Tag Archives: brain

B.C. boy permanently brain damaged after eating lettuce contaminated with E. coli

E. coli outbreaks used to mainly be linked to hamburgers, but the last decade has seen recall after recall of tainted romaine lettuce coming into Canada from the United States. At least seven people have died, and hundreds have been sickened or hospitalized in both countries.

Toddler Lucas Parker was one of them.

In the fall of 2018, his parents, Nathan Parker and Karla Terry of Richmond, B.C., took Lucas and his siblings to Disneyland, their first trip outside Canada. But what they couldn’t know at the time was that a few bites of romaine salad Lucas ate one night at a small California roadside restaurant would change their lives forever. 

Soon after that dinner, an outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 contamination spread across both Canada and the United States — eventually leaving 35 people hospitalized.

Like most people who get sick from this strain of E. coli, Lucas, then two years old, didn’t show symptoms right away. When he started feeling unwell, the family headed out for the long drive home. By the time he was in a Canadian hospital, the E. coli had shut down one of his kidneys and led to two brain injuries. There are no current treatments for E. coli that can help alleviate infections or prevent complications. 

Lucas can no longer walk, talk or see. 

“Lucas was just a beaming ray of light … he was a caring person … a cheeky boy, a loving brother,” said his father, Nathan Parker. “I remember him in the hospital waking up out of a coma and looking around, just lost, not talking, not walking, not moving much. Such a brain injury that his brain was so swollen that there was no comfort, there was nothing. It was just hell.”

‘Most devastatingly injured human’

Bill Marler, an American lawyer and food-safety advocate who has been fighting for food safety for almost 30 years, represents Lucas and his parents. Marler has filed suit on behalf of the family against the restaurant where they ate, as well as the farm and suppliers of the lettuce; the case is currently in the discovery phase in a court system slowed down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lucas, “is the most devastatingly injured human who has survived a food-borne illness outbreak — ever,” said Marler. “The fact that he survived at all and his parents care for him as gently and as caringly as they do is a testament to them.”

Young children and older adults are most at risk of developing serious complications from E. coli O157: H7 contamination. While most people simply experience an upset stomach, some develop life-threatening symptoms, including stroke, kidney failure and seizures — and some die. 


Food-safety advocate and lawyer Bill Marler. (David MacIntosh/CBC)

Between 2009 and 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say they identified 40 food-borne outbreaks of infections from this strain of E. coli in the U.S. with a confirmed or suspected link to leafy greens.

Marler says he believes cows — and a society that values convenient, bagged lettuce — are to blame.

WATCH | The full Marketplace investigation:

Canada has been hit by a number of romaine lettuce recalls. We set out to the U.S., where the majority of our leafy greens come from, to dig up why E. coli outbreaks continue to plague our food supply. We meet one B.C. family whose lives have been forever changed by a contaminated salad. 12:51

Proximity of cattle 

The vast majority of the romaine eaten in North America comes from lettuce grown in areas of California such as the Salinas Valley, or Yuma, Ariz. Many of those romaine lettuce fields have cattle nearby.

“We all know where E. coli O157: H7 comes from — it comes from cows,” said Marler. “And when you have a 100,000-cow feedlot, a dirt road, a canal and then leafy greens for as far as the eyes can see … it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened.”

The FDA says it is working to increase its understanding of how leafy greens become contaminated, and recent FDA reports suggest that cows near produce fields or water sources could be part of the problem. An FDA investigation revealed cattle feces found uphill from produce fields may have contributed to a fall 2020 outbreak, and FDA findings from a 2019 outbreak “suggests that a potential contributing factor has been the proximity of cattle to the produce fields.”


Marler says nearby cattle may be to blame for E. coli outbreaks. (Sergey Bogdanov/Shutterstock)

E. coli O157 lives in the intestines of healthy cattle and other animals, and can be found in water or soil that have been contaminated with animal feces.

The romaine lettuce that made Lucas sick came from a Santa Barbara, Calif., farm that may have had a contaminated water source. While it is not clear exactly how the water became contaminated, the FDA later noted “extensive wild animal activity” and cited adjacent land use by nearby cattle and horses “may have had the potential to be reservoirs of E. coli O157: H7.” 

