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Adam Reborn: A Family Guide to Surviving a Traumatic Brain Injury

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Stress/Fear/Anxiety Can Overtake Brain Functions

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Fear short circuits the brain, especially when it hits close to home, experts say— making coping with events like the bombings at the Boston Marathon especially tricky.

“When people are terrorized, the smartest parts of our brain tend to shut down,” says Dr. Bruce Perry, Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy.

When the brain is under severe threat, it immediately changes the way it processes information, and starts to prioritize rapid responses. “The normal long pathways through the orbitofrontal cortex, where people evaluate situations in a logical and conscious fashion and [consider] the risks and benefits of different behaviors— that gets short circuited,” says Dr. Eric Hollander, professor of psychiatry at Montefiore/Albert EinsteinSchool of Medicine in New York.  Instead, he says, “You have sensory input right through the sensory [regions] and into the amygdala or limbic system.”

Traumatic events typically evoke a whole suite of brain responses, such as making people faster to startle, increasing their reaction time and producing hypervigilance to any type of sensation that might be linked with the threatening experience.

And this warping of perspective is exactly what terrorists aim to achieve.  “Terrorists are trying to induce fear and panic,” says Hollander, noting that media coverage that repeats the sounds and images of the events maximizes their impact. The coverage keeps the threat alive and real in people’s minds, and sustains the threat response, despite the fact that the immediate danger has passed. The marathon attacks were particularly damaging, he says, because “All of sudden, there’s trauma associated with what had been a meaningful, communal event.”

(  - 2013)
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Music and Its Effects On the Brain

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Whether you are rocking out to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in your car or reading with Bach in your bedroom, music has a special ability to pump us up or calm us down.

Scientists are still trying to figure out what's going on in our brains when we listen to music and how it produces such potent effects on the psyche.

"We're using music to better understand brain function in general," said Daniel Levitin, a prominent psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal.

Three studies published this month explore how the brain responds to music. The quest to dissect exactly what chemical processes occur when we put our headphones on is far from over, but scientists have come across some clues.

Listening to music feels good, but can that translate into physiological benefit? Levitin and colleagues published a meta-analysis of 400 studies in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, suggesting the answer is yes.

In one study reviewed, researchers studied patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The results: The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. Levitin cautioned that this is only one study, and more research needs to be done to confirm the results, but it points toward a powerful medicinal use for music.

"The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and it's easier on the body and it doesn't have side effects," Levitin said.

Levitin and colleagues also highlighted evidence that music is associated with immunoglobin A, an antibody linked to immunity, as well as higher counts of cells that fight germs and bacteria.


The next frontier in the neuroscience of music is to look more carefully at which chemicals in the brain are involved in music listening and performing, Levitin said, and in which parts of the brain are they active.

Any given neurochemical can have different function depending on its area of the brain, he said. For instance, dopamine helps increase attention in the frontal lobes, but in the limbic system it is associated with pleasure.

By using music as a window into the function of a healthy brain, researchers may gain insights into a slew of neurological and psychiatric problems, he said.

"Knowing better how the brain is organized, how it functions, what chemical messengers are working and how they're working -- that will allow us to formulate treatments for people with brain injury, or to combat diseases or disorders or even psychiatric problems," Levitin said.

( - Health - 2013)

(Dear friends, when Adam was in his TBI Recovery mode at the various hospitals, environmental recordings/CD's were played of the many sounds of nature - from waterfalls, to wind through the trees and the sounds of waves breaking against the shore. These recordings were recommended as to present a soothing environment for recovering patients. - Alex)

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Woman Wakes From Coma and Wants To Kiss Bob Seger

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Evie Branon               Bob Seger



 One Mid-Michigan woman is turning her misfortune into opportunity after waking from a comatose state -- she's doing the first thing that sprang to mind after coming out of the coma -- going to a Bob Seger show!

"Well, I don't know anything about what happened to me, only that I had a stroke and I didn't remember anything for five-and-a-half years," explained 79-year-old Evie Branan.

Then a bump of the head miraculously brought her back, and she just had one request -- to see Bob Seger in concert. Now that wish is coming true.

Branan is counting down the hours until she's swept off to the Palace of Auburn Hills in a limousine to see Seger on April 11, a pretty astounding feat considering the time she spent in a coma. "I didn't communicate with anybody; they said all I did was lay and stare," said Branan.

Then in May 2011, for the first time in years, she tried to get out of bed by herself to head for the ladies room, where she slipped and bumped her head.

