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Thread: WR Chris Henry had CTE, a form of degenerative brain damage at time of his death

  1. #1
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    WR Chris Henry had CTE, a form of degenerative brain damage at time of his death

    I had not heard of this condition but it seems to be more common than you'd think. If you remember, the Bengals' Chris Henry died after falling or jumping from a slow-moving truck while arguing with his gf/fiancee. He fractured his skull and died shortly thereafter. His family gave permission during the autopsy for the Brain Injury Research Institute to examine his brain and they discovered CTE.

    I'm not going to make excuses for Henry's often troublesome behavior in the past but there is clearly some type of link between this repetitive brain damage condition and bizarre behavior. It certainly could have been a factor.

    In any case, his death is a tragedy all around. Maybe some good comes from this news in terms of more attention to these head injuries in the NFL and other sports.

    [url]http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5333971[/url]

    [QUOTE][B]Researchers find brain trauma in Henry[/B]
    By Peter Keating
    ESPN The Magazine

    Chris Henry, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who died in a traffic accident last year, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- a form of degenerative brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head -- at the time of his death, according to scientists at the Brain Injury Research Institute, a research center affiliated with West Virginia University.

    "We would have been very happy if the results had been negative, but multiple areas of Chris Henry's brain showed CTE," said Julian Bailes, Director of BIRI and chairman of neurosurgery at West Virginia. Bailes and his colleagues plan to present results of their forensic examination at a news conference Monday afternoon.

    Researchers have now discovered CTE in the brains of more than 50 deceased former athletes, including more than a dozen NFL and college players, pro wrestler Chris Benoit and NHL player Reggie Fleming.

    Repeated blows to the head are the only known cause of CTE, researchers say. Concussive hits can trigger a buildup of toxic tau protein within the brain, which in turn can create damaging tangles and threads in the neural fibers that connect brain tissue. Victims can lose control of their impulses, suffer depression and memory loss, and ultimately develop dementia.

    While the links between CTE and behavior are still being studied, many of the former athletes diagnosed with this form of brain damage died under unusual circumstances. Ex-Steeler Justin Strzelczyk, for example, was killed in 2004 after experiencing hallucinations, leading police on a high-speed chase for 40 miles before driving his car into a tanker truck. In 2007, Benoit strangled his wife and 7-year-old son, then put Bibles next to their bodies and hanged himself. Tom McHale, a guard for three NFL teams remembered by teammates as smart and dependable, sank into depression and died of a multiple-drug overdose in 2008.

    Henry, 26, died on Dec. 17, 2009, a day after he either jumped or fell from the back of a moving pickup truck being driven by his fiancee, Loleini Tonga. The two had been involved in a dispute before Tonga got into the truck and Henry jumped in. One witness told reporters that Henry said, "If you take off, I'm going to jump off the truck and kill myself."

    It is still not clear whether Henry jumped or fell, but as Tonga was driving at about 19 miles per hour, Henry crashed to the ground, suffering a fractured skull and massive head injuries. Police ruled the incident an accident. No traces of alcohol were found in a toxicology report, which didn't include any other tests for drugs.No charges were filed against Tonga.

    After Henry's death, his mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy, gave BIRI permission to examine his brain in detail.

    CTE can be pinpointed only by autopsy, and even under regular post-mortem analysis, its effects are invisible. But using cell-staining techniques discovered and developed by Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist who is co-director of BIRI, scientists can see the dangerous tau proteins and telltale tangles that characterize CTE. After staining, normal brain cells are blue and uncluttered under a microscope, while Henry's brain cells were discolored, clumpy and filled with threads, according to the researchers.

    Now, Bailes -- and likely Henry's family, friends and fans -- will wonder if his neural damage contributed to his emotional volatility, including whatever problems he was suffering the day he died.

    "I think it did," Bailes said. "Superimposed on the acute brain injuries Chris suffered when he died, there was fairly extensive damage throughout his brain that was fully consistent with CTE. This syndrome is expressed not only as changes in the brain, but clinically, as behavioral changes. And starting with Mike Webster, we have seen common threads in these cases: emotional disturbances, depression, failed personal relationships and businesses, suicidal thoughts, sometimes alcohol or drug use."

    "I'm just trying to learn what happened, and what the situation was with Chris' brain," Glaspy said. "Whatever I can do to help anyone else who is going through this, I'm willing to do."

    For years, the NFL and its affiliated researchers disputed a scientific evidence linking concussions to long-term brain damage. However, referring to reports of CTE among former players, NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee co-chair Richard Ellenbogen told The New York Times earlier this month, "They aren't assertions or hype -- they are facts."