While the FDA hasn’t made new rules for lettuce growers, it has called on produce growers to prevent contamination by increasing buffer zones with nearby cattle, and to use other suggested strategies included in its 2020 Leafy Green STEC Action Plan, such as assessing risk to water sources and developing stronger traceability records. 

John Boelts, a Yuma, Ariz.-based lettuce farmer, says food-borne illness outbreaks are not only extremely rare, but farmers like him are already doing more than what the FDA requires to keep the food supply safe.

“Farmers’ practices are remarkable these days, not just mine but everybody in my business,” Boelts said. “I think we’re doing everything humanly possible today.”

Like many lettuce farmers, Boelts does independent testing of the irrigation water surrounding his fields, and makes sure that irrigation water never touches the edible parts of his crops. 

Boelts says he’s also taken steps to keep animals away, but he doesn’t believe having a cow feedlot nearby his fields is an issue.

“That feedlot has been around since the 1930s, 1940s and we’ve been producing leafy greens in this area for about that length of time,” Boelts said. “If there really was an issue we would be having an issue more frequently.”

Bagged salads spreading contamination, says Marler

Marler argues that convenient bagged salads have helped the spread of contaminated lettuce. One head of E. coli-contaminated lettuce can be cut, processed, mixed with other lettuce, and then cross-contaminate many different packages of bagged salads. 

“The E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce and other leafy greens blew up in the last decade and a half because we wanted bagged salads,” he said. “We wanted to be able to go to the grocery store, restaurants wanted to be able to not have someone in the back chopping up lettuce, they just wanted to open a bag and dump it in your salad bowl and good to go…. It’s industrialized agriculture, convenience, and it’s killing us.”

Lawrence Goodridge, a professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Ontario, agrees that the majority of E. coli lettuce outbreaks occur with bagged salads. He says that while E. coli outbreaks are actually quite rare, there are things that consumers should be doing, starting with avoiding prepackaged salads. 

“To reduce the risk of developing a food-borne illness, consumers should purchase whole heads of lettuce and then remove the outer leaves,” Goodridge said. Consumers should also wash the inner leaves thoroughly. While buying head lettuce and washing it thoroughly won’t eliminate the risk of E. coli, Goodridge says it can help mitigate it. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it can use a number of measures to assess if romaine lettuce imported from the United States is safe to eat for Canadians. The CFIA took steps to improve safety for Canadians last fall; importers had to show their lettuce was either free of E. coli or did not come from California’s Salinas Valley. Those measures never targeted lettuce from Yuma, Ariz., and have now since expired. The CFIA says it will reassess its rules later this year. 

In Marler’s view, outbreaks will continue to happen if the source of the contamination isn’t addressed.

“These outbreaks will keep happening in Canada as well as the U.S. unless we deal with the environmental contamination caused by growing lettuce in close proximity to cattle,” he said. 


Lucas Parker is now nearly five years old. He can no longer walk, talk or see. (David MacIntosh/CBC)

Lucas Parker is now almost five years old. All his meals are liquified and ingested through a tube in his stomach.

“I ordered a salad. I thought I was doing the right thing, you know?” said Lucas’s father. “And because of a breakdown somewhere else it turned out to be the most fatal mistake in the world.”

He thinks not enough people know about the potential dangers of E. coli-contaminated romaine lettuce. 

“I want people to be made aware that anything, you know, should never be taken for granted — because you could eat something that can just take your life away, take your joy away.”

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CBC | Health News

Why brain scans are falling out of favour for some scientists

Brain scans offer a tantalizing glimpse into the mind’s mysteries, promising an almost X-ray-like vision into how we feel pain, interpret faces and wiggle fingers.

Studies of brain images have suggested that Republicans and Democrats have visibly different thinking, that overweight adults have stronger responses to pictures of food, and that it’s possible to predict a sober person’s likelihood of relapse.

But such buzzy findings are coming under growing scrutiny as scientists grapple with the fact that some brain scan research doesn’t seem to hold up.

Such studies have been criticized for relying on too few subjects and for incorrectly analyzing or interpreting data. Researchers have also realized a person’s brain scan results can differ from day to day — even under identical conditions — casting a doubt on how to document consistent patterns.

With so many questions being raised, some researchers are acknowledging the scans’ limitations and working to overcome them or simply turning to other tests.

