MIAMI (CBSMiami) – More than 20,000 retired professional football players with marquis names such as Jim McMahon and Andre Reed, are trying to forced the NFL to pay nearly $1-billion dollars for failing to warn them about the effects of long-term brain injury caused by concussions.
Now in Texas, where football is king, comes word of a pill that’s been discovered that is believed will be able to heal brain trauma after a head injury.
“This is a pill that is designed so that it doesn’t get into the brain unless there is actual damage and so if you don’t have damage or an injury that day, it’s excreted and you’re good to go,” said Dr. James Lechleiter of the University of Texas Health Science Center.
Researchers in San Antonio discovered a class of compounds that stimulate the brain cells called astrocytes, that naturally act as a brain protectors.
“So we’re not adding something foreign to the body. What we are doing is enhancing a natural protective pathway in the brain,” explained the doctor.
Lechleiter says some of the most dangerous injuries are where you just shake off a blow to the head and tough it out, for example on a football field, even a middle school football field. Just ask London Glenn. He sustained a concussion at 7th grade tackle practice last October.
Glen described what happened. “I had the ball and I was running past the blocker and a tackler got me. I spun around and I fell backwards and my head whiplashed into the ground.”
He said a nurse told him he was fine, but he wasn’t.
“If something was too loud, I’d start getting a really bad headache. If I was in really bright light, I’d get headaches,” said Glenn.
After finally getting a concussion diagnosis, his mother, Lucy Humble, said he ended up missing nine weeks of school. “All they could tell us was this happens and rest assured he’ll get better.”
London isn’t playing football this year. But concussions aren’t exclusive to one sport. Even many soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from brain trauma.
Lechleiter believes his discover, if taken immediately after a head injury or even daily, will stave off the long-term effects of concussions such as blindness, memory loss and chronic headaches.
“The faster you get to the clinic or take the pill, let your brain naturally heal, the better off you’ll be and you won’t get yourself in trouble to begin with,” said Lechleiter.
Don’t look for the concussion pill to be available any time soon. Clinical trials are just starting on humans, so it may not be on the market for at least five years.