High School Football Players Accused Of Knocking Youth Unconscious Barred From Playing


Posted on 27th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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It looks like the Wayne Township Board of Education in New Jersey finally grew a pair

Maybe it was the pressure of having their town assailed, not just locally but across the country, for allowing high school football to be king — the disgraceful actions of the youths who play the sport be damned. It all involves the aftermath of the beating of two students, an attack that left one of them unconscious and lying on a road.

Here’s the long and short of it. In a fight that happened at a party Oct. 29, nine football players for Wayne Hills High School — including wide receiver Andrew Monaghan — were accused of beating two students from rival school Wayne Valley High.   


When school officials at Wayne Hills allowed the nine players, who have been charged with aggravated assault, to take part in two playoff games after the Oct. 29 incident, some Wayne residents were “outraged,” according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.

It’s a surprise any residents were outraged, since high school football players are often given special treatment, and often get a sense of entitlement, namely that they can do whatever they want. 

The accused players had their advocates. Some residents, and the lawyers for the players, argued that the accused youths should be able to play. After all, they have not been convicted of any crime and are innocent until proven guilty, proponents for the players argued, according to The Ledger.

But on Friday the Wayne school board changed its tune. It unanimously ruled that the nine accused Wayne Hills players won’t be able to play in a state championship game next Saturday. The board said that the Oct. 29 incident “has left a black mark on our community.”

Until the case against the players is resolved, they should not be allowed to take the field, that’s our take. 

Interim School Superintendent Michael Roth several weeks ago ruled that the accused players couldn’t be suspended because their alleged actions took place off-campus. But then Roth had a change of heart, and reversed that decision Nov. 16, The Ledger reported. But then school school board voted to stay Roth’s decision.

On Friday the board lifted that stay.

The assault case is under criminal investigation, and the school board made some smart suggestions in the interim.

It wants a code of ethics written that will govern all schools in the district. It wants the state to precisely define when a school district can suspend a student for off-campus activities. And it wants the state Attorney General to follow the case to determine “whether it falls under the harassment, intimidation and bullying statute,” The Ledger wrote.

The story didn’t mention what happened to the youth who was knocked unconscious.    


Mistrial Declared In Parking-Punch Case, Guilty Pleas In Shopping-Cart Case


Posted on 26th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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We recently wrote about two grizzly attacks in Manhattan that resulted in traumatic brain injury for their victims. There has been news on both cases.

In the first case, a large man was on trial for punching a 4-foot-11 woman in the face in a fight over a parking spot. The woman sustained brain damage, was in a coma for days and is now wearing a helmet to protect her skull until she undergoes additional surgery.

In the other case, two youths allegedly dropped a shopping cart from a mall railing onto a philanthropist who had gone shopping in Harlem for Halloween candy. The victim is in a coma.     


In the punching incident, on Nov. 14 a mistrial was declared in the case of Oscar Fuller, who delivered a full-force blow to the face of Lana Rosas of the Bronx. A sole male juror held out on the jury panel, resulting in the mistrial.

Fuller struck Rosas as they were arguing nose-to-nose because she was trying to save a parking spot on East 14th Street in Manhattan by standing in the middle of it. The woman was knocked down and hit her head on the pavement.  

Trying to hold a parking space in Manhattan is a no-no. But it obviously doesn’t warrant a punch to the head.

Rosas was in a coma for nine days, underwent surgery and had part of her skull removed, and now has to wear a helmet until that piece of bone is put back.

According to the New York Post, the prosecutor’s case for felony assault was hard to prove because Fuller only hit Rosas once, raising reasonable doubt about whether he meant to do serious harm to her. Fuller will be retried.


In the shopping cart incident, both youths who threw the cart on top of Marion Hedges, 47, have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their Oct. 30 “prank.” She remains in Harlem Hospital in a coma from her head injuries.

On Wednesday a 12-year-old, identified only as Raymond H., pleaded guilty to a reduced assault charge for throwing the cart off a four-story elevated walkway. He can be held in a detention facility until his 18th birthday, according to the New York Daily News.


The other youth involved in the prank, 13-year-old Jeovanni R., pleaded guilty to the same charge a week ago, the News reported.

The judge refused to release both youths to their families pending their sentencings. 

Maybe being incarcerated until they are 18 will make this idiotic pair figure out why it’s not funny to hit someone in the head with a parking cart.      


Former Green Bay Packer Forrest Gregg Has Parkinson’s Disease, Which Has Been Linked To Head Injuries


Posted on 24th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Forrest Gregg, an ex-Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Is that malady linked to he concussions and brain injuries that he sustained during his career?

