Don’t Neglect Your Noggin

Photo credit: Aaron Stevens

Concussions are a growing topic of concern among people due to the ongoing issues present in the NFL with player injuries and problems that the injury can cause long after it has been treated.

Anyone can experience a concussion at any moment on account of the human brain being fragile. Traumatic brain injuries, or more commonly known as concussions, are a becoming an issue that is taking up more and more airtime on news stations and striking up public curiosity.

One of the biggest factors causing the curiosity of concussions is that the NFL, the biggest professional sports organization in the U.S., has been in a longtime legal battle with former and current football players over player safety in regards to brain injury. Professional athletes are not the only people who can experience a concussion. Young people who are still in college athletics suffer from these types of issues.

Josh Blevins, who played football from grade school through high school in Fort Wayne, has experienced three concussions in his life that are still affecting him now as a senior in college.

“I got one in grade school in the middle of a game. I don’t remember anything after being tackled in the second quarter. I woke up at home the next day,” Blevins said. “The other two were at practices for [high school football]. One felt like a normal headache. The one I sat out for, made me feel like I was being put under at the dentist but I couldn’t fall asleep.”

Blevins said that he still gets a “migraine everything month or so.”

Football is not the only way that people can experience a concussion. Playing any contact sport can open the door to head injury. Cheerleading is a sport that can create serious brain trauma because the body is tossed around, which can cause the brain to shake. Violent falls or car accidents are also serious causes of concussions.

Dr. Manny Manalo, a physician with the Lutheran Medical Group in Fort Wayne, says that whether or not there are lasting effects to the body long after a concussion is treated, depends on the level of severity of the head trauma.

“Usually in mild conditions, patients recover fully. In severe concussions, permanent damage to the brain could occur ultimately affecting the rest of the body.” Manalo said.

A concussion is a trauma induced condition that alters the way the brain functions and could cause loss of other bodily functions. A hard blow to head is what usually can cause the trauma, but it can also happen when the body is shaken violently. The Mayo Clinic states on its website that a person can experience unconsciousness when getting a concussion, but most concussions do not cause a person to lose consciousness. Because of this, some people do not realize they have a concussion.

A concussion can affect the body by causing serious headaches, a ringing in the ears, stomach pain, and muscle fatigue. Those are just a few of the immediate problems that could arise from head trauma, but recent research has found that concussions could possibly have lasting effects.

CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), is a degenerative disease that can cause symptoms of dementia, memory loss, anger, confusion and depression. Many of these symptoms appear years later, and in some cases, decades after the multiple head injuries have happened.

In the event of a concussion, the brain can go through many different scenarios depending on the severity level of the injury. Brain swelling is a possibility, and a shift out of its normal place can happen if the hit is hard enough. Symptoms of concussions vary with the level of how hard the causing hit was.

Other immediate symptoms upon getting a concussion can be loss of consciousness, loss of bodily functions, sensitivity to light and nausea or vomiting. Considering that the brain is the control center of the body, a bad enough concussion can lead to loss of feeling or paralysis in certain areas of the body.

“If the pituitary is affected, hormonal regulation would be affected. In terms of the nervous system, the cranial nerves would be affected. For example, if the optic nerve were affected, then vision would be impaired. The effects on these systems depend on where location of the trauma in the brain occurs,” Dr. Manalo said on the effects on the anatomy and physiology of the body.

The disruption of the endocrine system, which produces hormones, can lead to issues down the road. An imbalance of hormones and chemicals in the body can cause disorders like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings just to name a few according to Mayo Clinic research. Many of the former NFL players experienced many of these problems at the same time.

Before the 2013 football season, the NFL reached an agreement to payout $765 million in concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players who were a part of a lawsuit that accuses the league of concealing the problems that come from concussions, and profiting off of the bone-chilling hits that the league uses for its highlight reels.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was the family of Junior Seau, who died of a suicide in 2012. Seau, who had been retired for a few years by that time, had been suffering from injuries he sustained during his playing career which included concussions. The autopsy revealed that Seau had been dealing with CTE as so many former NFL players who passed away were later revealed to have.

Brandon Payton, who also experienced multiple concussions in his life due to his involvement with contact sports, spoke about the affect his injuries had on his vision.

“After I had a constant headache for about two weeks, and whenever light hit my eye, they got really sensitive and my headache got worse,” Payton said.

Dr. Manalo says that in the event of a head injury to be sure to pay attention to symptoms. Not everyone is a professional doctor, and should be sure to go see a doctor when in doubt. He also says to be proactive and not reactive. Take some rest and reduce head movement as much as possible.