"My memory started coming back, not all at once, just gradually," explains Branan. "But they said when I woke up one morning, the first words out of my mouth [were], 'I want to go to a Bob Seger concert,' and what made me say that I still can't figure out why."

Now this isn't Branan's first time seeing Seger in concert -- she's actually seen him on several occasions -- however, this time she's hoping for a little bit more than just a good show.

"I'm learning  how to stand so I can hug him, and I'm going to hug him and give him a great big smooch!" Branan says.

( - 2013)

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Gabby Giffords Journey to TBI Recovery

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Tucson, Arizona (CNN) -- What is most shocking about Gabby Giffords now is how much she looks like her old self. Her golden locks are back; so is the sparkle in her eyes and her broad smile. Gone is the short hair and thin frame we saw at the beginning of her recovery.

Yet she knows she will never be the same.

"Stronger. Stronger, better, tougher. Stronger, better, tougher." That's how Giffords describes herself.

The former Arizona congresswoman makes that declaration with determination and gusto. But it still takes a considerable amount of energy and concentration to articulate that, or anything else.

Being with Giffords, who was shot in the head two years ago during an appearance in front of an Arizona supermarket, it is obvious that she understands and absorbs everything around her. She follows conversation, reacts, engages and offers unsolicited ideas -- usually in the form of a single word or gesture that makes clear what she means.

She has go-to phrases that indicate how she feels, often saying "good stuff" to express encouragement and "whoa" to show something excites her or makes her happy.

The right-handed Giffords still has no use of that hand and that arm is paralyzed. She generally wears a sling to keep it from flopping around.

Her right leg is also paralyzed. She wears a large brace and literally drags her right leg with her good, left leg to walk. Still, she walks remarkably well.

Giffords has limited sight in both eyes, no peripheral vision to the right.

Kelly jokes that when he wants to sneak up on her he will come around the right so she can't see him coming.

That makes Giffords giggle.

It is clear watching the couple interact that humor helps keep her spirits up and eases the pressure of their intense daily struggle.

(CNN-2013 News)

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The Signal's 2013 Easter Health Care Cover Story (TBI and Trauma Recovery)

Posted by on in TBI

Signal Health Cover



It had been four years since 25-year-old Adam Stelmach fell from a four-story parking structure.

Over his metal-frame glasses, Dr. Ranbir Singh slowly surveyed the young man.

Now Stelmach’s light brown hair was long, and he wore a mustache.

The shattered facial features of four years ago were even, and Stelmach was smiling.

Singh scanned Stelmach’s posture from head to toe, the full-body trauma injuries that threatened his life while he was in a three-week coma now healed.

Stelmach was walking, talking, driving a stick shift even.

Singh’s glance jumped back up to meet Stelmach’s light eyes, and Singh broke into a smile. With a quick tug on his white coat, Singh threw out a hand and enveloped Stelmach in a jovial hug.

"I remember vividly when you came in," Singh said.

After a night of drinking at the Westfield Valencia Town Center, 21-year-old Stelmach reached the top of a four-story parking structure and realized he forgot his phone.

"I don’t know why I did it," Stelmach said.

Hopping up onto the railing of a 40-foot parking structure, Stelmach slid down and couldn’t stop.

"I got a call at 11 o’clock. It’s a call I hope you never get," said Alex Stelmach, Adam’s father.

When Stelmach arrived at the hospital, he had shattered his face, sustained full-body trauma and a traumatic brain injury.

Unconscious and hovering on the edge of life, Stelmach was met at the hospital door by the trauma team, headed that night by Singh.

Because trauma patients come in with multiple injuries to any part of their body, the trauma team consists of oncall specialists from every department: a trauma surgeon, trauma nurse manager, two emergency room nurses, two ER techs, blood bank personnel, lab tech, radiology tech, CAT scan tech, two respiratory therapists, operating room nurse, chaplain, a security officer and anesthesiologist.

"Trauma sees the patient from beginning to end. We are mainly responsible for the care of that patient," Singh said.

"It takes a hospital, not a village," said Katreena Salgado, hospital spokeswoman.

During the first hour, the team worked as quickly as possible to assess Stelmach’s injuries.

"Each hour that you lose, the prognosis gets worse," Singh said. "You have to work quickly as a team. Timing is the most important element."

From there, Stelmach had multiple surgeries, was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and remained there until he woke from his coma three weeks later.

"By the time he left, Adam had been treated by every department except maternity," said Adam’s father, now able to laugh as his son stood next to him more resilient and determined than before the accident.

"The Trauma Department follows the patient until they are discharged from the hospital," Singh said. "We even have rehabilitation and therapy available."

