Groups

Member not yet following any Groups.

Posts (4)

Dec 13, 2017 · After a head injury, mental battle proves difficult for some student-athletes

Flickr/Richard Owens

For some student-athletes who suffer concussions, the mental aspect of getting back in the game is the toughest part.

Researchers at UCLA are looking closely at the psychological aspects of recovery from head injuries, such as concussions, and have recently begun a program that integrates a common type of talk therapy as part of their treatment for athletes with lingering emotional impacts after their injuries.

At the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program, Doug Polster, a postdoctoral fellow in sport neuropsychology, says the mental aspects of concussions are generally under recognized.

“Many health care professionals either do not have the time or are not fully trained to check for depression symptoms,” he says. “And if the patient’s symptoms are below the threshold for clinical depression, they can be missed.”

Typically, it may take a week or two to recover from the physical aspects of a concussion. But for some people, symptoms—both physical and mental—can persist. The physical symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to noise and light. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety, depression and social isolation, may last much longer than a few weeks.

One of the most common psychological symptoms reported by athletes, Polster says, is feeling isolated from their team. Often athletes are instructed by coaches and trainers to stay at home and not participate in games, practices and other team events. These restrictions may be particularly upsetting to one group of people: athletes who report that their personal identities are most closely tied to their participation in a sport, Polster says. These students often feel isolation and depression more intensely.

“All of a sudden a month goes by and you’re not socializing much,” Polster says. “Feelings of anxiety or depression can be exacerbated by separation from the team, the pressure of falling behind on academics — athletes may be excused from classes for a week or so as they recover — and just the general stress of being a student.”

Even after the student has largely recovered from a head injury, they may link common physical symptoms — headaches, forgetfulness or trouble concentrating — with the recent injury. “It can become difficult,” Polster says, “to parse out what is an everyday symptom of life with something concussion-related.”

To address some of the psychological aspects of depression and anxiety, in December 2016 the BrainSPORT program launched a program in which patients experiencing longer-than-typical recovery periods from concussion are provided with a form of counseling known as cognitive behavioral therapy, with a sports twist. The therapy is provided by counselors who talk to the athletes while they are exercising on a stationary bike or practicing aspects of their sport, such as shooting free throws for basketball players.

“Our goal is to give you the techniques to cope with stress better so that once you are healthy, you are able to perform your best,” Polster says. The program hopes through its research to develop some recommended treatment protocols for addressing the psychological effects of brain injuries.

 

Sep 6, 2017 · Why concussions may impact female athletes differently

Scientists are learning more all the time about the differences between the female and male brain. So it’s perhaps not too surprising to know that athletes of different gender are impacted differently by brain injuries, such as concussions.

Mayumi Prins, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is studying these difference along with colleagues at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. Prins says scientists have known for more than a decade that female athletes sustain concussions at higher rates than males when playing sports with similar rules, such as basketball, soccer and baseball/softball.

“Women’s role in sports have really changed and they’ve gotten much more aggressive in their play, such as in soccer for example,” says Prins. Studies examining how women soccer players “headed” the ball found they put more stress on their neck muscles than male players when executing the whip-like skill in which the ball is passed, shot or cleared off the head or forehead, she says.

Most of the past research about sports concussions has focused on males, Prins says. “There’s been little basic science research done on adolescents, females and concussions,” she adds. To date, research has shown that female and male brains differ in dozens of ways in activity patterns, anatomy, chemistry and physiology.

More studies about female concussions would help answer such questions as whether females suffer worse or different symptoms than males and whether those symptoms last longer, Prins says. The current science on these topics has produced mixed results and is inconclusive, she adds.

Some reasons why concussions might affect female athletes and non-athletes differently than males include hormonal issues, differences in how their upper bodies, particularly the muscles in the neck, react after collisions, and that females are generally more likely than males to disclose concussion-related symptoms such as headaches, diminished social interaction or depression, Prins says.

For parents of children who participate in sports, Prins offers the following advice:

  • Consider the relative risk. While concussions in females are a serious concern, bear in mind that the relative risk of concussion is quite low compared to other activities of adolescents and young adults, such as driving, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and obesity. “There are other things besides concussion that children and young adults are at greater risk for,” Prins says.
  • Athletics provide positive benefits. Involvement in athletics have been shown to benefit females in a variety of positive ways, such as development of positive body image, increasing bone density, and psychological health.
  • Watch for prolonged symptoms. While the majority of females (and males) will recover from concussions in a week or two, some will have prolonged symptoms, a condition known as post-concussive syndrome. If symptoms persist, seek medical assistance from a neurologist.
  • Social isolation. Concussions can produce a sense of social isolation and stress. “If you break a foot and are in a cast, everyone sees that and understands,” Prins says. “But if you have a head injury, people may look at you and pick up on some different behaviors, saying ‘What’s wrong with you?’ That can produce some social alienation, particularly in female athletes.”

