Roundup: Aggressive Treatment of 'Mini-Strokes' Cuts Risk of Major Stroke; CDC to Study Right Age for Tackle Football

Aggressive Treatment of ‘Mini-Strokes’ Cuts Risk of Major Stroke, Study Says

Quick and aggressive treatment of “mini-strokes” can reduce the risk of a later major stroke, according to a new study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A minor stroke — which can last for mere seconds or up to 5 minutes — is often called a “warning stroke,” according to the American Stroke Association. Mini-strokes arrive with the same signs as a major stroke: weak or numb muscles in the face, leg or arm, sudden confusion or slurred speech or vision problems.

“While transient ischemic attack (TIA) is often labeled “mini-stroke,” it is more accurately characterized as a ‘warning stroke,’ a warning you should take very seriously,” according to the American Stroke Association.

Earlier studies have established that there is a 12 percent to 20 percent chance of a major stroke, or another significant cardiovascular event, during the three-month period following a mini stroke. But what happens if patients receive aggressive therapy immediately following a mini-stroke? That question was the centerpiece of the recently published research project.

Nearly 5,000 people from 61 locations in 21 countries were studied from 2009 through 2011. Patients recruited for the study had suffered a minor stroke – (transient ischemic attack TIA) – within a week of participating in the study.

Patients who received medical attention with 24 hours of having a mini-stroke performed better on health assessments than patients who waited longer than 24 hours for mini-stroke treatment. What’s more, those who had received treatment or therapy for the mini-stroke had fewer major strokes or major cardiovascular events during the days and months following the mini-stroke, the data shows.

For example, for those who received treatment for their mini-stroke, there was just a 3.7 percent chance of a stroke or major cardiovascular event after 30 days, and 5.1 percent in the following year.

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— Sharon Harvey Rosenberg

CDC to Study Right Age to Start Playing Tackle Football to Help Reduce Injuries

As college and professional football teams take to the field for spring scrimmages, younger athletes look forward to their season starting in the fall. Youth football is one of the most popular sports in America, with more than 1 million high school kids involved, and another 250,000-plus children between 5 and 15 years of age playing in Pop Warner leagues across the country.

The majority of these leagues and teams play tackle football, which results in a significant number of football-related injuries.  Research shows tackling or being tackled causes half of all high school players’ football injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Concussion is one of the frequent injuries caused by playing football. Of the up to 10 percent of players who get a concussion each season, 70 percent of them do not know they had one despite having symptoms.

On the heels of last year’s AAP-issued policy statement that addressed ways to reduce tackle-football injuries among young players, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now embarking on a “rigorous evaluation of the risks of tackling in youth football.” The agency announced last week it will pool research from experts, such as sports medicine physicians, former football players, behavioral scientists and doctors who specialize in treating concussions, to help identify what age groups are at most risk of sustaining head injuries.

Published in the medical journal Pediatrics, the AAP’s policy statement,“Tackling in Youth Football,”  includes recommendations for improving safety by strongly encouraging:

  • Officials and coaches to — without fail — enforce the rules of proper tackling, including zero tolerance for illegal, head-first hits.
  • Players to decide if the benefits of playing outweigh the risks of possible injury.
  • Expansion of non-tackling leagues to give athletes a choice of participating without the injury risks associated with tackling.
  • Skilled athletic trainers be available on the sidelines to readily identify injuries that need prompt treatment.
  • Delaying the introduction of tackling until a certain age.

While recommending a specific age at which to start tackle football is studied and debated, the AAP notes higher rates of injury may occur when players first experience tackling at an older age.

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— Tanya Racoobian Walton

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