Concussions are a danger for anyone because everyone has a brain that is sensitive. Contact sports, accidents and car wrecks are leading causes of head trauma, but even a violent shake of the body can lead to serious injury. College students, kids and adults can get hurt at any time because accidents happen.

If you experience a blow to the head that is hard enough to cause a blackout or headache then you should immediately consult with a medical professional.

The Truth is Told of the Many Misconceptions of Gluten

Photo credit: Cody Neuenschwander

It has been roughly seven years since Jessica Grote heard the words “you need to go on a gluten-free diet.”

Grote, a senior a Concordia Lutheran High School, said her diagnosis was a difficult process. She said she had not been feeling great for a while and her doctor could not figure out why.

She was then instructed, by her doctor, to go on an “intense gluten diet.” Grote said this diet consisted of food with high wheat content. She ate foods like whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat noodles – if it had wheat – she ate it, she said.

During this diet, Grote said she experienced some of the most severe symptoms she had ever had.

At the peak of these symptoms, her doctor administered a blood test and then instructed her to go off gluten completely.

A few weeks after the intense diet, Grote’s symptoms subsided and she felt better than she ever had before.

Grote’s blood test came back showing results that showed gluten intolerances and was then diagnosed with gluten intolerance.

Grote was diagnosed in the fifth grade and has not consumed gluten since.

Issues regarding gluten and its affect on the body have been in the “hot seat” for a while, but there are many misconceptions regarding these issues.

What even is gluten? According to livescience.com, gluten is composed of two different proteins: gliadin and glutenin. These proteins are found in the wheat endosperm, a tissue produced in seeds that are ground out to make flour.

Sara Mathes, RDN, said there are two main categories to gluten issues: gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity. She said one of the main misconceptions of people is that there is not a difference between gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity.

The main difference between the two categories, gluten intolerance (celiac disease) and gluten sensitivity, is that those affected by celiac disease have a set of antibodies in their blood along with extreme intestinal damage.

In 2012, a group of researchers in Norway developed this standard that separates the two terms and defines each.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease.

The NFCA defines celiac disease as a genetic autoimmune disease. It affects the villi of the small intestine and prevents the proper absorption of nutrients.

According to the NFCA, 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity.

The NFCA defines non-celiac gluten sensitivity as an innate immune response, much like an allergic reaction.

Mathes said another common misconception by people is that gluten is only found in wheat.

“Remember the acronym, B.R.O.W.,” Mathes said. “Barley, rye, oats, and wheat.”

Mathes said oats do not originally contain gluten, but many factories that produce oats have cross contamination with gluten products. Mathes said cross contamination is a huge problem for the individuals with celiac disease.

She said B.R.O.W. helps people with both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity because it is easy to remember. Upon being diagnosed with either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, Mathes said she hands her patient a huge binder. Inside the binder is a detailed list of everything inedible for the affected patient.

“Instead of memorizing the specifics, B.R.O.W. makes it easy for people to be able to read ingredients and feel confident on whether or not they should consume a product,” Mathes said.

Mathes said the symptoms of both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are quite similar. The symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following: bloating, gas, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation and joint pain.

She said most gluten sensitive individuals will notice peaks and pits of their symptoms, while those affected by celiac disease are in constant struggle with symptoms.

Mathes said there is a huge issue with cross contamination with gluten-free products and gluten products.

“Some people are so intolerant they cannot use the same toaster a person had once placed gluten-rich bread in,” Mathes said.

There are also many day-to-day products that contain gluten- it is not just food items.

“I am not going to be concerned with my toothpaste, my deodorant or my hairspray… I’m just not,” Deb Fulton, a sufferer of gluten sensitivity, said. “You have to draw the line somewhere.”

Fulton was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity five ago. She said she experienced issues with digestion but also a huge part of her symptoms dealt with her fatigue and joint pain.

She said she just did not feel well and was sick of not feeling well so she went to a doctor to figure out why.

When she was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity she said she started cutting gluten out, but knew it would be near impossible to go without it completely.

“If I am putting in 90% effort in cutting out gluten products then I think I am doing just fine,” Fulton said. “But, sometimes I find myself asking if the pizza really worth it.”

According to the NFCA, if a person feels like they may be experiencing issues with gluten the NFCA suggests seeing a doctor and not self-diagnosing. They said receiving professional help is the quickest way to start feeling better.

“Though I miss the fluffiness of breads and pastries, I would not change my new restricted diet for anything,” Grote said. “I feel better than ever!”