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Watching You Tube May Provide Link to Detecting Brain Damage

Brain injury researchers at the University of Kentucky have spent hundreds of hours watching YouTube videos of people getting smacked, punched and knocked in the head during sporting events and recreational activities.  The team was collecting data to document a visible, involuntary response to head trauma. The researchers claim that their  findings could have immediate value in helping coaches make educated, objective decisions about whether to return an athlete to play after a blow to the head.

The response is  dubbed the "fencing response," as a forearm posture that resembles the en garde position in competitive sword fighting. It also can appear as a defensive boxing pose. The fencing response – which has also been observed in rats under experimental conditions – indicates damage to blood vessels and neurons in a critical brainstem region that controls balance.
In the course of their research, the team reviewed some 2,000 "knockout" videos on YouTube, eventually narrowing their sample to three dozen that showed moderate-to-severe impacts to the head, where the person receiving the blow did not immediately get up. Of those, two-thirds exhibited a clear fencing response. The response was noted particularly in football and mixed martial art and frequently  takes place before the player even hits the ground.

Moderate-to-severe head trauma can cause permanent brain damage or death if ignored by medical staff. Unfortunately, sometimes these injuries are not readily apparent. The fencing response provides an immediate visual cue that could help injured players get the attention they need..

It should be noted that the response is not universal. The absence of a fencing response should not be taken as a sign that no injury has occurred.

The findings were published Aug. 18 in the journal,  Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.



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