Series: The Science Of Brain Health

Scientists are still developing a better understanding of brain health and maladies from concussions to Alzheimer's disease, but it's clear that choices made at all stages of life can have significant consequences for the human body's most complex organ. Brain health plays a role in everyday wellness challenges elderly adults face, including the danger of falling. Additionally, as Wisconsin's overall population ages, research and public-health efforts promoting well-being and quality of life are focusing on issues like degenerative neural diseases and strokes. At the same time, the medical community is becoming more concerned about threats to younger and middle-aged people's brain health, especially when it comes to devastating effects of athletics-related injuries, whether in high-school competitions or professional sports. Whatever the circumstances, the condition of the brain has myriad effects on both physical and mental health.
 
The gridiron is not the only venue where athletics-related concussions can occur — every sport includes some risk of fall or collision that can result in a blow to the head.
Young children inevitably fall as they learn what they can do physically and experiment with their limits. If a fall results in a blow to the head, the child may have sustained a traumatic brain injury.
If a student-athlete is eager to get back on the field after a blow to the head, who is holding them back and how are they held accountable?
The symptoms and causes of strokes can vary widely, but it's always crucial to get victims medical help as quickly as possible.
Despite the universality of sleep, the purpose of this biological imperative remains somewhat shrouded in mystery.
Debra Pyka did not know the true risks of football when she decided to allow her three sons to play youth tackle football.
At 6 feet tall and 195 pounds, Tony Megna was considered too small to be a college football linebacker. Megna was determined, though, to play for the University of Wisconsin-Madison squad.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher is examining ways to improve athletes' reporting of brain injuries — a key to preventing long-term neurological damage.
Wisconsin is in the middle of a national controversy about the health risks of contact sports, with research into concussions being conducted in the state, and a string of players who have left football after suffering brain injuries.
Dr. Bennet Omalu likens the American obsession with football to a religion. In that regard, he might be considered a heretic: Omalu has equated allowing children to play football to child abuse and warns that the NFL is doomed unless it starts reducing harmful blows to the head.