After viewing about 2,000 sports-related YouTube videos, University of Kentucky neuroscientists seem to have identified an important clue of serious brain trauma: the so-called fencing response.
The university research team reviewed the head injury, concussion, and knock-out videos where the victim did not get up immediately. Of the 35 videos identified by an impact to the head and period of unconsciousness, 66% showed a fencing response at the moment of impact, according to the findings.
Professor Jonathan Lifshitz, the study leader in the university’s Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center, suggests that the unnatural, involuntary reflex–a forearm raised stance similar to the en garde position in competitive sword fighting–can indicate damage to blood vessels and neurons in the brain stem that control balance and coordination.
“We could see that the fencing response frequently takes place before the player even hits the ground,” Lifshitz said.
The fencing response could serve as a warning or marker that the injured person needs immediate care. Moderate-to-severe head trauma can cause permanent brain damage but sometimes these injuries are not readily apparent. However, Lifshitz cautioned that “the absence of a fencing response should not be taken as a sign that no injury has occurred.”
The findings were published in the August issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.
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