When Playing Sports is Bad for Your Brain

Brain injuries are in the news a lot these days. San Francisco 49er linebacker Chris Borland, a third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, retired this spring after playing just one season in the NFL, over concerns about head trauma. The NFL and NHL have both been involved in lawsuits involving traumatic brain injuries among players. But brain injuries are not just the concern of pro athletes–studies indicate that children who play football between the ages of 9 and 12 experience between 240 and 585 head hits per season, with a force that is comparable to that experienced by high school and college players. The long-term effect of these hits is not yet known. And brain injuries are not limited to football, hockey and boxing—sports such as soccer carry risks of permanent brain injury.

It is no secret that playing sports can be dangerous, but many people are driven to play by their love of the game, and many more people enjoy watching sports. It may not be reasonable to expect people not to play sports that they love, but some of the dangers of these activities can be mitigated. In this program, a neuroscience researcher and an orthopedic physician will discuss the dangers, prevention and treatment of sports-related traumatic brain injuries.

Dorothy Kozlowski received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Texas-Austin. She completed postdoctoral fellowships in the Department of Neurosurgery at UCLA and in the Neurobiology program at Children’s Memorial Hospital/ Northwestern University prior to joining the faculty at DePaul in 2000. She is currently a Vincent de Paul Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and is the recipient of a DePaul Excellence in Teaching Award as well as an “ Educator of the Year”  award from the national Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience. Her research focuses on understanding how the brain changes after a traumatic brain injury and how neural plasticity and rehabilitation can be used as treatment strategies. In addition to research on brain injury, she and her students work to educate youth on concussions and playing sports safely.

Jeffrey Mjaanes is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Orthopedic Surgery and Pediatrics at Rush University Medical Center. In practice, he sees sports injuries in patients of all ages, from children and adolescents to adults, and recreational to elite athletes, including high-level college and professional athletes. Dr. Mjaanes sees young athletes from all sports including many local gymnastics, wrestling, soccer and football clubs. He has worked with dancers and performers in local productions, including Broadway in Chicago shows such as Billy Elliot, Shrek, and others. At the collegiate level, Mjaanes serves as a head physician for the DePaul University Blue Demons. At the professional level, he has been one of the team physicians for the United States Soccer Federation for eight years. Mjaanes currently serves as medical director of the Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic at Rush. One of his primary areas of interest in research is prevention and treatment of sports-related concussion and traumatic brain injuries.

Moderator: Peggy Mason, PhD is a Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Chicago. She received both her BA in Biology and her Phd in Neuroscience from Harvard. Mason has been on the faculty of University of Chicago since 1992 She wrote a single-author textbook designed for medical students (Medical Neurobiology, Oxford University Press, 2011).  Professor Mason’s research focuses on the neurobiological basis of empathy and helping.

DETAILS: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, Northwestern University, 303 E. Superior St., Hughes Auditorium, Chicago IL 60611. Doors 5:00 pm, program 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.

This program is FREE to attend, but registration is strongly encouraged at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/when-playing-sports-is-bad-for-your-brain-tickets-16131130646

Can’t join us live? Then join us via live stream, or watch the program at your leisure at a later date on our YouTube channel, C2ST TV. Streaming starts at 6pm https://www.youtube.com/user/C2STvideos/videos

Questions? Contact Andrea Poet at apoet@c2st.org or 312-567-5795.

ABOUT C2ST: Chicago Council on Science and Technology is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization that brings researchers and scientists out of the lab, directly to you. We work with national laboratories, leading academic institutions and museums to educate the public on issues of critical scientific importance. In an age when barely one in four voting adults meet a basic level of scientific literacy, we aim to reignite an excitement and passion for science and technology, and remind Chicagoans of the quality and quantity of R&D that takes place in their backyard.