Earlier this year, Duke University researcher Annchen Knodt’s lab published the latest paper challenging the reliability of common brain scan projects, based on about 60 studies of the past decade including her own.

“We found this poor result across the board,” Knodt said. “We’re basically discrediting much of the work we’ve done.”

Watch brains ‘light up’

The research being re-examined relies on a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI.

Using large magnets, the scans detect where oxygenated blood rushes to when someone does an activity — such as memorizing a list of words or touching fingertips together — allowing scientists to indirectly measure brain activity.

When the technology debuted in the early 1990s, it opened a seemingly revolutionary window into the human brain.

Other previous imaging techniques tracked brain activity through electrodes placed on the skull or radioactive tracers injected into the bloodstream. In comparison, fMRI seemed like a fast, high-resolution and non-invasive alternative.

A flurry of papers and press coverage followed the technique’s invention, pointing to parts of the brain that “light up” when we fall in love, feel pain, gamble or make difficult decisions. But as years passed, troubling evidence began to surface that challenged some of those findings.

“It’s a very powerful thing to show a picture of the brain. It lends itself to abuse, in some ways,” said Damian Stanley, a brain scientist at Adelphi University. “People eat them up, things get overblown. Somewhere in there, we lost the nuance.”

Too quick to jump on fMRI bandwagon

In 2009, a group of scientists investigated papers that had linked individual differences in brain activity to various personality types. They found many used a type of analysis that reported only the strongest correlations, leading to potentially coincidental conclusions. A “disturbingly large” amount of fMRI research on emotion and personality relied on these “seriously defective research methods,” the group wrote.

Later that year, another pair of researchers demonstrated that the raw results of imaging scans — without the proper statistical corrections — could detect brain activity in a dead Atlantic salmon. Four years ago, another group of scientists claimed a different common statistical error had led thousands of fMRI projects astray.

This year, Stanford University researchers described what happened when they gave the same fMRI data to 70 groups of independent neuroscientists. No two teams used the same analysis methods and, overall, the researchers did not always come to the same conclusions about what the data demonstrated about brain activity.

“In the end, we probably jumped on the fMRI bandwagon a little too fast. It’s reached the threshold of concern for a lot of us,” said Duke neuroscientist Anita Disney.

Another tool to study social interactions

With doubts growing, many labs have become more cautious about what imaging techniques to use in efforts to unravel the average brain’s 177,000 kilometres of nerve fibres.

Yale University researcher Joy Hirsch, for example, wants to understand “the social brain” — what happens when people talk, touch or make eye contact. She’s opted out of fMRI, since it can only be used on a single person who must remain perfectly still for imagining inside a large scanner.


Test subject Niklas Thiel poses with an electroencephalography (EEG) cap which measures brain activity, at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) near Munich. Scientists use several alternative brain scanning technologies to fMRI in the lab. (REUTERS)

Instead, Hirsch uses an alternative technology that bounces laser lights off of a fibre optic cable-laced skullcap into the brain to detect blood flow. The technique, functional near infrared spectroscopy, allows her subjects to move freely during scanning and permits her to study live social interactions between several people.

Disney also shies away from fMRI, which she says is too crude of an instrument for her forays into the molecular relationship between brain chemistry, behaviour and states like arousal and attentiveness.

Surgeons turn to fMRI

That doesn’t mean everyone is walking away from fMRI.

Some surgeons depend on the technique to map a patient’s brain before surgeries, and the technology has proven itself useful for broadly mapping the neural mechanisms of diseases such as schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s.

Today, optogenetics — an emerging technique that uses light to activate neurons — is poised to be brain science’s next siren technology.

Some say it’s too early to know whether they’ll adopt it as a tool.

“In that early hyper-sexy phase of a new technique, it is actually really difficult to get people to do the basic work of understanding its limitations,” Disney said.

The evolving understanding of fMRI and its limits shows science at work and should ultimately make people more confident in the results, not less, said Stanford brain scientist Russ Poldrack.

“We want to show people you have to pay attention to this stuff,” Poldrack said. “Otherwise people are going to lose faith in our ability to answer questions.”


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Diego Maradona released from hospital 8 days after undergoing brain surgery

Diego Maradona was released from a Buenos Aires hospital on Wednesday, just over a week after undergoing brain surgery, and will continue his recovery in a private home.

