Whether played at the amateur or professional levels, sports offer many benefits, from encouraging exercise and fitness to promoting teamwork and fair play. But athletic endeavors of all kinds also expose participants to the possibility of sports concussion and other head injuries during practice and competition. While even one sports-related brain injury is one too many, a growing body of evidence has shown that repeated head trauma in athletes may increase risk for delayed cognitive or behavioral changes and must be carefully considered in any diagnostic assessment.
At NorthShore, we feature renowned experts advancing knowledge in the area of (CTE) chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a chronic neurodegenerative disease linked to multiple sports concussions. Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of the NorthShore Neurological Institute (NNI), Julian Bailes, MD, is among the country’s foremost leaders in the study of football-related brain injury and the development of CTE. Dr. Bailes’s partnership with Bennet Omalu, MD, a neuropathologist, resulted in the identification of the earliest clinical evidence of the disease in NFL players. In 2015, their groundbreaking work was the subject of the high profile movie Concussion, featuring well-known actors Alec Baldwin as Dr. Bailes and Will Smith, as Dr. Omalu.
To further enhance the diagnosis and treatment of CTE, our sports medicine physicians are keenly interested in better understanding the clinical changes that repetitive head impacts can bring about such as confusion, short-term memory loss, depression and short attention span, to name a few suspected signs of the disorder. Our multidisciplinary team actively advocates the development of clinical guidelines for CTE and educating the medical and sports communities about this serious neurological condition. NorthShore’s specialists frequently share their CTE expertise, presenting at professional meetings such as the American Academy of Neurology Sports Concussion Conference and to special interest groups such as the Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago.
Our traumatic brain injury specialists offer in-office consultation to individuals with a history of repetitive head trauma. An initial visit typically includes a discussion of a patient’s overall exposure to head injury, concussion history and review of any current symptoms. After a comprehensive assessment, our NNI team will initiate a treatment plan. Establishing an on-going relationship with our experienced experts ensures consistent monitoring of short- and long-term symptoms and/or progression and also gives our patients access to the latest advancements in the field.
NorthShore’s unique expertise in traumatic brain injury, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and CTE allows us to provide exceptional clinical care and consultative services to athletes and sports organizations locally, regionally and nationally. Our CTE interest and research has led to greater awareness of the long-term implications of contact sports and promoted initiatives to enhance safety and prevention. Currently, the only way to identify the disease is through the study of brain tissue obtained posthumously or after death. Ongoing research efforts of NorthShore investigators, in collaboration with researchers at UCLA using PET scans, focus on the development of diagnostic methods for earlier identification of the disease in living people.