On Dec 23/2015 while enjoying my supper with the family, I happened to look up at the TV screen to discover that the channel was commenting on the film Concussion to be aired on Christmas Day. I searched for their comments on this “biographical sports thriller” about the condition of CTE: chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Wikipedia’s evaluation of this film under its 9 sections was exceptionally well documented with special praises for the very talented actors-especially the role of the forensic pathologist.
As a medical doctor, a scientist and a gerontologist I was somewhat disappointed to find very little discussion on the preventative aspect of this disease. I guess their emphasis on the denial by the NFL of the problem of CTE was what made it a thriller.
Somehow it reminded me of the status of the polio epidemic of the 1940-50’s. The doctors and scientists of the day had a very important decision to make. They could have invested their resources in perfecting better iron lung machines. If that had been their decision we would now have the best designed iron lung machines inhabited by thousands of patients. Indeed an archival photo from one of the wards of a Winnipeg Hospital showed that this was already happening. Instead of iron lungs the decision was made to find a cure.
We all know the story: vaccines spearheaded by Sabin and Jonas Salk were soon developed. Now except for the occasional outbreak due mainly to the failure of vaccination of children, polio has all but been eliminated from the globe. A similar fate has happened to smallpox infections. The only difference was that in the case of smallpox , the vaccine was first developed in the 19th century by Dr. Edward Jenner long before it was known that smallpox like polio was caused by a virus.
In my view our knowledge of concussions and CTE is currently at the same level that smallpox was in the 1880’s when Dr. Jenner was practicing medicine. Even though we must confess that we really don’t seem to know the cause of concussions, maybe we can still find a cure without that knowledge.
I refer the reader to the small textbook entitled “The Physicians guide to Life extension Drugs” published by the Life Extension Foundation. I currently have the 1998 edition-It is a small volume of only 268 pages. Pages 141-150 discuss the pharmacologic properties of hydergine. Reading this chapter especially the “cat experiment ” suggested to me that this drug might have protective properties in the early phases of a head injury assuming hypoxia and free radical pathology are at play and that this damage occurs before features of a concussion are diagnosed clinically.
Elsewhere I have suggested that players engaged in contact sport might first- take a tablet of this drug before they begin playing. Much like we take our Vitamin C pills to prevent those winter flus. Or like the surgeons who give hydergine intravenously to their patients in some European countries before they begin their cardiac or other major surgeries on their patients as a preventative measure should the patients experience cardiac arrest on the operating table.
Now wouldn’t that make a fascinating medical thriller? I am sure that if Berton Roueche, author of “Eleven Blue Men”, knew about this epidemic of concussions he might have changed the title of his book to “Twelve Blue Men”.