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Chris Henry Had Chronic Brain Injury

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by Faerluna, Jun 28, 2010.

  1. Faerluna

    Faerluna I'm Complicated

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    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/28/chris-henry-had-chronic-b_n_627482.html

    MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry suffered from a chronic brain injury that may have influenced his mental state and behavior before he died last winter, West Virginia University researchers said Monday.

    The doctors had done a microscopic tissue analysis of Henry's brain that showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
    Neurosurgeon Julian Bailes and California medical examiner Bennet Omalu, co-directors of the Brain Injury Research Institute at WVU, announced their findings alongside Henry's mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy, who called it a "big shock" because she knew nothing about her 26-year-old son's underlying condition or the disease.

    Henry died in December, a day after he came out of the back of a pickup truck his fiancee was driving near their home in Charlotte, N.C. It's unclear whether Henry jumped or fell. Toxicology tests found no alcohol in his system, and an autopsy concluded he died of numerous head injuries, including a fractured skull and brain hemorrhaging.

    But Bailes, team doctor for the Mountaineers and a former Pittsburgh Steelers physician, said it's easy to distinguish those acute traumatic injuries from the underlying condition he and Omalu found when staining tiny slices of Henry's brain.

    Bailes and fellow researchers believe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is caused by multiple head impacts, regardless of whether those blows result in a concussion diagnosis. A number of studies, including one commissioned by the NFL, have found that retired professional football players may have a higher rate than normal of Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems.

    What's interesting, Bailes said, is that Henry was only 26, and neither NFL nor WVU records show he was diagnosed with a concussion during his playing career.

    But it doesn't take a collision with another player for brain trauma to occur.
    "The brain floats freely in your skull," Omalu said. "If you're moving very quickly and suddenly stop, the brain bounces."

    And over time, with repetition, that causes big problems. CTE carries specific neurobehavioral symptoms, Bailes said – typically, failure at personal and business relationships, use of drugs and alcohol, depression and suicide.

    "Chris Henry did not have that entire spectrum and we don't know if there's a cause and effect here," Bailes said. "It certainly raises the question and raises our curiosity. We're just here to report our findings. That may be for others to decipher."

    Henry's personal struggles were well documented.
    Although he was a vital part of the Bengals' offense as a rookie, he ended that season with an arrest for marijuana possession. After a playoff loss to Pittsburgh, he was arrested on a gun charge in Florida.
    Henry was suspended for half a season in 2007 as the league cracked down on personal conduct.

    When he was arrested a fifth time, a judge called Henry "a one-man crime wave" and the Bengals released him.

    But Henry got a second chance and played 12 games in the 2008 season.
    Teammates said they'd noticed a change his demeanor, and at the start of the 2009 season, he described himself as "blessed" and said he was turning his life around.

    Glaspy gave Bailes permission to examine her son's brain in detail.
    "I was a little scared," she said. "It was something new to me. I'm still trying to educate myself as to what it means. Some of it makes sense with some of the behavioral patterns in Chris – just like mood swings and the headaches.

    "Hopefully I can share whatever they share with me with other parents and help the NFL deal with the matter of being hit in the head and concussions and to educate ourselves as mothers and fathers when we send our kids out there on the field."

    Omalu first came across CTE, a condition often seen in boxers, after studying the brain of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame lineman Mike Webster. Webster died in 2002 of a heart attack at age 50. He had suffered brain damage that left him unable to work following his career.
    Bailes said he and Omalu have now analyzed the brains of 27 modern athletes, and the majority showed evidence of CTE. But it's found in only a small number of players, he said.

    "I think football is a great sport, and we want to make it safer," Bailes said, "but we have to continue to move forward with changes made recently and take the head impacts out of the sport as much as possible."
  2. ZeroClub

    ZeroClub just trying to get better

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    link

    Sunday, June 27, 2010
    Updated: June 28, 7:51 PM ET

    Researchers find brain trauma in Henry
    By Peter Keating
    ESPN The Magazine

    Chris Henry, the Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver who died in a traffic accident last year, had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) -- a form of degenerative brain damage caused by multiple hits to the head -- at the time of his death, according to scientists at the Brain Injury Research Institute, a research center affiliated with West Virginia University.

    "We would have been very happy if the results had been negative, but multiple areas of Chris Henry's brain showed CTE," said Julian Bailes, director of BIRI and chairman of neurosurgery at West Virginia. Bailes and his colleagues presented results of their forensic examination at a news conference Monday afternoon.

    Researchers have now discovered CTE in the brains of more than 50 deceased former athletes, including more than a dozen NFL and college players, pro wrestler Chris Benoit and NHL player Reggie Fleming.

