The brain is fascinating. The human brain houses our memories, our emotions, controls body movement, survival activities, activates attraction signals, warning cues. Anything you can think of, the brain has (hopefully) under control! Thanks to years of study, experiments, and medical breakthroughs we have learned how the brain works but, we are still uncovering just how complicated and capable the brain really is. Surely it is more elaborate, complex, and fascinating than any man made computer system and what’s so crazy to think about, is that we all have access to unlocking it’s potential.
When we think of the brain, typically, we imagine a pale pink, folded up, rubbery organ. Imagining it this way gives us a false sense of confidence. Really, the brain is this soft, malleable mush, more similar to the consistency of tapioca pudding than the hardened brains we are accustomed to seeing. They become firm only after they have been extracted from the body and fixed in formaldehyde. It’s important for us to understand that our brains are POWERFUL and DELICATE.
The brain is protected by the skull but, because it’s fragile, the brain also needs protection from its protection! Thin membranes called meninges and cerebrospinal fluid act as a barrier between the brain and the skull. When we imagine a skull, again typically the image in our heads is quite different than… the image in our heads 😊
The reality is that the interior of the skull is not smooth, rather it is quite jagged with edges and ridges of bone that could pierce the brain and result in disastrous damage. This damage could effect everything… from balance, to emotions, to cognition. Everything from your ability to speak, walk, and function could be affected by brain trauma.
The brain floats somewhat freely within the skull. It is attached to the body only by the brainstem which is attached to the spinal cord. While the cerebrospinal fluid and the meninges help to cushion blows to the head, they can only absorb but so much energy. That’s why it can be very serious if you fall and bump your head or experience any head trauma.
Head injuries are not something to take lightly. The NFL puts athletes health and wellbeing at risk every time players step on the field. Concussions are common, playing through the pain is encouraged, and irreversible brain damage happens more frequently than the numbers reflect. Think about this for a minute, the only thing really comparable to an NFL hit is the impact sustained after crashing a car traveling around 45mph into a brick wall. Imagine having to endure that on a regular basis! Jolts crash down like a storm, leaving the vulnerable brain scrambling to make sense of itself… unfortunately, sometimes it never does and permanent, irreversible damage occurs.
Remember, the brain is not fixed into one place within the skull. Therefore, upon impact the delicate brain can be thrusted in the opposite direction of the hit forcing it to slam against the sharp areas of the skull, all at a high speed. Concussions are serious but they are not the only injury to be concerned about. ANY regular brain trauma has damaging effects over time. The regularity of brain trauma experienced by NFL players is what is so damaging to their health and temperament.
Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered that repeated trauma to the head causes a degenerative brain disease which we now know as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). To call football a contact sport is putting it lightly. Now imagine repetitive head blows on a small child whose brain and body are still developing. It is no wonder why Dr. Bennet Omalu calls youth football leagues “a form of child abuse”.
Brain trauma can change a person entirely. The more we know, the better we will be at protecting this vital organ and understanding the effects of brain injuries.
The workings and wonders of the brain are countless and fascinating. How have you unlocked its potential?