Florida Physicians are conducting research on concussions and part of the research includes a cannabinoid compound found in marijuana. The fact that research is being done at all on marijuana is surprising, and promising considering the strict federal laws on marijuana. Very little research has been conducted on cannabis because acquiring the plant in the first place is federally illegal even for scientists. and if they do dare to acquire it they can find their funding pulled because their benefactor does not want to take the chance. The relaxing rules around cannabis makes this sort of research possible here in the state of Florida that voted to legalize medical marijuana last November.
Concussions do not seem to be very well understood either, or the long-term impacts of the trauma to the brain. Like marijuana, a lot of aggressive actions were taken to slow research into the health ramifications of concussions. Instead of scientific backed facts, assumptions have been traditionally used that would simply allow for time to let initial symptoms fade away and the concussed person would be told to ‘tough it out’. While the research that has begun to happen on both marijuana and concussions are occurring for very different reasons, it is interesting that both are happening at about the same time. Could it be that people have begun to understand the significance of knowing the facts rather than living life based on what amounts to be nothing more than assumptions?
When she was 4, Roberta Gold gave in to her daughter’s competitive spirit and enrolled her in a local soccer program. While the rest of the girls picked daisies on the field, Bari played fiercely against her opponents. She joined a travel team at 9 and worked her way through school and club teams as a center back.
The first time she was hit in the head with a ball last December, the varsity junior captain of the Palmetto Senior High School team complained of a headache but blamed it on dehydration. Two games later, she was hit in the head again. Bari, 17, couldn’t read the words on her U.S. history test and even walked into the wrong classrooms the next day.
“It felt like I was dreaming, but all the time,” she said.
While researchers, the media and even Hollywood with the movie “Concussion” have spent time and money bringing brain injury to the forefront of medical discussions — diagnosing and treating concussions in young athletes often remains a complex medical puzzle.
Florida physicians who specialize in concussions are expanding their programs to tackle the issue. Advancements like cannabis treatment and concussion-detecting goggles, along with concussion clinics, are facilitating quicker detection, treatment and return to sports.
Since 2012, the University of Miami Health System has partnered with 35 Miami-Dade County public high schools, prioritizing concussion prevention and treatment for the county’s 12,000 student athletes. It also works with around 10 private schools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 5 to 10 percent of athletes will experience a concussion in any given sport season.
Part of UHealth’s partnership with the schools is using the ImPACT test, which provides a baseline score for athletic trainers to use to make comparisons and diagnose concussions.
“It’s all web-based, so we can quickly look at it,” said Dr. Gillian Hotz, director of UHealth’s concussion program, who works with neurologist Dr. Kester Nedd. “It’s a starting point to start a discussion about concussion.”
Another tool helping young athletes at UHealth are concussion-detection goggles, which came out of a partnership with Neuro Kinetics, a Pittsburgh-based software company. UHealth otolaryngologist Dr. Michael Hoffer helped develop the goggles after his two military tours.
Technology for the goggles came from a rotating chair Hoffer used as a military physician. The chairs — which are still used by UHealth — track eye movements and pupil dilation to help detect brain injury. However, the chair and the base it sits on cost nearly $250,000 and a Ph.D-level technician needs to operate the chair.
Hoffer said he is also conducting a new study for cannabis concussion treatment alongside Hotz and a team of five other UHealth doctors. The doctors are testing a cannibanoid compound as a treatment for concussion-induced headaches, anxiety and pain.