Still extremely grateful, Stelmach said he went through physical, occupational and speech therapies at Henry Mayo.

"Therapy gave him his first step at a new life, right here," Stelmach’s father said. The parent’s voice broke as he jutted a pointed finger downward toward the Henry Mayo trauma center floor.

"He is 25 years old. He realizes that there are consequences," Stelmach’s father said.

Adam still hasn’t regained full capabilities on the right side of his body.

"But his story is not over," Alex said. "It’s a story of hope and recovery, and it had to start somewhere."

Since his accident, Stelmach has earned his associate’s degree from College of the Canyons and been accepted into the sociology program at California State University, Northridge.

"I want to work at a hospital and help people like me," Stelmach said. "Every traumatic brain injury is different, but I think I can help them with my experience."

Stelmach has already started giving back – every year on the night of his accident at 11 p.m., Stelmach returns with a box of donuts.

Grabbing each man’s hand, Singh said goodbye to the Stelmachs. His pager was beeping.

"We’ve had patients that everyone thought would die," Singh said, "and they walk out of here."

Singh took a last look at his patient before he broke his grip and walked briskly toward the door.

"At a low point, a friend told me not to ask why it happened, but why it wasn’t worse," Stelmach’s father said. "The whys don’t matter that much to me anymore."

(Kristen Quinn - The Signal)

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Scripps Memorial Hospital Brain Injury Conference

Posted by on in TBI

Scripps hospital


"Adam Reborn," was presented as a resource for TBI Recovery.

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George Clooney An Advocate for TBI Recovery

Posted by on in TBI

george clooney 


George Clooney's family has long been supportive of those with TBI (traumatic brain injury). His Aunt Rosemary Clooney had a younger sister, Betty, who died of brain trauma caused by an aneurysm. Because of Betty's untimely death, the Clooney family in 1983 established the Betty Clooney Foundation to help those with traumatic brain injuries.

Ironically, it was George Clooney himself, in 2005, who experienced, firsthand, a traumatic brain injury that left him both depressed and suicidal. At the time, Clooney was filming the movie "Syriana" in Morocco (for which he ultimately won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar), playing out a scene where he is tied to a chair and tortured. Whether it was the whiplash movements of his head in the scene or the fact that the chair was accidentally knocked over and Clooney hit his head on the floor, shooting the scene caused a rip in George's dura, a disturbance in the sac of fluid surrounding his brain.

It wasn't until Clooney flew to Los Angeles to see a neurologist specialist, who noticed that spinal fluid was seeping from his nose, that doctors undertook emergency surgery to pin his spine back together with plastic bolts and relieve the excruciatingly painful headaches he was experiencing.

After the injury, the actor suffered short-term memory loss, wore a neck brace for a while, and had to begin "exercising" his brain by doing counting exercises and leaving post-it notes in order not to forget simple things -- and he was directing "Good Night, and Good Luck" at the time.


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Art exhibit for March brain injury awareness month (and TBI Recovery)

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Art exhibit for brain injury awareness




WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and Gaylord Hospital is hosting a special art exhibit to honor those affected by traumatic brain injuries.

The exhibit is called "Whacked" and features portraits of several notable people who suffered brain injuries.

The exhibit features twelve portraits including people like Gabby Giffords, George Clooney and Trisha Meili.

Meili is best known as the jogger who was brutally raped in Central Park in 1989.

Meili spent five months at Gaylord as part of her recovery.

"The healing for me is from both as a rape survivor and a brain injury survivor and the part that I love about that is the survivor part. And my message is to let people know that with the sense of hope possibility emerges. No matter what the situation," said Meili.

The artist Eliette Markhbein suffered a head injury herself after being hit by a car in 2004.

Markhbein said she wasn't an artist prior to the accident but wanted to find a way to reinvent herself.

The exhibit is open to the public and will run through April 4.


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March is TBI Awareness Month

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With an annual rate of 1.7 million cases in the US alone according to the Center for Disease Control, traumatic brain injury (TBI) may well be considered America’s silent epidemic!

Austin, TX – March 10, 2013 – Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) received increased attention over the last few years, spurred by the large number of war veterans returning from the field with the injury and athletes demanding more protection and coverage from the risks of brain damage over time. As a result, politicians are now scurrying over legislation to provide compensation for injured soldiers, the web is abuzz with medical research for understanding and cure, while football players threaten a strike and distraught soldiers fight a lonely war against depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But the fight against brain injury is not confined to the noisy stadiums and IED infested grounds. A large chunk of the cases (almost half-a-million) involve children under 15 years old who figure in accidents either at home or on the road, while mortality rates are high for people over 75 years of age. This is the reason why March is marked as TBI Awareness month by health and medical circles to keep people conscious about preventing brain injury.