Footage broadcast by local TV stations showed the former World Cup winner leaving the Olivos clinic in an ambulance. Maradona’s doctor, Leopoldo Luque, told journalists that he had authorized the release.

His lawyer, Matias Morla, said the 60-year-old Argentine will continue to receive treatment for alcohol dependency. He is expected to stay in a house near his older daughters.

The 1986 World Cup champion last week had an emergency operation for a subdural hematoma, which us an accumulation of blood between a membrane and his brain.

Maradona’s personal doctor, neurologist Leopoldo Luque, said Tuesday that even small amounts of alcohol consumption could have negative effects in combination with the medication Maradona needs for his recovery.

The former Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli star has had addiction problems in the past.

Maradona was initially admitted to another clinic in La Plata with signs of depression, anemia and dehydration, before being moved to Olivos when the subdural hematoma was discovered.

Dr. Luque said an accident likely caused the subdural hematoma but that Maradona did not recall any falls or mishaps.

Maradona felt ill Oct. 30 while coaching first-division team Gimnasia y Esgrima. He had left before the end of the first half, raising questions about his health.

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Hands On With Nvidia’s New Jetson Xavier NX AI ‘Robot Brain’

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Today Nvidia officially launched its most powerful card-sized IoT GPU ever, the Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX (dev kit $ 399). We covered the basics of the Xavier NX and its industry-leading MLPerf stats when it was announced in November, but since then we’ve had a chance to get our hands on an early version of the device and dev kit and do some real work on them. Along with the dev kit, Nvidia also introduced cloud-native deployment for Jetson using docker containers, which we also had a chance to try out.

Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX by the Numbers

Built on its Volta architecture, the Jetson Xavier NX is a massive performance upgrade compared with the TX2 and becomes a bigger-sibling to the Jetson Nano. It features 384 CUDA cores, 48 Tensor cores, and 2 Nvidia Deep Learning Accelerators (DLA) engines. Nvidia rates it for 21 Trillion Operations per Second (TOPS) for deep learning performance. Along with the GPU is a reasonably-capable 6-core Nvidia Carmel ARM 64-bit CPU with 6MB of L2 and 4MB of L3 cache. The processor also includes 8GB of 128-bit LPDDR4x RAM with 51.8GB/s bandwidth.

All that fits in a module the size of a credit card that consumes 15 watts — or 10 watts in a power-limited mode. As with earlier Jetson products, the Xavier NX runs Nvidia’s deep-learning software stack, including advanced analytic systems like DeepStream. For connectivity, the developer kit version includes a microSD slot for the OS and applications, as well as 2 MIPI camera connectors, Gigabit Ethernet, M.2 Key E with Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, and an open M.2 Key M for an optional NVMe SSD. Both an HDMI and DisplayPort connector are provided, along with 4 USB 3.1 and 1 USB 2 micro-USB port.

Cloud-Native Deployment Thanks to Docker Containers

Jetson Xavier NXIt’s one thing to come up with a great industrial or service robot product, but another to keep it up to date and competitive over time. As new technologies emerge, or requirements evolve, update and software maintenance are a major issue. With Xavier NX, Nvidia is also launching its “cloud native” architecture as an option for deploying embedded systems. Now, I’m not personally a fan of slapping “cloud-native” onto technologies just because it is a buzzword. But in this case, at least the benefits of the underlying feature set are clear.

Basically, individual applications and services can be packaged as Docker containers and individually distributed and updated via the cloud. Nvidia sent us a pre-configured SSD loaded with demos, but I was also able to successfully re-format it and download all the relevant Docker containers with just a few commands, which was pretty slick.

Putting the Xavier NX Through Its Paces

Nvidia put together an impressive set of demos as part of the Xavier NX review units. The most sophisticated of them loads a set of docker containers that demonstrate the variety of applications that might be running on an advanced service robot. That includes recognizing people in four HD camera streams, doing full-body pose detection for nearby people in another stream, gaze detection for someone facing the robot, and natural language processing using one of the BERT family of models and a custom corpus of topics and answers.

Nvidia took pains to point out that the demo models have not been optimized for either performance or memory requirements, but aside from requiring some additional SSD space, they still all ran fairly seamlessly on a Xavier NX that I’d set to 15-watt / 6-core mode. To help mimic a real workday, I left the demo running for 8 hours and the system didn’t overheat or crash. Very impressive for a credit-card-sized GPU!