That’s the intriguing question raised by sports columnist Brooke McGee of the Bleacher Report.


Right now Gregg has developed hand tremors, a stooped posture and smaller stride, according to McGee.  A Parkinson’s expert, Dr. Rajeev Kumar, has diagnosed Gregg with the disease.

The columnist then goes on to cite research from the Mayo Clinic, which says, “those who have experienced a head injury are four times more likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease than those who have never suffered a head injury. The risk of developing Parkinson’s increases eightfold for patients who have had head trauma requiring hospitalization, and it increases 11-fold for patients who have experienced severe head injury.”

The sounds like pretty convincing data to make one believe that Gregg’s Parkinson’s was prompted by the many concussions that the NFL veteran suffered while playing for Green Bay and Dallas, according to McGee.

And we’d have to agree.

It’s unfortunate that the league stuck its head in the sand, and then was in utter denial for so long, about the long-term impact of head injuries and concussions on players.   



Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ‘Brain Freeze’ Is Nothing To Be Alarmed About


Posted on 14th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized


Texas Gov. Rick Perry made light of his “brain freeze” during a debate last Wednesday, go so far as to appear on “Late  Show With David Letterman” laer in the week to poke fun at his memory lapse.  

In the middle of a GOP presidential debate, Perry struggled to recall the name of one of the three federal agencies he claims should be eliminated: the Department of Energy. The New York Times took a look at Perry’s gaffe in a story with the headline “The Science Behind Perry’s Brain Freeze: All Too Human.” 


According to The Times, when someone is trying to find data that is new or not used often, “the brain’s prefrontal cortex is engaged, and interacts with the medial temporal lobe, the part of the brain that forms and retrieves memories of facts and events.”

The Times compares the medial temporal lobe to a library card system, “pointing to the locations in the brain where different memories are stored and allowing the memory to be recalled.”

But that system didn’t work for Perry during the debate. Experts told The Times that Perry could have been distracted by one of his opponents. Or maybe he was already thinking about his next point, so he lost track of the question at hand.

“Stress also can impair the function of the hippocampus, which is involved in memory retrieval,” The Times wrote.

All in all, although Perry’s opponents tried to make a lot of political hay about his gaffe, we think it only shows that he is like the rest of us.


Can It Happen? British Youth Claims He Became Gay After Stroke


Posted on 12th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Anything written by the British tabloids is subject to suspicion. And the Daily Mail’s story last week about a youth who claims he woke up gay after breaking his neck, being unconscious and having a stroke was a bit much to swallow.

But writer Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com decided to do some research and talk to some experts to determine if the Daily Mail’s story could possibly be true. And it’s a good read. 


The Daily Mail tabloid story told the tale of 26-year-old heterosexual Chris Birch, who was 266 pounds, played sports and had just proposed to his girlfriend. Like a lot of macho young men, Birch liked to show off. He was demonstrating a back flip in a gym when he had an accident, and wound up breaking his neck and having a stroke.

He was unconscious, but the story did not say for how long. When he woke up, Birch said he “felt different.” He was no longer atracted to women. He said he was gay. He slimmed down to 154 pounds, became a hairdresser and now lives with his boyfriend.

In her skeptical look at this story, Clark-Flory wrote that this would not be the first case where “someone has claimed that a brain injury changed their sexual orientation.”

She noted that Salon had once run a story by a woman whose son came out of the closet after suffering brain trauma. 

There are many documented cases offering proof that strokes and traumatic brain injury can result in major changes in a person’s sexual behavior and personality, according to Clark-Flory. Some people lose their sex drive, and others see an increase in drive. She even notes that there are a few cases where heterosexual men became pedophiles.

There was a case where a man began hoarding child pornography and molested his stepdaughter. As it turns out, the man had developed a major brain tumor, and once it was removed his pedophilia ended.

Clark-Flory also cited a report in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinicial Neurosciences, about a man who went from homosexual to heterosexual after having a stroke.

She also consulted with Richard Wassersug, a neurobiology professor at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. In his research he has found that when some men are deprived of androgens, namely steroid hormones such as testosterone, their sexual orientation can change.

That could be the explanation of what happened in Birch’s case.

“By extenson, if a stroke knocks out certain centers in the brain with androgen receptors, it is not a big jump to consider it possible for a stroke to alter sexual orientation,” Wassersug told Clark-Flory.

In ending, the writer said that one study had suggested that changes in sexual preference linked to brain lesions may mean that there are parts of the brain that control sexual orientation.

