)

In 1928, Essex County, New Jersey, medical examiner Harrison  Martland first described the symptoms associated with repeated head trauma, dubbing the condition “punch drunk.” Until recently, it was almost exclusively studied among professional boxers, and in 1937 was given a new name: dementia pugilistica. The disease now goes by the name of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and the symptoms and neurological characteristics that define it are finally coming into focus.

After reviewing documented autopsies of CTE patients, Nowinski and his colleagues found that several of their brain regions had degenerated, including the frontal lobes, medial temporal lobes, hippocampus, amygdala, and brainstem. The researchers also noted the accumulation of abnormal protein deposits known as tau-immunoreactive neurofibrillary tangles—similar to those found in Alzheimer’s patients, but with a distinct distribution in the brain—and other microscopic abnormalities.

Daniel Amen, founder of Amen Clinics, Inc., which specializes in brain health, uses two different tests to measure blood flow and electrical activity in the brains of living head-trauma patients. In more than 100 active and retired NFL players, Amen’s team found consistent decreases in brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, both temporal lobe poles, and the cerebellum.

This August, neurosurgeons Joe Maroon and Russell Blaylock published the first comprehensive theory regarding CTE’s pathogenesis (Surgical Neurology International, 2:107, 2011). The pair proposed that CTE results from the body’s innate immune response working in overdrive. “If you get a splinter under your fingernail, within seconds it becomes red, hot, swollen, and painful,” says Maroon, a clinician and lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team neurosurgeon. “We believe there’s a similar inflammatory response in the brain with a traumatic insult.” Specifically, neuronal support cells called microglia release cytokines, chemokines, and other agents that cause neural inflammation. Normally, this response is neuroprotective, Maroon says, but “if you get repetitive blows to the head before the brain has healed, this normal repair process gets stuck in the accelerated mode and continues to pour out inflammatory agents, which leads to neurodegeneration and CTE.”

But the mechanism of CTE is not the only unanswered question, Nowinski says: “We don’t have diagnostic criteria in living people, so we don’t have a test and we don’t have treatment.”  As a result, the disease is grossly underdiagnosed, often confused with Alzheimer’s disease or ALS. But “there’s a certain pattern of atrophy with CTE,” he says. “In theory, we should be able to diagnosis it off imaging.”

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Avatar of: Tom Hennessy

Tom Hennessy

Posts: 1457

December 2, 2011

One might think the bleed into the brain from a traumatic brain injury leads to an increased deposition of iron / superficial siderosis of the brain. Pretty simple really. Target the iron as they are doing in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Iron induces inflammation.
"Iron-mediated lipid peroxidation and lipid raft disruption in low-dose
silica-induced macrophage cytokine production."
"We propose a pathway of iron-induced lipid peroxidation disrupting lipid rafts and signaling for the production of cytokines through PC- PLC in silica-exposed macrophages"

Avatar of: Russell Blaylock

Russell Blaylock

Posts: 2

December 2, 2011

While iron-triggered inflammation is important, as we discussed in our article, the reason not all are getting CTE from the repetitive injuries is the differences in priming and prolonged microglial activation. This is more than an inflammatory disorder--it is a combination of inflammation and excitotoxicity, hence the name immunoexcitotoxicity. The evidence suggest that the greatest damage is from the excitotoxicity component. Microglia release three excitotoxins--glutamate, aspartate and QUIN as well as excitatory ATP, in addition to an array of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Iron also activates microglia and triggers immunoexcitotoxicity. The inflammatory cytokines trigger AMPA and NMDA receptor trafficking to the synaptic membrane and this greatly increase excitatory sensitivity.
Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.

