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New Jersey college player recovers from brain injury

A New Jersey college football player is reported to be on the road to recovery after a potentially fatal brain injury.

The 20-year-old, who is a sophomore at Princeton University, was at football practice when his teammates noticed that he was acting confused. The player reports that he doesn't remember much, except perhaps feeling like he had a concussion. The team doctor sent the college player to Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell, which has the only neurologic emergency room in the country.

The emergency care doctors diagnosed the boy as having a brain bleed, causing brain cells to die by the second from too much pressure in the head. Doctors drilled a hole in the boy's skull to drain the fluid, which stabilized the boy's condition.

This story has a happy ending. However, in a recent post to New Jersey readers, we discussed a theory linking traumatic brain injury to the development of neurodegenerative problems or conditions like dementia. Unfortunately, another recent study adds to the growing body of evidence linking repeated hits to the head -- like those often experienced while playing sports -- to long-term, degenerative disease or cognitive impairment.

The study involved brain samples taken posthumously from 85 people, 17 to 98 years old, who had histories of repeated, mild brain injury-- often in the form of routine hits to the head while playing sports. Of the 85-member sample, 68 showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, an incurable brain disease.

Some researchers believe that inflammation in the brain caused by head trauma may disrupt the barrier separating blood circulation and brain fluid, which may make the brain more vulnerable to certain environmental effects. However, the onset of a disease may not be until years or even decades after the traumatic event (or the end of a person's participation in sports). For example, some in the study were high school athletes, whereas others were middle-aged or older. For that reason, the disease may only gradually interfere with a person's ability to work.

To receive federal disability benefits, the Social Security Administration often requires more than a mere diagnosis. Evidence of the functional limitations imposed by a disease, and how it interferes with a person's ability to work, will often be required in an application for SSDI benefits. For that reason, many applicants turn to an experienced Social Security lawyer.

Source: 6abc.com, "NJ college student survives brain injury," Nora Muchanic, Dec. 4, 2012

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