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Olympic Snowboarders/Skiers Becoming More Aware of TBI and TBI Recovery.

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ASPEN, Colo. -- The dumbest ride Kevin Pearce ever took down the halfpipe wasn't the one that ended his snowboarding career. That run on Dec. 31, 2009, the one that resulted in a traumatic brain injury less than two months before the Vancouver Olympics, came less than three weeks after the run Pearce says he should have never taken.

Earlier that month, Pearce, who was 22 at the time, was pushing to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team and emerging as a challenger to Shaun White. Trying to land a cab 1080, a trick that Pearce had "on lock," he fell and hit his head. Hard.

"I was so sick and so dizzy and so gone after that," he recalled this month.

But Pearce's handling of less severe concussions and his life-changing brain injury highlight the extremes of what can go wrong when athletes hurtle themselves three stories in the air to perform tricks on a hard-packed halfpipe.

Like any sport, snowboarding and freeskiing come with risks and to the extent that is possible, athletes do their best to mitigate them. But with elite athletes suffering multiple concussions at a young age, more questions than answers remain about a culture perhaps nonchalant in its attitude toward concussions and the effects on their long-term health.

For Pearce, there are answers to those questions after struggling to accept the impact it has had on him. Following his accident, Pearce underwent years of rehab to relearn motor skills, improve his vision and memory, to function in everyday life.

Acceptance has not come easy, and with the benefit of hindsight, Pearce knows now that his accident might not have been as severe had he not taken that second run less than three weeks earlier.

"It's because my head was not healed and I shouldn't have been snowboarding again," he said. "That was the dumbest thing I've ever done in my life was to take that next run. For the consequences and how dangerous it was, it's a joke that I even thought about doing that."

(USA Today-Sports)

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Gabby Giffords Strives for Gun Control and TBI Recovery.

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gabby giffors photo

TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, returning to the site of the shooting rampage where she was gravely wounded, on Wednesday urged senators to "be courageous" and support background checks for all gun buyers.

Standing just a few feet from where a gunman more than two years ago put a bullet through Giffords' head and then opened fire on constituents, Giffords and husband Mark Kelly urged Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans, to support a universal background check system.

"Be bold. Be courageous. Be for background checks," said Giffords, who is a Democrat. The shooting left her with speech difficulties, a pronounced limp and a partially paralyzed right arm, which she cradled in her left as she spoke. Six people were killed and 13 others wounded in the attack.

(Yahoo news - 2013)

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Routine Hits Can Lead to Traumatic Brain Injuries

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Football hits that do not cause concussions still can increase the risk of long-term brain damage, results of a new medical study showed this week.

The findings are eye-opening and come from a study of 67 college football players conducted by the Cleveland Clinic and the University of Rochester.

The study showed that players who were never diagnosed with concussions still had higher levels of a brain protein that leaks into the bloodstream after a head injury. Four players — none of whom had been diagnosed with concussions — showed the autoimmune response associated with brain disorders.

In short, brain damage could be caused by routine hits in the game of football. More study is needed, but the findings should resonate from NFL offices in New York to grade-school fields throughout the United States. It was released Wednesday afternoon in the online journal PLOS ONE.


Dear friends, in the event of any head injury if headaches, nausea, or dizzieness persists, please visit a physician as quickly as possible - Alex.
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2013 Santa Clara Valley Brain Injury Conference

Posted by on in TBI




"Adam Reborn," was presented as a resource to rehabilitation professionals at the conference.

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President Obama Seeks to Put Forth Extensive Brain Mapping Project (Benefit for Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery)

Posted by on in TBI

brain wave image


The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics.

The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness.

Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses.

“Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar,” he said. “Today our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs, devising new materials to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.”

(NY Times - 2013 - Science)


Dear friends, the potential to map how the human brain, the greatest computer on Earth, functions is being put forth in a wide ranging study. Billions of dollars are said to be at large. However, isn't the cost worth the result. When disease and injury may be wiped out? When loved ones can speak and walk and laugh again. When dollars spent may provide us with new medicines and technology? When the damaged are healed. When our loved ones are back sitting beside us, and once again are fully part of our lives and family.  How wonderful would it be, if TBI were a thing of the past all around the world?  - Alex

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Northridge Hospital Medical Center Celebrates Adam's Amazing TBI Recovery!