Avatar of: tinamsullivan

tinamsullivan

Posts: 1

December 2, 2011

Hi Dr. Blaylock:
I am familiar with your work - I have watched you on "Your Health" several times and also own some of your books. 
My 14 yr. old son sustained a severe concussion in May, 2010- which 6 weeks later became severe Post Concussion Syndrome with all of the 12-15 symptoms. (He doesn't play sports - he fell full force backwards onto the occipital part of his head.)  Since, he has sustained 3 severe setbacks and now has "second impact syndrome".  One hit resulted in severe occipital neuralgia.  His SWI MRI showed luminosities in the white matter of his 2 frontal lobes - very unusual for his age and are caused by trauma. (We ruled out Lyme by a specialist).  He has extreme visual processing problems - he has not been able to look at a TV, computer or even his phone since Feb, 2011.  He also has electromagnetic sensitivity issues - he can actually "feel" the output from a TV, microwave and cell phone. (He wears a electromagnetic sensitivity pendant).  He wears special scopic sensitivity glasses to calm the visual processing center, however, they only help a little.  His ability to "filter" sensory stimuli is very minimal at this time. He is unable to attend school and is tutored at home, but is only able to complete small amounts of work before the extreme fatigue sets in. (He takes COQ10 to assist with the fatigue.) We are working with a wonderful neuropsychologist that does LENS Neurofeedback on him when he is able to travel. It is fascinating - you can see on a "mindmap" similar to a PET scan exactly what areas of the brain are effected and target those specific areas to heal slowly.
Besides time and prayer, can you suggest any other areas that we should be looking into to help him with his recovery? I know that you are extremely busy and I thank you in advance for your response.
Tina Sullivan
Integrative Health & Nutrition Coach
Author, "Nourish Your Noggin - Brain-Building Foods & Easy to Make Recipes to Hasten Your Healing From Mild Traumatic Brain Injury"
tina.sullivan@ymail.com

Avatar of: Tom Hennessy

Tom Hennessy

Posts: 1457

December 2, 2011

I've wondered what the result would be if one 'snorted' some IP6 / phytic acid. IP6 is a natural substance which chelates iron. They have shown snorting a drug does pass the blood brain barrier. It would be a matter of what happens TO the drug / natural substance once it passes the blood brain barrier ? Picolinic acid is an iron chelator and it HAS been shown to pass the blood brain barrier.
"Drug targeting to the brain: transfer of picolinic acid along the olfactory pathways"

Avatar of: deestern

deestern

Posts: 1

December 2, 2011

control the heat; control reperfusion & cascade; etc., etc.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

One might think the bleed into the brain from a traumatic brain injury leads to an increased deposition of iron / superficial siderosis of the brain. Pretty simple really. Target the iron as they are doing in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Iron induces inflammation.
"Iron-mediated lipid peroxidation and lipid raft disruption in low-dose
silica-induced macrophage cytokine production."
"We propose a pathway of iron-induced lipid peroxidation disrupting lipid rafts and signaling for the production of cytokines through PC- PLC in silica-exposed macrophages"

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

While iron-triggered inflammation is important, as we discussed in our article, the reason not all are getting CTE from the repetitive injuries is the differences in priming and prolonged microglial activation. This is more than an inflammatory disorder--it is a combination of inflammation and excitotoxicity, hence the name immunoexcitotoxicity. The evidence suggest that the greatest damage is from the excitotoxicity component. Microglia release three excitotoxins--glutamate, aspartate and QUIN as well as excitatory ATP, in addition to an array of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Iron also activates microglia and triggers immunoexcitotoxicity. The inflammatory cytokines trigger AMPA and NMDA receptor trafficking to the synaptic membrane and this greatly increase excitatory sensitivity.
Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

Hi Dr. Blaylock:
I am familiar with your work - I have watched you on "Your Health" several times and also own some of your books. 
My 14 yr. old son sustained a severe concussion in May, 2010- which 6 weeks later became severe Post Concussion Syndrome with all of the 12-15 symptoms. (He doesn't play sports - he fell full force backwards onto the occipital part of his head.)  Since, he has sustained 3 severe setbacks and now has "second impact syndrome".  One hit resulted in severe occipital neuralgia.  His SWI MRI showed luminosities in the white matter of his 2 frontal lobes - very unusual for his age and are caused by trauma. (We ruled out Lyme by a specialist).  He has extreme visual processing problems - he has not been able to look at a TV, computer or even his phone since Feb, 2011.  He also has electromagnetic sensitivity issues - he can actually "feel" the output from a TV, microwave and cell phone. (He wears a electromagnetic sensitivity pendant).  He wears special scopic sensitivity glasses to calm the visual processing center, however, they only help a little.  His ability to "filter" sensory stimuli is very minimal at this time. He is unable to attend school and is tutored at home, but is only able to complete small amounts of work before the extreme fatigue sets in. (He takes COQ10 to assist with the fatigue.) We are working with a wonderful neuropsychologist that does LENS Neurofeedback on him when he is able to travel. It is fascinating - you can see on a "mindmap" similar to a PET scan exactly what areas of the brain are effected and target those specific areas to heal slowly.
Besides time and prayer, can you suggest any other areas that we should be looking into to help him with his recovery? I know that you are extremely busy and I thank you in advance for your response.
Tina Sullivan
Integrative Health & Nutrition Coach
Author, "Nourish Your Noggin - Brain-Building Foods & Easy to Make Recipes to Hasten Your Healing From Mild Traumatic Brain Injury"
tina.sullivan@ymail.com