More information about the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program is available here.  Information specifically about females and concussions is available from Pink Concussions, a nonprofit organization focused on female brain injuries.

Scientists are learning more all the time about the differences between the female and male brain. So it’s perhaps not too surprising to know that athletes of different gender are impacted differently by brain injuries, such as concussions.

Mayumi Prins, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, is studying these difference along with colleagues at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center. Prins says scientists have known for more than a decade that female athletes sustain concussions at higher rates than males when playing sports with similar rules, such as basketball, soccer and baseball/softball.

“Women’s role in sports have really changed and they’ve gotten much more aggressive in their play, such as in soccer for example,” says Prins. Studies examining how women soccer players “headed” the ball found they put more stress on their neck muscles than male players when executing the whip-like skill in which the ball is passed, shot or cleared off the head or forehead, she says.

Most of the past research about sports concussions has focused on males, Prins says. “There’s been little basic science research done on adolescents, females and concussions,” she adds. To date, research has shown that female and male brains differ in dozens of ways in activity patterns, anatomy, chemistry and physiology.

More studies about female concussions would help answer such questions as whether females suffer worse or different symptoms than males and whether those symptoms last longer, Prins says. The current science on these topics has produced mixed results and is inconclusive, she adds.

Some reasons why concussions might affect female athletes and non-athletes differently than males include hormonal issues, differences in how their upper bodies, particularly the muscles in the neck, react after collisions, and that females are generally more likely than males to disclose concussion-related symptoms such as headaches, diminished social interaction or depression, Prins says.

For parents of children who participate in sports, Prins offers the following advice:

  • Consider the relative risk. While concussions in females are a serious concern, bear in mind that the relative risk of concussion is quite low compared to other activities of adolescents and young adults, such as driving, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases and obesity. “There are other things besides concussion that children and young adults are at greater risk for,” Prins says.
  • Athletics provide positive benefits. Involvement in athletics have been shown to benefit females in a variety of positive ways, such as development of positive body image, increasing bone density, and psychological health.
  • Watch for prolonged symptoms. While the majority of females (and males) will recover from concussions in a week or two, some will have prolonged symptoms, a condition known as post-concussive syndrome. If symptoms persist, seek medical assistance from a neurologist.
  • Social isolation. Concussions can produce a sense of social isolation and stress. “If you break a foot and are in a cast, everyone sees that and understands,” Prins says. “But if you have a head injury, people may look at you and pick up on some different behaviors, saying ‘What’s wrong with you?’ That can produce some social alienation, particularly in female athletes.”

More information about the UCLA Steve Tisch BrainSPORT Program is available here.  Information specifically about females and concussions is available from Pink Concussions, a nonprofit organization focused on female brain injuries.

Jul 28, 2017 · Pedaling to work is good for your health, but be aware of traffic-related pollutants

Bike commuters can steps to minimize exposure to harmful pollutants.

Bike commuting has become more prevalent in Southern California and many cities across the country, and the health benefits of pedaling to work, such as an effective calorie-burning cardiovascular workout, are obvious. But what about the potential negative impact to your health of sharing the road with cars, trucks, and buses spewing pollutants a few feet from you?

Studies have shown that traffic-related air pollutants can be a negative factor for bicycle commuters. A UCLA study in 2013 of bike commuters in Santa Monica found that people who commuted by bike were exposed to more pollutants than those who generated some of the pollutants, such as the drivers of cars, trucks, and other vehicles themselves.

At the same time, more people are hopping on two wheels to get around town. In Los Angeles, for example, the number of people who used a bike to get to and from work grew from 25,447 in 2005 to 47,075 in 2015, according to Census Bureau figures. That’s only about 1 percent of all commuters—much less than other metropolitan cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, and Seattle–but the number is growing.

“We are seeing more aggressive bike lane expansion,” says Yifang Zhu, a professor in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.  “In Europe there are bike lanes pretty much everywhere, and in California, San Francisco is doing a better job than L.A. Los Angeles has great potential for bikers due to the favorable climate but there needs to be a push to improve infrastructure.”

As more people commute on bikes, it’s a good idea to be aware of the factors that both positively and negatively impact your health.

“Even though you will experience pollutants from traffic, the overall health benefits of being active override the risk of this exposure,” Zhu says. “We are still recommending bike commuting and we don’t want to scare off anyone.” 