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Northridge Front Cover2

Northridge Back Cover2


Our thanks to Northridge Rehab Center for sharing Adam's inspiring journey of recovery with the community.

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Bullying Attack Leads To Coma

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An 11-year-old boy is in a coma after a bully attack. The 6th grade student from Darby Township, Pennsylvania suffered a concussion and is now in a coma as a result of being beaten by a classmate.

Bailey O’Neill was reportedly being bullied by two other young boys, one of whom eventually beat him in the face until his nose was fractured. Bailey was taken to Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children for treatment. Bailey’s condition continued to decline as his parents noticed that he displayed unusual behavior and was not interested in eating.

As reported by ABC 6, Bailey’s doctors made the decision to put Bailey into a medically induced coma when he began having “violent seizures.”


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Famous 19th Century Brain Discovered. (Modern Traumatic Brain Injury Patterns May Apply)

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The identity of a mysterious patient who helped scientists pinpoint the brain region responsible for language has been discovered, researchers report.

The new finding, detailed in the January issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, identifies the famous patient as Monsieur Louis Leborgne, a French craftsman who battled epilepsy his entire life.

Wordless patient

In 1840, a wordless patient was admitted to the Bicêtre Hospital outside Paris for  aphasia, or an inability to speak. He was essentially just kept there, slowly deteriorating. It wasn't until 1861 that the man, who came to be known as Monsieur Leborgne, or "Tan," for his only spoken word, came to the famous physician Paul Broca's ward at the hospital.

19th century brain

Shortly after the meeting, Leborgne died, and Broca performed his autopsy. During the autopsy, Broca found a lesion in a region of the brain tucked back and up behind the eyes. 

Paradigm shift

After doing a detailed examination, Broca concluded that Tan's aphasia was caused by damage to this region, and that the particular brain region controlled speech. That region of the brain was later renamed Broca's area in honor of the doctor.

(Yahoo News-2013)


(Dear Friends,  as with many left sided head/brain injuries, speech is often affected.  Adam was unable to speak coherently for many months and required the aid and skills of a Speech Pathologist. This is all an ongoing part of suffering through a Traumatic Brain Injury. As the brain heals and searches out its new pathways for communication, there may be times of unrecognizable speech patterns or no speaking at all.  This is when Speech Therapy is an invaluable resource. - Alex)

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Laurent Robinson's Multiple NFL Concussions Lead to Worries of a Healthy Life. (TBI a Concern.)

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Laurent Robinson

I think Andrea Kremer is off to a very good start with NFL Network as its health and safety reporter. She aired an important story Sunday on Jacksonville receiver Laurent Robinson trying to recover from four concussions in four months, and he and his wife wondering about life after football.

Said Robinson's wife, Kat: "I'm constantly worried. If he has a headache, I'm worried. Why does he have a headache? If he's tired, why is he tired? I'm trying to understand it, but at the same time, I'm worried every day that it's going to affect our future."

(Peter King - Sports Illustrated)

Dear friends,

(Constant headaches can be a signal/symptom resulting from a blow to the head. A Traumatic Brain Injury may be a follow-up syndrome. Please visit a physician if multiple headaches continue/occur.  - Alex)

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Hillary Clinton's Concussion/Vision Symptoms

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ap Clinton Libya kb 130125 wmain


The thick glasses Hillary Clinton has been wearing in public since returning from a concussion and blood clot last month are the result of lingering effects of her health problems, a Clinton aide confirms.

"She'll be wearing these glasses instead of her contacts for a period of time because of lingering issues stemming from her concussion," said spokesman Philippe Reines. "With them on she sees just fine."

During more than five hours of testimony before Congress Clinton could be seen wearing glasses that appeared to have a thick left lens with lines across it.

Reines did not specify what type of lens the secretary was wearing, but medical experts say a fresnel prism is common in cases like these. Fresnel prisms usually come in the form of a piece of thin, transparent plastic that can be adhered to existing lenses. The special grooves in these prisms change the way light enters the eye, making them useful in treating double vision.

Dr. James Liu, director of the Center for Skull Base and Pituitary Surgery at the Neurological Institute of New Jersey, said that concussion and head injury can lead to blurred or double vision in some cases, and that this symptom can linger for a while during recovery.

"It is possible that blurred or double vision can last up to weeks and even months," he said. "This really depends on the severity of the head injury. In cases of concussions, these symptoms are usually temporary and eventually resolve with time."

(  1-2013)

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President Obama's View On Football.

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"I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much." 

(New Republic - 1-2013)

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