Running multiple Docker container-based demos on Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX

Running multiple Docker container-based demos on the Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX.

The demo uses canned videos, as otherwise, it’d be very hard to recreate in a review. But based on my experience with its smaller sibling, the Jetson Nano, it should be pretty easy to replicate with a combination of directly-attached camera modules, USB cameras, and cameras streaming over the internet. Third-party support during the review period is pretty tricky, as the product was still under NDA. I’m hoping that once it is out I’ll be able to attach a RealSense camera that reports depth along with video, and perhaps write a demo app that shows how far apart the people in a scene are from each other.

Developing for the Jetson Xavier NX

Being ExtremeTech, we had to push past the demos for some coding. Fortunately, I had just the project. I foolishly agreed to help my colleague Joel with his magnum opus project of creating better renderings of various Star Trek series. My task was to come up with an AI-based video upscaler that we could train on known good and poor versions of some episodes and then use it to re-render the others. So in parallel to getting on setup on my desktop using my Nvidia 1080, I decided to see what would happen if I worked on the Xavier NX.

Nvidia makes development — especially video and AI development — deceptively easy on its Jetson devices. Its JetPack toolset comes with a lot of AI frameworks pre-loaded, and Nvidia’s excellent developer support sites offer downloadable packages for many others. There is also plenty of tutorial content for local development, remote development, and cross-compiling. The deceptive bit is that you get so comfortable that you just about forget that you’re developing on an ARM CPU.

At least until you stumble across a library or module that only runs on x86. That happened to me with my first choice of super-resolution frameworks, an advanced GAN-based approach, mmsr. Mmsr itself is written in Python, which is always encouraging as far as being cross-platform, but it relies on a tricked-out deformation module that I couldn’t get to build on the Jetson. I backed off to an older, simpler, CNN-based scaler, SRCNN, which I was able to get running. Training speed was only a fraction of my 1080, but that’s to be expected. Once I get everything working, the Xavier NX should be a great solution for actually grinding away on the inference-based task of doing the scaling.

Is a Xavier NX Coming to a Robot Near You?

In short, probably. To put it in perspective, the highly-capable Skydio autonomous drone uses the older TX2 board to navigate obstacles and follow subjects in real time. The Xavier NX provides many times (around 10x in pure TOPS numbers) the performance in an even smaller form factor. It’s also a great option for DIY home video applications or hobby robot projects.

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Oilers forward Colby Cave dies after suffering brain bleed

Edmonton Oilers forward Colby Cave has died after suffering a brain bleed earlier this week.

The 25-year-old native of Battleford, Sask., had been in a medically induced coma in a Toronto hospital.

The Oilers confirmed Cave’s death.

“I (Emily, Cave’s wife) and both our families are in shock but know our Colby was loved dearly by us, his family and friends, the entire hockey community, and many more. We thank everyone for their prayers during this difficult time,” the statement said.

He had been in a coma since Tuesday at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, after being airlifted from a hospital in Barrie, Ont., on Monday.

Cave underwent emergency surgery on Tuesday with doctors removing a colloid cyst that was causing pressure on his brain.


On Wednesday, Emily Cave posted an emotional update about her husband’s situation.

“We need a miracle,” she wrote on Instagram. “Colby’s parents and myself got to see him through a window and talk to him with a walkie-talkie last night. We are no longer allowed to be in the hospital because COVID-19 rules. We have no idea when we will be allowed to see him again.

“The nurse has tied his wedding band to his ankle. I am dreaming of being able to touch you, hear your voice, squeeze your hand (three times) and kiss you again. I love you so much, and my heart is shattered into a million pieces without my best friend.”

Cave’s agent, Jason Davidson, said Tuesday that the situation didn’t appear to be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cave scored once in 11 appearances with Edmonton this season. He had 11 goals and 23 points in 44 games with the American Hockey League’s Bakersfield Condors this season.

The Oilers posted Cave’s goal — an impressive rush down the right wing that saw him beat a Pittsburgh defender and stuff the puck past Penguins netminder Matt Murray — on Twitter earlier this week.


“Colby is an awesome person who scored an awesome goal for us this season,” the team said.