Here are some health-related things to be aware of when commuting by bike:

  • Modify your route. When practical, try secondary or side streets, such as those that run through residential neighborhoods, rather than congested main roads. While this may add some time to your commute, the benefits are a more peaceful, less-congested and healthier ride, Gang says
  • Stay upwind. Wind direction may change depending on the time of day. If you can plan your route to stay upwind from traffic, you can reduce your exposure to pollutants.
  • Every meter counts. Studies have shown that even a relatively small distance, such as a meter, of separation from traffic can reduce exposure to pollutants. Look for bike lanes that have a little more buffer between you and the vehicles.
  • Time check. When you can, try to commute earlier or later in the day when traffic is lighter.
  • Smog check. Ozone, or smog, is another type of pollutant that you can be exposed to. It tends to peak in the early afternoon, typically around 3 p.m.

While in the past bike lanes often consisted of little more than a white line separating vehicles and bikers, many cities are improving the design of bike lines to have more of a buffer. “Some cities are putting planters, or parking spaces, or other buffers between the roadway and bike lanes,” Zhu says. “Every meter of separation counts in this scenario.”

Apr 12, 2017 · I can’t understand what you’re saying: The problem of ‘hidden’ hearing loss

When choosing a new restaurant to visit, one of my biggest considerations after the quality of the food and location is this: how noisy is it? Having lived since childhood with a significant hearing loss in one ear, I try to avoid loud restaurants where I’ll likely have to struggle to hear and understand what the person across the table is saying. It’s stressful, frustrating, even embarrassing.

I’ve got plenty of company in this regard. About 15 percent, or 37.5 million, U.S. adults report some trouble hearing, according to federal data. And the problem is growing, with an estimated 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults at risk of hearing problems due to exposure from unsafe levels of sound from smartphones, other audio devices and loud entertainment venues, a 2015 report from the World Health Organization found.

Recently, much attention has focused on the issue of “hidden” hearing loss, a type of hearing deficit that often doesn’t show up in standard hearing tests in the doctor’s office, says Alison Grimes, director of audiology and newborn hearing screening at UCLA Health. People with hidden hearing loss may have a “normal” hearing test, yet they are aware that they are having considerable difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.

“One of the difficult things about hidden hearing loss is that it doesn’t show up on those typical hearing tests,” says Grimes. “People with hidden hearing loss will be able to detect soft sounds—that is, pure sounds like the notes on a piano, a fairly simple measure of hearing. But their classic complaint is “I hear but I don’t understand.’ ”

Hearing loss is thought to be caused by damage to different types of hair cells in the inner ear that respond to sound. Damage to the fibers in the auditory nerves that connect to hair calls can make it difficult to hear in noisy environments. Often an audiogram, the most common type of hearing test, conducted in a quiet room, does not pick up this type of hearing loss, meaning patients can “pass” the test even if the fibers are damaged.

In the recent past, patients who visited their doctor with concerns about their hearing were often told their hearing was fine, Grimes says.

“We have seen these patients forever and we used to tell them, “There’s nothing we can do for you’ “, she says. “Now we really know that their hearing is not completely normal. It’s just that we haven’t had the tools to measure that it’s not normal, but we’re developing those tools.”

If a patient with hearing complaint tests normal on a standard test, audiologists can do a special exam to measure hearing using specialized speech perception tests in a background noise, Grimes says. “Basically, we have to perform specialized speech tests to discover certain speech sounds that they cannot hear or discriminate. For instance, if we say the word “fat” these patient may interpret the word as “sat.”

With new research into how hearing is damaged both by aging and exposure to load sounds, the estimates of nearly 40 million Americans with hearing loss may be too low, says Grimes.

“The actual prevalence of hearing loss is much greater and begins to start at a much younger age,” she says.

Studies have shown that hearing loss is becoming more prevalent in teenagers, says Grimes. From traffic noise to earbuds blasting music and high-decibel entertainment at sporting events and music concerts, young people (and adults) are exposed more often to louder sounds. While hearing loss can be caused by several factors, such as genetics and congenital conditions, the biggest preventable cause of damaged hearing is noise, Grimes says.

“I went to a (Bruce) Springsteen concert last year and wore ear protection,” Grimes says. “At one point I took out my earplug because I wanted to hear what he was saying and after I took it out the noise was so loud I thought I would die.”

Because our environment has become noisier, Grimes recommends that people get their first hearing test when they suspect hearing loss or at age 40. Previously, the common recommendation was for a hearing test at age 50, she says.

While there are no good treatments specifically for hidden hearing loss, Grimes believes that may change with more research.

“Any treatment that would happen would be very delicate unless it could be treated with a drug or an injection,” she says. “Right now we’re more in the discovery phase, not the treatment phase.”

Meantime, people who suspect some hidden hearing loss may want to limit their time in loud places.

“Restaurants consider a noisy atmosphere to be a sign of a successful restaurant,” she says. “But the No. 1 complaint of my patients is hearing in a restaurant.”