Mount St. Mary's hired a private equity CEO to be their president. You'll never guess what happened next.
Some interesting stuff to chew on re: concussions and dementia, plus some Super Bowl trivia and miscellany
An "unnamed organization" (read NFL??) has contacted a scientific innovation company about designing a concussion-proof helmet. This info came out of a long, yet fascinating article about Lowell Wood who just surpassed Thomas Edison as the inventor with the most patents by an individual in the U.S.
The entire article is at: http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-americas-top-inventor-lowell-wood/
Pertinent excerpts are provided below:
"Recently folks have been getting really concerned about concussions, because professional athletes are showing up demented in their 40s and dying before they’re 50 with real unpleasant brains at autopsies. So we were asked to look at the concussion situation from an inventive standpoint."
"An organization—he declines to say which—came to talk him into developing anticoncussion technology."
"Wood’s anticoncussion solution, much like football, isn’t for the squeamish. Sensors in the helmet trigger a mechanism that fuses a player’s helmet and shoulder pads. Wood is vague on exactly how that would work, but spikes or rods of some kind would shoot down from the helmet to keep the head from turning."
“In a fraction of a—a tenth, a twentieth, a thirtieth—second, the helmet will put things down that will grab your collarbones and not only will your neck not break, but your brain won’t be damaged. You may take some collarbone damage, but everybody understands that collarbones heal. At least you won’t take the lasting damage to an organ that you really depend on. That’s what we’ve invented.”
"And there’s two interesting things that you can do. First of all, you can give them a helmet that will measure what the level of damage is that happens in any particular hit and will signal, ‘Hey kid, you’ve had enough, this is it for a day, a week, a month, or whatever. You’re just on the sidelines. You had a bad break, and here’s what has to be done in order to prevent permanent damage.’"
“Then the more engineering-inventive sort of thing is a helmet that will actually prevent the damage no matter how badly you may misbehave or somebody may mistreat you. You can literally keep the brain from twisting in a helmet, or, worse comes to worst, the helmet will go active on you and will anchor your head to your shoulders.”
This article by ScienceDaily sums it up pretty well. Link
Author Kun Ping Lu, MD, PhD, Chief of the Division of Translational Therapeutics in the Department of Medicine at BIDMC and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), states "Our study shows that an early neurodegenerative process induced by the toxic tau protein can begin just hours after a traumatic brain injury. In both cell models of stress and in mouse models simulating sport- and military-related TBI, the production of this pathogenic protein, called cis P-tau, disrupts normal neurological functioning, spreads to other neurons and leads to widespread neuronal death.
We have developed a potent monoclonal antibody that can prevent the onset of widespread neurodegeneration by identifying and neutralizing this toxic protein and restoring neurons' structural and functional abilities."
Whether or not this research translates into effective interventions, there's still typically the caveat of new treatments taking years to receive FDA approval. Fortunately, though, that's a topic which is receiving some attention -- Kate Upton's Uncle Fred actually proposed a bill to congress that, if passed, would accelerate the process.
Jim Harbaugh spoke publically about Pipkins's medical per the above story in the Detroit News. The coach clears the air on this, underscoring that it's natural for a player to not want to hear that their playing career is over, but Harbaugh's primary responsibility is the safety of his players. It's good to hear him address this directly.
Three concussions (not two), the torn knee ligament, and a neck issue. I have tremendous sympathy for Pipkins, but it does indeed sound like it's time for him to move on and take full advantage of his educational opportunity.
Angelique Chengelis put up an article this a.m. confirming that Jack Miller left the program due to burnout and to pursue other interests. We saw this explanation from Miller earlier this week, but ESPN posted a conflicting story saying that fear of concussions was the driving factor.
The main takeaway, for me at least, is that Angelique is about 20x more reliable than ESPN. the other takeaway is that it's very easy to pull for Miller here - he seems like an honest guy who has a level of self-awareness that's pretty impressive at his age. As in the earlier story, there's not a trace of bitterness in his words.
"Concussions were really not a factor in this decision. I know it makes for a good headline. ... The story has blown up into this whole thing, because there's not a lot going on in college football right now"
Thought this was a good little read about why a particular NFL player continues to play football, potentially risking a promising career in mathematics.
Regarding balancing playing vs. brain injury risk:
Naturally, I believe that I have a certain insight into this dilemma, due to my non-athletic pursuits. In particular, I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in mathematics, all with a 4.0, and numerous published papers in major mathematical journals. I am a mathematical researcher in my spare time, continuing to do research in the areas of numerical linear algebra, multigrid methods, spectral graph theory and machine learning. I’m also an avid chess player, and I have aspirations of eventually being a titled player one day.