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

I've wondered what the result would be if one 'snorted' some IP6 / phytic acid. IP6 is a natural substance which chelates iron. They have shown snorting a drug does pass the blood brain barrier. It would be a matter of what happens TO the drug / natural substance once it passes the blood brain barrier ? Picolinic acid is an iron chelator and it HAS been shown to pass the blood brain barrier.
"Drug targeting to the brain: transfer of picolinic acid along the olfactory pathways"

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

control the heat; control reperfusion & cascade; etc., etc.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

One might think the bleed into the brain from a traumatic brain injury leads to an increased deposition of iron / superficial siderosis of the brain. Pretty simple really. Target the iron as they are doing in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Iron induces inflammation.
"Iron-mediated lipid peroxidation and lipid raft disruption in low-dose
silica-induced macrophage cytokine production."
"We propose a pathway of iron-induced lipid peroxidation disrupting lipid rafts and signaling for the production of cytokines through PC- PLC in silica-exposed macrophages"

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

While iron-triggered inflammation is important, as we discussed in our article, the reason not all are getting CTE from the repetitive injuries is the differences in priming and prolonged microglial activation. This is more than an inflammatory disorder--it is a combination of inflammation and excitotoxicity, hence the name immunoexcitotoxicity. The evidence suggest that the greatest damage is from the excitotoxicity component. Microglia release three excitotoxins--glutamate, aspartate and QUIN as well as excitatory ATP, in addition to an array of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Iron also activates microglia and triggers immunoexcitotoxicity. The inflammatory cytokines trigger AMPA and NMDA receptor trafficking to the synaptic membrane and this greatly increase excitatory sensitivity.
Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

Hi Dr. Blaylock:
I am familiar with your work - I have watched you on "Your Health" several times and also own some of your books. 
My 14 yr. old son sustained a severe concussion in May, 2010- which 6 weeks later became severe Post Concussion Syndrome with all of the 12-15 symptoms. (He doesn't play sports - he fell full force backwards onto the occipital part of his head.)  Since, he has sustained 3 severe setbacks and now has "second impact syndrome".  One hit resulted in severe occipital neuralgia.  His SWI MRI showed luminosities in the white matter of his 2 frontal lobes - very unusual for his age and are caused by trauma. (We ruled out Lyme by a specialist).  He has extreme visual processing problems - he has not been able to look at a TV, computer or even his phone since Feb, 2011.  He also has electromagnetic sensitivity issues - he can actually "feel" the output from a TV, microwave and cell phone. (He wears a electromagnetic sensitivity pendant).  He wears special scopic sensitivity glasses to calm the visual processing center, however, they only help a little.  His ability to "filter" sensory stimuli is very minimal at this time. He is unable to attend school and is tutored at home, but is only able to complete small amounts of work before the extreme fatigue sets in. (He takes COQ10 to assist with the fatigue.) We are working with a wonderful neuropsychologist that does LENS Neurofeedback on him when he is able to travel. It is fascinating - you can see on a "mindmap" similar to a PET scan exactly what areas of the brain are effected and target those specific areas to heal slowly.
Besides time and prayer, can you suggest any other areas that we should be looking into to help him with his recovery? I know that you are extremely busy and I thank you in advance for your response.
Tina Sullivan
Integrative Health & Nutrition Coach
Author, "Nourish Your Noggin - Brain-Building Foods & Easy to Make Recipes to Hasten Your Healing From Mild Traumatic Brain Injury"
tina.sullivan@ymail.com

