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Researchers seek ways to prevent traumatic brain injuries

Brain injuries can be very difficult to treat because the brain is one of our slowest healing organs. Many patients who have suffered from brain injuries in the past spend many years pursuing rehabilitation to regain functionality that they have lost, and the process if often long and arduous. This is why researchers are looking at some prevalent and severe types of brain injuries - concussions - and examining ways to prevent them from happening.

The research has developed out of the quest for answers about traumatic brain injuries suffered by combat veterans and professional athletes who play contact sports. Autopsy results showed very similar brain damage for those two groups, even though the cause of their initial trauma seemed quite different.

For combat veterans, the initial trauma is usually caused by an IED, which emits high powered wind during the blast that causes brain damage. The professional athletes sustained brain injuries as a result of repeated hard hits during their careers. These two groups share many of the same symptoms of brain injuries, including some very pronounced cases of depression and impulse control problems. The condition has been diagnosed as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and displays similar unhealthy protein buildup compared with Alzheimer's patients.

The quest for a solution to some of these potentially avoidable injuries has led researchers to examine the affect of stabilization on a brain during a blast or hard hit. In early trials, mice who had their heads stabilized during a blast did not suffer from the same injuries as mice whose heads were not stable. These results, although very basic, show a lot of promise for improved helmet technology to help prevent brain injuries.

Source: CBS News, "Soldiers brain damage similar to football players', study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy shows," Ryan Jaslow, May 16, 2012.

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