Last month, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation named the 22 new MacArthur Fellows for 2011. Each recipient will receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. There are no stipulations or reporting requirements. The fellowships provide an opportunity for the recipients to reflect, create, and explore. This week, BioTechniques will publish profiles of three new fellows from the life sciences.
For the 2011 season, the NFL changed a rule that moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line. Since then, sports analysts have debated whether the rule change lessens the excitement from kickoffs. But for Kevin Guskiewicz, there’s no debate. For him, the safety benefits are more important.
“I think there’s some component of stubbornness that’s probably getting in the way of common sense. We’re talking about preserving the game of football here because there’s this cloud over the sport right now. There has to be a culture shift and a change in the way we do things,” Guskiewicz says.
MacArthur fellow Kevin Guskiewicz hopes to make sports safer from the youth leagues to the NFL by improving equipment, implementing rule changes, and challenging culture that rewards dangerous play. Source: UNC Gfeller Center
At the University of North Carolina (UNC), Guskiewicz is a researcher and sports trainer. His research is focused on how to better understand, diagnose, treat, and prevent concussions. In this pursuit, Guskiewicz images the brain before and after injuries, monitors athletes with posturography and cognitive tests, and measures impacts with accelerometers.
During the past few years, Guskiewicz has recorded data from more than 300,000 impacts by placing accelerometers in the helmets of 120 UNC football players during practices and actual games. Guskiewicz uses a system called HITS (High Impact Telemetry System) that captures the linear and angular acceleration of each impact as well as the location on the head.
Compiling data from these impacts, which includes the positions and type of players involved, Guskiewicz quickly began to see a pattern. Special teams plays, especially kickoffs and punts, produced the most dangerous impacts. In these types of plays, players run at or near full speed for over 40–50 yards, resulting in massive collisions.
“We do tend to see more injuries on those types of plays. It’s really no surprise, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist,” says Guskiewicz.
Halfway through the study, Guskiewicz presented his preliminary findings to the NFL competition committee. Subsequently, the league changed the kickoff rule, hoping to reduce injuries to special teams players. The change adds to a growing list of rules changes in football that are designed to prevent head injuries.
Now, Guskiewicz has been awarded a 2011 MacArthur Fellowship for his accomplishments that have impacted equipment and rules in several sports, from youth to professional levels. His research has increased awareness of the dangers of multiple concussions, concussions in young developing brains, and the long-term affects now associated with cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
His goal is to change the way trainers, coaches, and players approach safety. This is especially important for rough sports like football, in which coaches encourage toughness and players often conceal symptoms in order to stay in the game.
Before a player is allowed to return to activity, Guskiewicz and his teams stress baseline testing to diagnose a concussion and then track progress. At UNC, his research team tests athletes participating in 20 sports. With this testing, they can compare an athlete before and after a concussion.
“By using the NeuroCom EquiTest we get a very sophisticated measure of their balance, and we perform computerized neuropsychological testing using CNS Vital Signs. We also capture their normal symptoms. Are they someone who regularly gets headaches or dizziness, vertigo?” Guskiewicz says.
With the $500,000 MacArthur fellowship, Guskiewicz plans to take his research beyond the field to benefit care for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with similar concussive symptoms.
“I feel very honored and fortunate to be in a place where we can do this kind of research. I have some special people here that I’m surrounded by that make it possible,” Guskiewicz says.
Octopus traps, tako-tsubo, are devices that fishermen use in Japan to capture octopus.
image from nature.com ncpcardio0414-f2.gif
F1.large.jpg from europace.oxfordjournals.org/systole with a narrower neck, resembling a tako-tsubo or octopus pot
So here’s what I call Tsunami of the Heart. People, predominantly post menopausal women that can be precipitated from a sudden devastating loss of a loved one for example In the ultra sound image posted above, it as if a snake is strangling the upper portion of the heart. Any ER physician who has had to cope dealing to diagnose this condition reveals how totally scary this is to accurately evaluate. Tako-tsubo syndrome is a “reversible neuromyocardial failure that has thought to be related to an acute catecholamine toxicity of the myocardium” sourced from:
Neurocrit Care (2008) 9:112–117
Tako-Tsubo Cardiomyopathy Associated with Seizures
Denise M. Lemke . Syed I. Hussain . Thomas J. Wolfe .
Michel A. Torbey . John R. Lynch . Ann Carlin .
Brian-Fred M. Fitzsimmons . Osama O. Zaidat
The worst thing that can happen if you have a series of seizures is the potential to die also as the seizure happens. So at one point of time you ask yourself the question if seizures affect the heart, how and when does this happen? So having seizures combined with the tako-tsubo syndrome points to within the neurocardiac axis as the culprit. If this is the case for seizures it will also be the case for concussions, from Nigel Shaw’s work, there will be a neurocardiac pacing falloff happening as well in a minor traumatic brain injury.
The cardiologists will describe the presenting symptoms of Tako-tsubo as chest pains being the most common, shortness of breath, dyspnea in their their terms, and fainting, called syncope. Significant other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, which is my emphasis. The control center in the brain stem for triggering vomiting is just beside the cardiac control zones (my what a coincidence!). So if Nature does a brain rotation as I believe happens torquing things around the cardiac zone, stuff happens that can now be potentially used for diagnostic purposes. The Henry article from U de Montreal I quoted from on Oct 21, involving MRI derived diffusion tensor imaging (this is a strain map but they don’t talk about tensegrity but they should, so it’s also a version of Penfield’s Brain Pull map if he had access to that kind of technology) diffuse damaged axonal signals from the cortical spinal tracts, as part of water or edema reaction formation which just happen to be in the same zone of the medulla that either the vagal nerve and/or now also the glossopharyngeal nerve too, are being strained into their entry zone insertion where they actually connect to the medulla zone of the brain stem. So Tako-tsubo teaches us a lot about the horrific crash of a seizure involving the heart in effect stopping the ventricles from performing as could happen during sudden death. So it appears to be these subtle signals that I as the observer try to piece together to get to some reference of coherence toward making sense of useful symptoms. So to-day I ran this scenario by Dr Antoine Hakim who I used to be his tech with my brother in law Ralph Dadoun while doing his MBA we worked in the same lab together in Neurochemistry at the Montreal Neurological Institute in Dr Hanna Pappius laboratory. We did all the preliminary experiments for Dr Hakim, to help get Dr Hakim (Tony) off the ground as a young scientist. Now 30 years later Tony, Order of Canada senior scientist, is head of the Neurology Department at the University of Ottawa in conversation with me says, “Mike, if you can diagnose a concussion with heart data this is massive.” So we absolutely have to pursue the potential opening of cooperation first with bone density measurements with kind cooperation of the Redmen Football Coach, Clint Uttley to get at the preliminary data to test for significance. Then we have to ask Coach Uttley for permission to request from the players to take next 2012 preseason EKG measurements to compare with in the case they may get a concussion during the playing season.
Then we will doing just as strong analysis as MacArthur Fellow Keven Guskiewicz is with his helmeted accelerometer measurement’s at the University of North Carolina. Maybe we can diagnose a concussion using heart EKG data, that would be, ‘massive.’