    In April, the league announced a $1-million gift to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University.

    Henry, a native of Belle Chasse, La., played collegiately at West Virginia and was a third-round pick by the Bengals in 2005. He played for five tumultuous seasons in the NFL; he was arrested five times during his pro career, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the first half of the 2007 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

    But after Cincinnati brought him back in 2008, Henry vowed to put his substance abuse and anger management issues behind him. And he had been succeeding, according to teammates as well as Bengals officials.

    Peter Keating is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His blog appears on ESPN.com.[/QUOTE]
    Last edited by jetstream23; 06-28-2010 at 01:59 AM.

  2. #2
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    What a sad story.

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    That's sad.

    Not trying to diminish what he's done, but I read the same type of article linked to Roethlisbergers behavior. FWIW

    [QUOTE][B]Head injuries may offer insight into Roethlisberger's recent behavior [/B]

    Dr. Jordan Grafman has never examined nor met Ben Roethlisberger, and yet listening to him talk about the people he studies, it's as if he's describing the troubled Steelers quarterback.

    Grafman is a neuropsychologist at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and for decades he has studied the effects of brain trauma on Vietnam veterans as well as civilians. "My specialty is frontal lobes," he says, referring to the part of the brain involved in regulating a person's judgment, inhibition and social behavior. "A person with damage might not read the intentions of a woman at a bar very well, for example," Grafman says. "They might succumb to more primitive urges instead of saying, 'I shouldn't do this because it affects my career.'"

    It is exactly Roethlisberger's apparent lack of inhibition, foresight about career repercussions and poor social judgment -- and perhaps his inability to judge the intentions of women -- that currently have him suspended from the NFL following two separate accusations of sexual assault, one in Georgia and one in Nevada. Roethlisberger spent the weekend undergoing an evaluation, mandated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, to see whether past brain trauma -- a 2006 motorcycle accident and a batch of concussions suffered on the football field -- has anything to do with his behavior.

    I spent last week in Pittsburgh reporting this week's SI cover story on Roethlisberger, and found that his social indiscretions appear to be wide-ranging and chronic. Interestingly, the anecdotes I heard about Roethlisberger's conduct in Pittsburgh sound a lot like Grafman's description of an individual with frontal lobe damage.

    According to Grafman, two particular behaviors are endemic to people with moderate or severe frontal lobe injury, or to people with more mild but repetitive injury: 1) violating social rules by saying inappropriate things, and 2) saying appropriate or typical things in an inappropriate context.

    "If you're married and you're flirting with another woman in an elevator with your wife next to you," Grafman says, "that's the kind of clearly inappropriate behavior." Roethlisberger is not married, but one man told me that Roethlisberger had asked out his wife while the man was present.

    "Say somebody comes into the room dressed like an idiot," Grafman says. "You might say something about it, but you'd whisper to your friend, not to the person. If you say it to the person themselves, that's a violation of social rules."

    Another person told me that Roethlisberger said aloud to a friend, "I didn't know you like fat chicks," referring to a woman standing near the friend. According to the account relayed to me, Roethlisberger proclaimed this loudly enough that it was clear that he had no regard for whether the woman heard or not.

    Granted, as Grafman notes, "we all say inappropriate things sometimes," but "it's the frequency with which it happens, and the unawareness. When you have a frontal lobe injury in particular, you often become unaware of your inappropriate behaviors. The observations usually come from wives or children." A typical situation in my reporting last week was something like this: I would hear that Roethlisberger had, for example, said inappropriate things to waitresses at a restaurant or walked out on a bill, so I would call the establishment. "I don't know if he walked out on a tab here," would be a typical response from whoever picked up the phone, "but he was really rude to my friend after he invited her over to his table." Tales of indecorous acts abounded.

    It seems that Roethlisberger has attained a sort of legendary boor status in Pittsburgh. But my experience has been that hometown fans are generally reticent to speak ill of their star's off-field behavior unless it gets really bad or really prevalent. The sheer magnitude of incidents in this case is overwhelming, again bringing to mind Grafman's statement that "it's the frequency with which it happens" that might indicate a frontal lobe injury.

    The frontal lobe is not finished forming until the middle or even late 20s. Grafman notes that teenage boys generally stumble through relationships with girls, trying to figure out what to say and how to interpret when a girl's physical gestures are inviting contact. "Socially finessing those circumstances takes time and experience and further maturation of the frontal lobe brain tissue," he says. "If you're in the middle or even late period of that development, maybe 14 to 28 [years old]," Grafman says, "and you have a brain injury, it's going to make it that much more difficult to resolve social behaviors so that you're acting appropriately as an adult."