    Repeated blows to the head are the only known cause of CTE, researchers say. Concussive hits can trigger a buildup of toxic tau protein within the brain, which in turn can create damaging tangles and threads in the neural fibers that connect brain tissue. Victims can lose control of their impulses, suffer depression and memory loss, and ultimately develop dementia.

    At the news conference Monday, Bailes said that neither NFL nor WVU records show Henry was diagnosed with a concussion during his playing career.

    But it doesn't take a collision with another player for brain trauma to occur.

    "The brain floats freely in your skull," said Bennet Omalu, a neuropathologist who is co-director of BIRI. "If you're moving very quickly and suddenly stop, the brain bounces."

    While the links between CTE and behavior are still being studied, many of the former athletes diagnosed with this form of brain damage died under unusual circumstances. Ex-Steeler Justin Strzelczyk, for example, was killed in 2004 after experiencing hallucinations, leading police on a high-speed chase for 40 miles before driving his car into a tanker truck. In 2007, Benoit strangled his wife and 7-year-old son, then put Bibles next to their bodies and hanged himself. Tom McHale, a guard for three NFL teams remembered by teammates as smart and dependable, sank into depression and died of a multiple-drug overdose in 2008.

    Henry, 26, died on Dec. 17, 2009, a day after he either jumped or fell from the back of a moving pickup truck being driven by his fiancée, Loleini Tonga. The two had been involved in a dispute before Tonga got into the truck and Henry jumped in. One witness told reporters that Henry said, "If you take off, I'm going to jump off the truck and kill myself."

    It is still not clear whether Henry jumped or fell, but as Tonga was driving at about 19 mph, Henry crashed to the ground, suffering a fractured skull and massive head injuries. Police ruled the incident an accident. No traces of alcohol were found in a toxicology report, which didn't include any other tests for drugs. No charges were filed against Tonga.

    After Henry's death, his mother, Carolyn Henry Glaspy, gave BIRI permission to examine his brain in detail.

    CTE can be pinpointed only by autopsy, and even under regular postmortem analysis, its effects are invisible. But using cell-staining techniques discovered and developed by Omalu, scientists can see the dangerous tau proteins and telltale tangles that characterize CTE. After staining, normal brain cells are blue and uncluttered under a microscope, while Henry's brain cells were discolored, clumpy and filled with threads, according to the researchers.

    Now, Bailes -- and likely Henry's family, friends and fans -- will wonder if his neural damage contributed to his emotional volatility, including whatever problems he was suffering the day he died.

    "I think it did," Bailes said. "Superimposed on the acute brain injuries Chris suffered when he died, there was fairly extensive damage throughout his brain that was fully consistent with CTE. This syndrome is expressed not only as changes in the brain, but clinically, as behavioral changes. And starting with Mike Webster, we have seen common threads in these cases: emotional disturbances, depression, failed personal relationships and businesses, suicidal thoughts, sometimes alcohol or drug use."

    "I'm just trying to learn what happened, and what the situation was with Chris' brain," Glaspy told ESPN.com on Sunday. "Whatever I can do to help anyone else who is going through this, I'm willing to do."

    At the news conference, Glaspy said the results were a "big shock" because she knew nothing about her 26-year-old son's underlying condition or the disease.

    "I was a little scared," she said. "It was something new to me. I'm still trying to educate myself as to what it means. Some of it makes sense with some of the behavioral patterns in Chris -- just like mood swings and the headaches.

    "Hopefully I can share whatever they share with me with other parents and help the NFL deal with the matter of being hit in the head and concussions and to educate ourselves as mothers and fathers when we send our kids out there on the field."

    For years, the NFL and its affiliated researchers disputed scientific evidence linking concussions to long-term brain damage. However, referring to reports of CTE among former players, NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee co-chair Richard Ellenbogen told The New York Times earlier this month, "They aren't assertions or hype -- they are facts."

    In April, the league announced a $1 million gift to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University.

    Henry, a native of Belle Chasse, La., played collegiately at West Virginia and was a third-round pick by the Bengals in 2005. He played for five tumultuous seasons in the NFL; he was arrested five times during his pro career, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the first half of the 2007 season for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

    But after Cincinnati brought him back in 2008, Henry vowed to put his substance abuse and anger management issues behind him. And he had been succeeding, according to teammates as well as Bengals officials.

    Bailes, a former Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor and currently the team doctor for West Virginia, said his quest is to make football safer.

    "I think football is a great sport, and we want to make it safer," Bailes said, "but we have to continue to move forward with changes made recently and take the head impacts out of the sport as much as possible."

    Peter Keating is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His blog appears on ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
  3. HoleInTheRoof

    HoleInTheRoof Benched

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    I hope when I die, people don't go digging in my brain.

    I'm afraid what they might find.

    Also, my computer hard-drive . . . don't go digging in there either.

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