Cave played five seasons with the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos, where he saw time as captain, before joining the Boston Bruins’ organization for the 2014-15 season after going undrafted. The Oilers claimed Cave off waivers on Jan. 15, 2019.

Cave had four goals and five assists over 67 NHL games with Boston and Edmonton.

The six-foot-one, 200-pound Cave made his NHL debut with Boston on Dec. 21, 2017 after getting called up from Providence of the AHL. He played three games with Boston that season.

Cave played 15 more games with Boston in 2018 before the Oilers claimed him on waivers.

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Violinist plays Mahler and Gershwin as surgeons remove brain tumour

A patient at a British hospital played Mahler and Gershwin on the violin while a tumour was removed from her brain so that surgeons could preserve her ability to play music and her 40-year passion for the instrument.

Dagmar Turner, 53, a former management consultant from the Isle of Wight, played her violin during an operation to remove a tumour from the right frontal lobe of her brain — close to the area that controls the fine movement of her left hand.

To prevent any damage to her violin skills, Keyoumars Ashkan, consultant neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, came up with a plan: they would map her brain, open the skull and then get her to play as they removed the tumour.

While surgeons cut away part of her brain, Turner played music by Gustav Mahler, George Gershwin’s jazz classic Summertime and pieces by Spanish songwriter and singer Julio Iglesias.

“This was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument,” said Ashkan, a fellow music lover. “We managed to remove over 90 per cent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.”

Turner thanked the surgeons.

“The violin is my passion; I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old,” she said. “The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking.”

Turner, who plays in the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra and various choral societies, left the hospital three days later and hopes to return to her orchestra soon. 

Last year, surgeons in the Netherlands published a case report on a professional violin player who played the instrument during surgery to remove a tumour in the left motor area.

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Brain differences may be tied to obesity, kids’ study says

New results from the largest long-term study of brain development and children’s health raise provocative questions about obesity and brain function. 

Does excess body weight somehow reduce brain regions that regulate planning and impulse control? Is obesity a result of that brain difference? Or are eating habits, lifestyle, family circumstances and genetics to blame?

Previous studies in children and adults have had conflicting results. The new research doesn’t settle the matter and outside experts cautioned that misinterpreting it could unfairly perpetuate weight stigma. 

But an editorial published with the study Monday in JAMA Pediatrics called it an important addition to mounting evidence of a link between weight, brain structure and mental function. 

If follow-up research confirms the findings, it could lead to new ways to prevent obesity that target improved brain function.

We know from a lot of really good research that obesity is not as much in an individual’s control as we think it is. People talk about willpower — that’s a very small part of the equation.–  Marci Gluck

“We don’t know which direction these relationships go nor do they suggest that people with obesity are not as smart as people at a healthy weight,”said Dr. Eliana Perrin, a Duke University pediatrics professor who co-wrote the editorial. 

The federally-funded study involved 3,190 U.S. children aged 9 and 10. They had height and weight measurements, MRI brain scans and computer-based tests of mental function including memory, language, reasoning and impulse control. Nearly 1,000 kids — almost 1 in 3 —were overweight or obese, similar to national statistics.

Inflammatory changes early in life

Researchers found differences in the heaviest children’s brain scans, slightly less volume in the brain region behind the forehead that controls what are known as “executive function” tasks. They include things like ability to plan, control impulses and handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

The differences compared with normal-weight kids were subtle, said study author Scott Mackey, a neuroscientist at the University of Vermont. 

The heaviest kids also had slightly worse scores on computer-based tests of executive function. But Mackey and lead author Jennifer Laurent, a University of Vermont obesity researcher, said it’s unknown whether any of the differences had any meaningful effect on children’s academic functioning or behaviour.

It’s unclear exactly how they are related to weight and Mackey said it’s likely other factors not measured in the study including physical activity and healthy nutrition play a far greater role. 

Research in adults has linked obesity with low-level inflammation throughout the body that can damage blood vessels and may increase risks for heart disease and mental decline. Some studies have also found less brain volume in obese adults and researchers theorize that it could be from inflammation.

The new study raises the possibility that inflammatory changes affecting weight, brain structure and function might begin in childhood. 