    In addition to inappropriate social conduct, Grafman says people with frontal lobe damage may not be able to resist certain behavior even though it is clearly not in their long-term interest. In short, people with frontal lobe damage are more likely to flunk the famous "marshmallow test," in which kids are given a second marshmallow if they have the discipline and foresight to hold out from eating the first for a specific period of time.

    As this week's SI story reports, Roethlisberger seems to have failed some of his personal versions of the marshmallow test, not only by engaging in impulsive behavior, but by returning to helmetless motorcycle riding within months of the accident that nearly killed him.

    Granted, Roethlisberger's conduct might also sound a lot like a description of a man in his 20s with a $102 million contract who is a deity in the town where he lives and plays. Michelle Rouda, 24, used to work in the VIP section at the Pittsburgh bar Margarita Mamas and remembers years ago the first time she saw Roethlisberger: "He ordered a bottle of Patron," she recalls, "and I looked up at him and he was chugging it standing on a table and there were all these girls reaching up to him and he was dumping tequila on people." It doesn't take a cubist's imagination to see how something short of brain damage might alter the rules of social engagement just a tad for someone in Roethlisberger's position.

    The question now is whether the doctors evaluating Roethlisberger can possibly tease apart the quarterback's original personality (as altered by stardom) from any potential effects of frontal lobe damage. "Is this from a motorcycle accident, or is this his true personality? I don't think anybody's going to know for sure," says Stuart Silverman, a Pittsburgh neurologist who has worked with professional athletes, but not with Roethlisberger. "You'd have to find out what his grade school teachers thought of him," he added half-jokingly.

    According to reporting done by SI writer-reporter Andrew Lawrence in Findlay, Ohio, where Roethlisberger attended high school, the quarterback was generally liked and respected and not associated with tales of misbehavior. So is the change due to money and stardom, or brain damage? "I'm not sure who's going to figure that out," Silverman says. "These are multifactorial things. There are multiple possible components, and in someone like [Roethlisberger], I'm sure it's multifactorial."

    NFL teams use the ImPACT test, which gauges things like memory and focus, to see whether a player is still suffering from a concussion -- Roethlisberger has had at least four of them. A healthy player takes a baseline test, and then repeats the test after a concussion until he once again reaches his baseline score. But that kind of cognitive testing isn't going to indicate frontal lobe damage. "That really comes from the observations of others," says Grafman.

    If doctors conclude that Roethlisberger's behavior is the result of brain injury, the treatment, Grafman says, is to manage his environment and keep him out of precarious social situations, a difficult task at which his bodyguards/woman-wranglers fared exceedingly poorly. In time, a person with frontal lobe injury can be trained to control his or her social behavior.

    If doctors do decide that Roethlisberger's misconduct was spurred by brain trauma, the deeper question for the NFL will be determining whether to fault the motorcycle accident or the battering that he has taken on the field -- 242 sacks and at least four concussions. If doctors suggest that Roethilisberger's social development is stunted, and that hits he has taken on the field are, at least in part, responsible, imagine the instances of football players' inappropriate behavior that might be viewed in a new light.

    [/QUOTE]
    Last edited by RaoulDuke; 06-28-2010 at 05:35 AM.

  4. #4
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    [QUOTE=RaoulDuke;3635125]That's sad.

    Not trying to diminish what he's done, but I read the same type of article linked to Roethlisbergers behavior. FWIW[/QUOTE]

    My only problem with this article... is that the symptoms sound exactly like those suffering from being a douchebag too. Not to say there isn't something there, but I'm not too convinced.

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    [QUOTE=Polidore22;3635138]My only problem with this article... is that the symptoms sound exactly like those suffering from being a douchebag too. Not to say there isn't something there, but I'm not too convinced.[/QUOTE]
    Yeah, I agree. It's like the symptoms were scripted to fit Ben's bill.

    Still, the hypothesis that multiple concussions can have an effect on your personality doesn't surprise me.

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    [QUOTE=RaoulDuke;3635140]Yeah, I agree. It's like the symptoms were scripted to fit Ben's bill.

    Still, the hypothesis that multiple concussions can have an effect on your personality doesn't surprise me.[/QUOTE]

    Yes that is true. I had a friend in college who had to be hospitalized for like 2 or 3 months because he landed on his head doing a backflip on a snowboard. When he came back to school he was way more aggressive and very not himself. Obviously a more extreme example, but head injuries can definitely affect your personality.

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    [QUOTE=Polidore22;3635138]My only problem with this article... is that the symptoms sound exactly like those suffering from being a douchebag too. Not to say there isn't something there, but I'm not too convinced.[/QUOTE]

    Ben IS a douchebag.

