Health Buzz: Brain Trauma Can Mimic Lou Gehrig's Disease

Protecting your teen from hearing loss; "care management" as a way to handle multiple health problems.

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Brain Trauma Can Mimic Lou Gehrig's Disease

Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig's disease. A new study suggests that repeated concussions from playing sports can cause a motor-neuron disorder with symptoms that mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the ailment more often known by the name of the baseball great who died nearly 70 years ago. Like many professional athletes then and now, Gehrig often played through injuries, which included concussions. When researchers examined the brains and spinal cords of 12 deceased athletes thought to have died of ALS—all had a history of multiple concussions—they found that the athletes may actually have had chronic traumatic encephalomyopathy, a degenerative brain condition linked to head trauma. It's likely that some people—perhaps even Gehrig—suffered from the condition but were diagnosed with ALS. Two telltale proteins distinguish CTE from ALS, the researchers say. Symptoms of both conditions include weakness or numbness in the limbs, uncontrollable muscle twitching, and gradual loss of movement. The findings, published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, strengthen evidence about the long-term damage of traumatic head injuries, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Head Injury Can Be Hard to Spot, Especially in Kids
  • Had a Concussion? Don't Panic, but Do Be Cautious
  • 3 Ways to Protect Your Teen from Hearing Loss

    Teenagers are losing their hearing in greater numbers: One in five now has some hearing loss, up 31 percent from a decade ago, according to a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That means 6.5 million teens now have hearing loss. Much of that hearing loss was slight, but the trend is troubling, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute. Although researchers don't know the cause, the popularity of MP3 players and other personal music players presumably is a major contributing factor.

    We tend to think of hearing loss as an old person's problem, but hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds is different from age-related loss and affects all age groups. Many teens, even some adults, don't realize that hearing loss from excessive volume—be it from street noise, live music, or earbuds—is permanent. "Noise is pollution," says Pam Mason, a certified audiologist at the American Speech Language Hearing Association who works with rock musicians to protect their hearing. "Children don't often think that by putting themselves in a noisy environment, they're putting their hearing in danger."

    So what can parents do to encourage children to protect their hearing without having to yank the iPod? The American Speech Language Hearing Association has launched "Listen to Your Buds," an effort aimed at teaching parents and children about the risk of long-term hearing loss caused by loud music. [Read more: 3 Ways to Protect Your Teen from Hearing Loss.]

    • Start Early to Protect Children's Ears From That MP3 Player
    • It's Not Too Late to Guard Against Hearing Loss
    • Multiple Health Problems? Try "Care Management"

      How well do the parents of the 7 million children who have been diagnosed with asthma cope after they get the news? What about ordinary people without the benefit of medical school training who live with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease? Even seeing your doctor several times a year isn't enough to keep you well versed on keeping your disease under control given the short amount of time physicians can spend with patients, family physician Kenny Lin writes for U.S. News. That's a major reason why so many with diabetes and heart failure wind up in the hospital again and again with complications related to their condition.

      One solution that's becoming more widespread: "care management" or "disease management" programs now offered by many health insurance plans and some large employers like IBM to help patients manage their care between doctor visits. Basic programs generally offer round-the-clock telephone or E-mail access to health educators and informational brochures. More-intensive programs may include home visits by nurses and/or remote monitoring of pharmacy usage to keep track of prescriptions written by multiple physicians. Employers and health insurance companies hope to benefit in the long run by keeping employees on the job and defraying costs of multiple hospitalizations for poorly managed conditions. [Read more: Multiple Health Problems? Try Care Management.]