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

I've wondered what the result would be if one 'snorted' some IP6 / phytic acid. IP6 is a natural substance which chelates iron. They have shown snorting a drug does pass the blood brain barrier. It would be a matter of what happens TO the drug / natural substance once it passes the blood brain barrier ? Picolinic acid is an iron chelator and it HAS been shown to pass the blood brain barrier.
"Drug targeting to the brain: transfer of picolinic acid along the olfactory pathways"

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 2, 2011

control the heat; control reperfusion & cascade; etc., etc.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 3, 2011

Version:1.0
StartHTML:0000000250
EndHTML:0000003851
StartFragment:0000002687
EndFragment:0000003815
SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/russellblaylock/Desktop/An%20occipital%20blow%20is%20the%20most%20damaging%20as%20it%20causes%20a%20contra.doc

An
occipital blow is the most damaging as it causes a contra-coup injury to the
prefrontal and anterior temporal lobes of the brain. While I cannot give you
specific advice I can share some general information. Some of the most
impressive neuroprotective natural substances include Co10 (in high doses
--600mg 3x a day), resveratrol, quercetin, curcumin (both dissolved in extra
virgin olive oil), blueberry concentrate, mixed tocopherols, mixed
tocotrienols, buffered vitamin C, pyruvate, high dose B vitamins, (especially
methycobalamin), DHA oils and magnesium citrate or citrate/malate. The N-6 oils
worsen brain inflammation and should be avoided. High sugar diets especially
HFCS, worsen neurological injuries. I hope this information has been helpful. I
will have an article released soon in the open access journal Surgical
Neurology International, which will cover many of these natural substances.
Interestingly, most of these nutraceuticals chelate iron.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

December 3, 2011

Version:1.0
StartHTML:0000000250
EndHTML:0000003851
StartFragment:0000002687
EndFragment:0000003815
SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/russellblaylock/Desktop/An%20occipital%20blow%20is%20the%20most%20damaging%20as%20it%20causes%20a%20contra.doc

An
occipital blow is the most damaging as it causes a contra-coup injury to the
prefrontal and anterior temporal lobes of the brain. While I cannot give you
specific advice I can share some general information. Some of the most
impressive neuroprotective natural substances include Co10 (in high doses
--600mg 3x a day), resveratrol, quercetin, curcumin (both dissolved in extra
virgin olive oil), blueberry concentrate, mixed tocopherols, mixed
tocotrienols, buffered vitamin C, pyruvate, high dose B vitamins, (especially
methycobalamin), DHA oils and magnesium citrate or citrate/malate. The N-6 oils
worsen brain inflammation and should be avoided. High sugar diets especially
HFCS, worsen neurological injuries. I hope this information has been helpful. I
will have an article released soon in the open access journal Surgical
Neurology International, which will cover many of these natural substances.
Interestingly, most of these nutraceuticals chelate iron.

Avatar of: Russell Blaylock

Russell Blaylock

Posts: 2

December 3, 2011

Version:1.0
StartHTML:0000000250
EndHTML:0000003851
StartFragment:0000002687
EndFragment:0000003815
SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/russellblaylock/Desktop/An%20occipital%20blow%20is%20the%20most%20damaging%20as%20it%20causes%20a%20contra.doc

An
occipital blow is the most damaging as it causes a contra-coup injury to the
prefrontal and anterior temporal lobes of the brain. While I cannot give you
specific advice I can share some general information. Some of the most
impressive neuroprotective natural substances include Co10 (in high doses
--600mg 3x a day), resveratrol, quercetin, curcumin (both dissolved in extra
virgin olive oil), blueberry concentrate, mixed tocopherols, mixed
tocotrienols, buffered vitamin C, pyruvate, high dose B vitamins, (especially
methycobalamin), DHA oils and magnesium citrate or citrate/malate. The N-6 oils
worsen brain inflammation and should be avoided. High sugar diets especially
HFCS, worsen neurological injuries. I hope this information has been helpful. I
will have an article released soon in the open access journal Surgical
Neurology International, which will cover many of these natural substances.
Interestingly, most of these nutraceuticals chelate iron.

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