The latest research confirms previous studies in children and adults, but it leaves many questions unanswered, said Marci Gluck, a research psychologist at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, who was not part of the research. 

“Executive function deficits and ‘intelligence’ are not the same,” Gluck said. 

Obesity researcher Natasha Schvey of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences called the study impressive, but noted that eating habits and obesity are influenced by many factors, including metabolic and psychological differences.

“We know from a lot of really good research that obesity is not as much in an individual’s control as we think it is. People talk about willpower — that’s a very small part of the equation,” she said. “There are much bigger contributors to our weight and a lot of it is genetic. That’s not to say it’s immutable.”

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Rural doctors worry proposed changes could lead to ‘brain drain’

In the southeast corner of Saskatchewan is a town called Wawota. The town, known for its colourful collection of fire hydrants painted to resemble cartoon characters like Garfield, is home to nearly 550 residents, according to the 2011 census.

“It’s a good community and good people around here. Everyone helps one another out,” said 84-year-old Clarence Lamontagne, a resident of the town and a former building contractor.

But one of the struggles of rural life — in this, and in multiple other communities across the prairies — is limited access to health care.

Wawota has a local medical clinic, but physicians from Arcola, Sask., are only on site on Mondays and Fridays, and see patients by appointment only.

“These doctors come in two days a week and they’re gone. So if you’re sick at night, you can’t go to your health clinic,” Lamontagne said. “You must go 30 miles away.” 


Wawota, Sask., has a population of approximately 543 residents, according to 2011 figures from Statistics Canada. Residents can book medical appointments on Mondays and Fridays at the Wawota Medical Clinic. (Google Street View)

It wasn’t always so challenging in Wawota. In the early 1990s, Wawota had its own hospital with doctors who lived and worked in the community.

“When we got all these cuts, our town was going lower and lower,” Lamontagne said. “Of course, when you lose a hospital, then you also lose your drug store, and you lose this and that. 

“Then people start going to bigger communities for health reasons. It hurts your area.”

Doctor Matthew McIsaac, who has practiced in various rural communities across Alberta and currently works out of Banff and Canmore, was born in Wawota.

He said cuts to rural health implemented by Janice MacKinnon in 1993, then Saskatchewan’s finance minister for the NDP government, led to a “brain drain” in Wawota.

“It killed rural areas, including [Wawota]. We had lost our [family] practitioner to illness. His replacements came and did not stick around due to the pay cuts,” he said. “They couldn’t find anybody to provide any long-term coverage, and eventually we lost our hospital.”

Since that time, McIsaac said the population of the town has dwindled by about 200 people.

“There is evidence, historically, that things like this kill small-town medicine,” he said. 

This year, MacKinnon was tapped by the Alberta government to lead a six-person panel evaluating the province’s finances. In the report emerging from that panel, various recommendations were made to help Alberta to balance its budget, including proposing pay cuts for physicians.

A move to Alberta

Eventually, McIsaac also left Wawota, but kept working in rural communities throughout rural Alberta, including in Coronation, Beaverlodge and Milk River.

Due to higher funding, McIsaac said his time practicing in Alberta was always more fulfilling compared to working in Saskatchewan, as he could take time to help a patient fully and provide complete care.

There are challenges associated with being a rural doctor, McIsaac said — it can be lonely and it can be high-pressure, given the responsibility laid on a limited number of physicians.


Matthew McIsaac is a sport medicine and emergency physician who currently works out of Banff and Canmore. (Matt McIsaac)

So when McIsaac heard about changes proposed by the Alberta government — that would affect how doctors schedule, bill, and interact with their patients, he said it “blew [his] mind.”

“It seems like the government is completely non-thinking and quite hubristic with their approach here, in believing that they’ve found an answer,” McIsaac said. “Or, there’s this cynical view that they actually want to sacrifice rural care.”

Changes proposed by the Alberta government were communicated to the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) on Nov. 14. Rural doctors say those changes, among others, would disproportionately affect their practices. 

Earlier this year, Alberta Health Services reduced the amount it pays doctors to be on call after funding was reduced to its specialist-on-call program by $ 10 million per year.

“They cut that without warning quite recently and already the family physicians were quite up in arms, because that’s a big part of their livelihood,” McIsaac said. “But the second thing that’s come now is this proposal that the complex modifier fees get cut.” 

