Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - ART & MUSIC -

A few weeks ago, Le­ices­ter rugby player Do­minic Ryan an­nounced his re­tire­ment from the game at just 28 years of age. The rea­son? The dam­age that years of hard tack­les and con­cus­sion had done to his brain. It’s a fa­mil­iar story to Dr Daniel Amen who has treated many Na­tional Foot­ball League (NFL) play­ers in the course of his ca­reer. His func­tional imag­ing SPECT scans mea­sure blood flow to the brain and, he says, clearly iden­tify the phys­i­cal dam­age that head in­juries — even with­out con­cus­sion — cause to the brain. His find­ings are sup­ported by a study car­ried out by the Mayo Clinic that found that 32pc of men who played con­tact sports, even at ama­teur level, had chronic trau­matic en­cephalopa­thy (CTE) or what’s known as ‘foot­ball de­men­tia’.

“Your brain is soft — about the con­sis­tency of soft but­ter. Your skull is re­ally hard and has mul­ti­ple sharp bony edges. Re­peated hits to the head can dev­as­tate the brain long term,” he says.

He will not, he says, be rec­om­mend­ing that his own grand­chil­dren play foot­ball or rugby or soc­cer. “If you’re go­ing to play, then you need to be re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing your brain all the time. Not just when you’re symp­to­matic 10 years af­ter you re­tire.

Dr Amen has de­vised a pro­to­col to treat pa­tients with brain trauma that ad­dresses a num­ber of fac­tors in­clud­ing nutrition, sleep, and a ther­apy known as hy­per­baric oxy­gen treat­ment (see be­low) and claims to have im­proved brain trauma in his pa­tients. How­ever, the gen­eral rule is that pre­ven­tion is def­i­nitely bet­ter than cure.

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