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YouTube videos yield clues to brain injury symptom
Date:9/2/2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 2, 2009) 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. But those researchers weren't goofing off on the Internet; they were doing hard science.

Led by Jonathan Lifshitz, assistant professor in the UK Spinal Cord & Brain Injury Research Center, the team was collecting data to document a visible, involuntary response to head trauma. 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.

"As basic scientists, we all hope that our research we do in the laboratory translates into the clinics," Lifshitz said in a television interview with WTVQ-36 in Lexington. "In this case, we hope it translates onto the sidelines."

Lifshitz describes the response, 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, Lifshitz said.

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 arts, Lifshitz said.

"The fencing response frequently takes place before the player even hits the ground," Lifshitz said.

Among the videos the team reviewed was the head-to-head collision of Baltimore Raven Willis McGahee and Pitt
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Contact: Keith Hautala
keith.hautala@uky.edu
859-323-6363
University of Kentucky
Source:Eurekalert

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