So Birch’s story, about turning gay after having a stroke, may not be so crazy after all.        


Top Brain Researcher Authors Book On ‘Free Will And The Science Of The Brain’


Posted on 6th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized


Dr. Michael Gazzaniga is credited with being one of the researchers to discover, through a series of studies, that the brain’s functions are divided between its right and left hemispheres.

Gazzaniga has a new book, “Who’s In Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain” that comes out this month. And timed to its publication, and a recent talk Gazzaniga did at a conference sponsored by the Edge Foundation, The New York Times did a profile of him last week. It had the headline “Decoding the Brain’s Cacophony.” 


Now a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Gazzaniga is raising questions about neuroscience and how it its being used in court.  

At the conference, he said that science regarding the brain “will eventually begin to influence how the public views justice and responsibility,” according to The Times.

 “Scientists now know that the brain runs largely on autopiot; it acts first and asks questions later, often explaining behavior after the fact,” The Times wrote. “So if much of behavior is automatic, then how responsible are people for their actions?”

The article goes into depth about the series of studies that Gazzaniga was involved in at a very young age at Caltech. Those experiments indicated that the left side of the brain governs intellectual, logical functions; while the right side was the one that made “visual-spatial” connections.

That was the Eureka moment in a day and age when it was widely believed that “specific brain functions like memory were widely — and uniformly — distributed in the brain, not concentrated in discrete regions,” The Times wrote.  

Gazzaniga became the founding director in 2007 of the John D. and  Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Law and Neuroscience Project, which monitors applications in the legal system.

“In recent years lawyers have begun to present brain images as evidence, usually to mitigate responsibility for a crime or to  test veracity of testimony, as in a polygraph; increasingly, those images have been admitted,” The Times wrote. “And more are coming: In imaging studies, for instance, neuroscientists have identified cortical areas that are highly active when people suppress impulses or other behaviors.”

But brain images only reflect one tiny moment in a brain’s state, not what what was happening before or after, The Times pointed out. And brain images vary from person to person.

These are the kinds of issues that Gazzaniga tackles in his book.


Dangerous Manhattan: A Sucker Punch And A Shopping Cart Spell TBI


Posted on 5th November 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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New York City can be an unpredictable, dangerous place when it comes to traumatic brain injury.

Just look at two recent cases: a petite woman was struck in the face with a knockout punch by a man during a argument over a parking space, and a do-gooder socialite who was buying candy in East Harlem for underprivileged kids was hit in the head by a shopping cart that two 12-year-olds purposely dropped on her.

The New York Post and other New York City newsapers reported on both incidents,

In the first instance, a jury now has the felony assault case against Oscar Fuller in Manhattan, according to The Post . He is charged with giving 4-foot-11 Lana Rosas a punch directly in the face, a blow so hard that she was knocked to the sidewalk. 


What prompted Fuller’s vicious attack on Rosas? They got into a fight over a parking space in February.

Rosas was badly hurt. Her head injury caused her brain to swell, and to relieve the pressure doctors had to remove part of her skull, implanting it in her abdomen until it can be returned to her skull.

The victim wears a helmet all the time to protect her head and unprotected brain, until the skull piece gets reattached. She is now suffering from memory loss and mood swings, according to the Post.

In the other case, Marion Hedges, a 47-year-old Manhattan real estate agent, remained in  a medically induced coma Saturday, the Post reported. She had gone to a Costco in East Harlem last Sunday with her 13-year-old son to pick up Halloween candy.


When she was leaving, two 12-year-old boys — who both laughed after their action — dropped a shopping cart from a fourth-story mall walkway on Hedges, striking her in the head. Her young son witnessed the tragic event.

The 12-year-olds have been charged with first-degree assault.

The mother of one of the young defendants, Rosemary Rosario, cried and apologized for her son’s actions as she left court Friday, according to the Post.

Here’s hoping that and Rosas and Hedges recover from their brain injuries as swiftly as possible.      


Iraq War Veteran Still Recovering From Brain Injury After Being Hurt At Occupy Oakland Protest


Posted on 29th October 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Scott Olsen survived military duty in the war in Iraq, only to come home to be hit in the head by something allegedly thrown by police during last week’s Occupy Oakland protest. 


As of Saturday, 24-year-old Olsen was in fair condition at Highland Hospital in Oakland, Calif., and is impoving, according to the San Francisco Examiner. The Daly City veteran “is breathing on his own and is able to write notes to doctors and loved ones, but has trouble articulating his words,” according to the Examiner.

