Thursday, December 03, 2009
Head injuries can result in chronic problems

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Head injuries in professional football players have been in the headlines recently. Much of what is written makes it sound like this is a surprise. It is almost as if no one could have predicted the issues. The data suggest that professional football players often have multiple concussions. The result is a problem with chronic neurologic symptoms when they get older. The information is being presented as if it is something new. That is not really true. We have long known about the damage that comes from repeated head injury. The medical term for these symptoms is chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It has been known to occur in boxers for a long time. The lay term that is used is punch drunk. Boxers who experience this type of injury have predictable symptoms. One of those involves memory loss. That is a form of dementia. That is what is being reported in football players. The other is a form of Parkinson's disease. That is what Muhammed Ali suffers from. People often do not realize what a concussion is. A concussion means a blow to the head that causes a loss of consciousness. The loss of consciousness can be prolonged. It can last minutes. It can last a lot longer. When the loss of consciousness lasts for an extended period of time, we often refer to it as coma. However, the loss of consciousness could last a much shorter period. This might not be very noticeable. The individual may not notice it. Those around him might not notice it. These kinds of brief losses of consciousness can pile up. Over time they can cause significant damage to the brain. Some players think that playing as soon as possible is a mark of manliness. Actually, it is more an act of stupidity. The brain requires a period of time to recover from a head injury. For that reason playing too soon increases the risk of another concussion. It also increases the risk of damage. We all know about aggravating injuries. Usually we think of things that we can see. That often means aggravating an injury to an arm or a leg. It might be aggravating an injury like a rib injury. However, you can just as easily aggravate a head injury. The difference is that you cannot see the injury. On a practical basis for parents, they need to realize that young athletes are not being paid as professional players. There is not the same urgency for them to return to the playing field. They should be cautious about playing after a head injury. The young athlete is more susceptible to what is called second injury syndrome. This refers to even more damage from a second injury than would be expected from two separate injuries that do not occur close to each other. The best guideline to follow is that every head injury needs to be completely assessed. It should be much more than a how do you feel assessment. Once symptoms are found, they need to completely resolve. At that point consideration can be given to decide when the individual can return to practice or to play. It is wise to err on the side of caution. The idea of developing chronic symptoms from head injury is not something new. It is just something that is making the headlines. We need to give it respect.

Stroke and Osteoporosis Screening in Laurel Dec. 21 Residents living in and around the Laurel community can be screened to reduce their risk of having a stroke or bone fracture. The American Legion Post 19 will host Life Line Screening on Dec. 21. The site is located at 12168 Laurel Road in Laurel. Appointments will begin at 9 a.m. Four key points every person needs to know: 1. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of permanent disability. 2. 80 percent of stroke victims had no apparent warning signs prior to their stroke. 3. Preventive ultrasound screenings can help you avoid a stroke. 4. Screenings are fast, noninvasive, painless, affordable and convenient. Screenings identify potential cardiovascular conditions such as blocked arteries and irregular heart rhythm, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and hardening of the arteries in the legs, which is a strong predictor of heart disease. A bone density screening to assess osteoporosis risk is also offered and is appropriate for both men and women. Packages start at $139. All five screenings take 60-90 minutes to complete. For more information regarding the screenings or to schedule an appointment, call 1-877-237-1287 or visit our website at Pre-registration is required. Life Line Screening was established in 1993, and has since become the nation's leading provider of preventive screenings.

Peninsula Orthopaedic joins NHS From a sports injury to advanced degenerative disease and everything in between, patients in lower Delaware will be pleased to know that they can receive the full range of advanced orthopaedic and rehabilitation services close to home. Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates has opened a new practice in Seaford at 11 Fallon Drive. The group is accepting new patients and is scheduling surgical cases at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

"We are very pleased that Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates is joining us in Seaford and look forward to their positive impact on the health of our community," says Steven A. Rose, RN, MN, president and CEO of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates is dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients by improving the function of their musculoskeletal system. Board certified in orthopaedics, Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates specialize in the spine, hands, and joints, as well as handle a full range of non-operative orthopaedic care. "Since 1952, the physicians at Peninsula Orthopaedic Associates have provided exceptional orthopaedic care in the region," said Thomas A. Brandon, M.D. We are delighted to affiliate with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital to bring the highest level of orthopaedic care to Seaford and the surrounding communities." For more information and to schedule appointments, call 629-4787. Visit the web for more information, and

Look Good program is Dec. 14 Women undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer can receive free professional help to cosmetically disguise the appearance-related side effects of their treatments. LOOK GOOD...FEEL BETTER, a program developed by the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cosmetology Association, trains volunteer cosmetologists to help women with cancer, conceal loss of hair, skin problems and other side effects that can result from cancer therapy. The next program will be hosted by the Cancer Care Center at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital on Monday, Dec. 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Cancer Care Center's 2nd floor conference room. The program is free to all patients in active cancer treatment. Registration is required, and space is limited. To register, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's Cancer Care Center at 629-6611, ext. 2378 or 2588.

Man to Man support group Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's offers a Man to Man support group meeting on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Man to Man helps men cope with prostate cancer by receiving information and peer support. Man to Man is a forum for men and their support network to learn about diagnosis and treatment options through presentations, written materials and videos. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Larry Skala (337-3678) or Grafton Adams (628-8311).

New breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. beginning Thursday, Dec. 17. To learn more about Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

Stroke support group offered Nanticoke Memorial Hospital's next Stroke Support Group meeting is Thursday, Dec. 17 at 1:30 p.m. at Nanticoke Memorial's 2nd Floor Cancer Care Center Conference Room. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support, and allow for networking. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, contact Nanticoke Memorial Hospital at 629-6611, ext. 8626.

Monthly support group Compassionate Care Hospice, The Wellness Community-DE and Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will collaborate to present a monthly bereavement group, The Next Step. The group focuses on issues of loss that continue beyond the early stages of grief. Mary Van House, bereavement coordinator, will facilitate the group at 10 a.m. on the third Tuesday of each month, at the Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, second floor conference room. To register, call Lisa at 629-6611, ext. 2378.

Depression Support Group There is a free bimonthly Depression Support Group meeting in Laurel on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Any person who has signs and symptoms of depression and is under the care of a professional counselor/MD is welcome to attend. To register, call Life Matters Counseling and Consulting at 302-465-6612.