    That said, the symptoms of CTE fit Ben to a tee. Coincidence? Perhaps, but more than likely not.

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    I know alot of these studies seemed to really pick up steam in recent years, especially after that wrestler killed himself and his family. Id imagine its hard to say where the brain trauma actually takes over a person or where it simply makes a bad person worse. There are tons of athletes that have taken these hits and never had some of these types of issues. You take a guy like Roethlisberger and he just sounds like a bad guy. If this is making him worse than he should retire because more hits will just make him spiral out of control if that is really what is causing his problems.

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    remember this whenever a player holds out for more money

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    I believe that brain damage and injury can cause emotional and psychological problems beyond what we can typically comprehend. It is a sad thing that happens to these athletes that basically give their life for their job.

    BUT I do not believe that, at least in many situations, this can be an excuse for some negative, violent, and destructive behavior. For many of these athletes it should be apparent by them or loved ones that something is off. When this is determined they need to seek help not excuses.

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    Somehow I see this getting weaved into Lawrence Taylor's defense.

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    [QUOTE=Polidore22;3635138]My only problem with this article... is that the symptoms sound exactly like those suffering from being a douchebag too. Not to say there isn't something there, but I'm not too convinced.[/QUOTE]

    Sad story.

    But, it's chicken-egg proposition, Poli. You say that the symptoms sound exactly like those suffering from being a douchebag, but CTE may be causing them to act like douchebags. As to Big Ben, he's a douche even if he was playing baseball.

    It will be interesting to see where this goes and how much the NFL knew about this and was denying it.
    Last edited by SMC; 06-28-2010 at 10:37 AM.

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    [QUOTE=GreekMooMan;3635219] When this is determined they need to seek help not excuses.[/QUOTE]

    like what? a brain transplant?

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    [QUOTE=SMC;3635228]Sad story.

    But, it's chicken-egg proposition, Poli. You say that the symptoms sound exactly like those suffering from being a douchebag, but CTE may be causing them to act like douchebags.

    It will be interesting to see where this goes and how much the NFL knew about this and was denying it.[/QUOTE]

    No I 100% agree.. I think the only people that probably can decide which it is are those who have known him for a long time. Has he changed? Or has he always been that way?

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    [QUOTE=Polidore22;3635234]No I 100% agree.. I think the only people that probably can decide which it is are those who have known him for a long time. Has he changed? Or has he always been that way?[/QUOTE]

    True. But the Big Ben stuff is just spin. Like I added above to the post you quoted (so there's nothing misconstrued), Big Ben would be a douche if he was playing baseball.

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    [QUOTE=SMC;3635236]True. But the Big Ben stuff is just spin. Like I added above to the post you quoted (so there's nothing misconstrued), Big Ben would be a douche if he was playing baseball.[/QUOTE]

    Haha yes that's the feeling that I get as well.

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    I firmly believe the NFL needs to institute a weight limit across the board.
    1. If you play in the interior line, you may no weight in excess of 250lbs.
    2. If you play off the ball, you cannot exceed 210lbs.

    In addition to getting rid of the fat guys, it would reduce the force of impacts as momentum = mass x velocity. While lighter players might increase velocity, I think the mass decrease would dramatically decrease overall momentum.

    In addition, I think facemasks should be redesigned back to the old "two bar" designs. It think the crazy facemasks worn by defensive players cause them to use their heads as a weapon.

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    [QUOTE=Digetydog;3635243]I firmly believe the NFL needs to institute a weight limit across the board.
    1. If you play in the interior line, you may no weight in excess of 250lbs.
    2. If you play off the ball, you cannot exceed 210lbs.

    In addition to getting rid of the fat guys, it would reduce the force of impacts as momentum = mass x velocity. While lighter players might increase velocity, I think the mass decrease would dramatically decrease overall momentum.

    In addition, I think facemasks should be redesigned back to the old "two bar" designs. It think the crazy facemasks worn by defensive players cause them to use their heads as a weapon.[/QUOTE]

    But, DD, with your weight restrictions how do you account for the oldtime players having CTE and they played close to the weight limits you described?

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    [QUOTE=bitonti;3635230]like what? a brain transplant?[/QUOTE]

    Oh I don't know exactly, but some suggestions would be medication, therapy, regular care or supervision if it was bad enough.

    But if you are clearly making socially unacceptable decisions, which in some cases leads to legal trouble, you must do something to prevent it in the future OR at the very least show that you attempted to prevent it.

    ---I think only in the most EXTREME circumstances should a brain transplant be attempted.

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    can it be diagnosed while you are still alive?

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