Olsen, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was at an Occupy Oakland protest Tuesday when he was hit in the head with a projectile “that apparently came from police lines,” the newspaper reported. Olsen suffered a fractured skull and fell down on the ground.

Oakland police apparently made no effort to help Olsen. Some of the other protesters took him to Highland Hospital. The Examiner reported that Olsen was unconscious for 12 hours. His brain was bruised and has swelled.

On Friday Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan visited Olsen and his parents in the hospital. At a press conference, Jordan said he told them that he was sorry for had happened to Olsen. The chief added that there would be a review and internal investigation.

We’d like to be optimistic and believe that the cop culprit that hit Olsen will be found. We’d like to. 

Precautions Don’t Stop The TBI Perils of High School Football

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Posted on 22nd October 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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Coaches and school officials in Upstate New York last week continued to try to figure out why a 16-year-old high school football player died of brain injury during a routine game.

The New York Times did a Page One story Thursday, “Seemingly Ordinary Game, Then a Player Dies,” on the much-publicized case of Ridge Barden of Phoenix, N.Y., who died a week ago Friday.  


Coaches at John C. Birdlebough High School watched and rewatched video of the game where Barden collapsed, dying several hours later of a subdural hemotoma, or bleeding of the brain. According to the Times, the group believe that Barden suffered what would turn out to be a fatal blow after having “a routine collision with an opposing lineman at the line of scrimmage.”

Barden looked OK has he got ready for the next play, but wound up collapsing. He was conscious, saying that he had a suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit. Barden said his head hurt. He could not stand up.

One doctor quoted by The Times said that Barden would have had to had undergone surgery immediately to survive. Another physician blamed swelling of the brain from the hit, not the bleeding, for killing Barden.

The bottom line of the story seemed to be that no matter what precautions are taken, young athletes are still very vulverable. 

“Teenagers are especially susceptible to having multiple hits to the head result in brain bleeds and massive swelling, largely because the brain tissue has not yet fully developed,” The Times wrote. “According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, Barden was the 13th high school player to die from a brain injury sustained on a football field since 2005 and the third this year. Including college and youth football players, there have been 18 fatalities since 2005.”


New York High School Football Player Died Of Brain Hematoma


Posted on 19th October 2011 by Gordon Johnson in Uncategorized

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An autopsy has detemined that a 16-year-old New York State  high school football player died from a massive subdural hematoma, blood collected on his brain,  last weekend,  and that his death was an accident.

But that determination, that a cerebral hemorrhage killed him, doesn’t really explain why Ridge Barden died.

The demise of Barden, who played for a high school not far from Syracuse in Phoenix, N.Y., is tragic on many levels, as outlined by a story in the sports section of The New York Times on Monday. The article was headline “Sudden Death of Player Raises Difficult Questions.” 


The Friday night game that became Barden’s undoing was his team’s final game this season, and it was Barden’s first varsity start, according to The Times.

“How could a ceremonious moment turn terrible?” the paper asked. How indeed.

In the play that took Barden down, all the other players got up from a pile-up except Barden, who was face down on the field. Barden’s coach, a physician and two EMTs ran onto the gridiron, and found that Barden was conscious but dazed.

But the youth’s condition went south fast. He attempted to stand up, but collapsed. He was gone a couple of hours later.     

The perplexing thing about Barden’s case is that he was not directly hit during the play right before he became ill according to The Times.

“On the play that left Barden on the ground, he did not have contact with another player,” The Times quoted coach Jeff Charles as saying, adding that the youth had “missed a cut block.”

According to The Times, Charles said, “It was on a previous play that Barden had some helmet-to-helmet contact when he was blocked by a offensive lineman. He got up gingerly…”

While Barden may have appeared OK after that play, in retrospect it lookes like he wasn’t.  

According to The Post-Standard of Syracuse, Cortland County Coroner Kevin Sharp said that an autopsy determined that Barden’s hematioma, and the discovery of some bruising to his brain, was consistent with helmet-to-helmet contact.


Barden didn’t have any prior injury that was a factor in his death, nor did he sustain a skull fracture from the helmet-to-helmet contact, The Post-Standard reported.

The paper also wrote that Sharp said, “There also was no indication the injury resulted from any series of impacts during the game… It appeared the injury resulted from the single impact on that one play in the game.”

Sharp said officials are still investigating to determine Barden’s fatal injury came about, and will likely include looking at video of the game.

Barden’s coach, Charles, told The Times that the youth’s death was “the most bizarre thing” he’d ever seen in his careet.

Let’s hope it is the last time he sees anything like it.