Under the proposals, doctors would be paid the same for a 25-minute visit as they are for a 15-minute visit, and funding would be cut for complex care plans.

“These physicians working in rural centres are looking to face between, at the low end, a 10 per cent cut up to a 40 per cent cut for some of them in their billing, almost immediately, because of this,” McIsaac said. “So you’ve just been cut in terms of your night call, and now you’ll see [complex modifier fees cut]. Then, you’re suddenly on par with places like British Columbia, or Ontario, or Saskatchewan, which is the goal of the government.

“Well, to live in a place that is remote and rural, or to move to a place like Penticton or Kelowna or Victoria seems like a no-brainer when the pay is equal and when the cost of living is not much different.”

Some say advanced skills also threatened

Michael Beach is a family physician with training in anesthesia who practices in Drumheller, Alta., and said those working in rural settings with advanced skills would be “very disproportionately impacted” by the changes.


Michael Beach said there was a strong chance he would leave Alberta were proposed doctors’ changes to be implemented. (Michael Beach)

“It impacts us the same way as a lot of the urban doctors, but there are a few things that impact us even more so and threaten those advanced skills in the rural setting,” Beach said.

The reduction of call stipends would make a big impact, Beach said, calling them a “huge incentive” to work in rural Alberta.

Steve Buick, a spokesperson for Health Minister Tyler Shandro, wrote in a statement that those incentives were left over from former regions that competed for doctors by paying them extra.

“A decade ago we had an overall shortage, today we don’t,” he wrote. “We don’t need to pay much higher rates than other provinces when we don’t have a shortage anymore. We can make some modest reductions.”


The Alberta Medical Association has requested feedback from its members while it formulates a response to a collection of proposals from the Alberta government, including changes related to eliminating clinical stipends. (CBC)

But Beach said that while he understood what’s being argued — that doctors are working full-time during their call shift, and should not get a stipend on top of being paid continually — he said that only applies in urban settings.

“That’s not true in the rural setting at all. When we’re on these call shifts, we’re not continually providing fee for service work throughout,” he said. “For the duration of time this whole week that I’ve been on my call shift, I can’t leave Drumheller, I can’t go for a walk with my wife that’s a half-hour away from my home and my car, because I could get called at any moment to go do [anesthesia].”

Right now, we’re going to wait and see, but our minds are very open to leaving [Alberta].– Michael Beach, Drumheller family physician

Plus, according to Beach, the whole reason doctors take positions in rural Alberta is because of call stipends. 

“If you lose those, in my opinion you’re going to lose a lot of people who say, ‘It’s just no longer worth the effect on my personal life and family life and lifestyle to continue to provide this service for no compensation whatsoever,'” he said. “You’re looking at a potentially large reduction in some of those services in a lot of these smaller centres.”

The spending question

Alberta today spends the second-most on healthcare, behind only Newfoundland. In his statement, Buick said government would listen to proposals offered by the AMA related to getting costs in line to other provinces.

“Some people are overreacting to our proposals and saying doctors won’t be able to do good primary care. The proposals are common sense and aligned with other provinces,” Buick wrote. “They don’t limit physicians’ ability to provide high-quality care, they just reduce the excess amounts we’ve been paying.”

The proposals are common sense and aligned with other provinces.– Steve Buick, spokesperson for Health Minister Tyler Shandro, in a statement

In a joint statement attributed to AMA president Christine Molnar and AMA rural medicine president Edward Aasman, cuts proposed by government to rural medicine could be “immense.”

“The effect would be absolutely devastating on those practices,” the statement reads. “Rural practices are already struggling to remain stable, including attracting and retaining physicians. If implemented, these proposals could severely threaten the viability of those practices.”

With all the proposed changes considered, Beach estimated he would be looking at at least a 30 per cent reduction in his salary.

“My wife and I have actually sat down and looked at it and said, ‘If all of these things come to fruition, would we stay in Alberta?'” Beach said. “Right now, we’re going to wait and see, but our minds are very open to leaving if [these changes go through].”

Addressing potential rural shortages

Even if AMA negotiations don’t go as planned, the Alberta government may have a card up its sleeve to address any shortage of rural doctors that would result from funding changes.

Bill 21, otherwise known as the Ensuring Fiscal Sustainability Act, allows the province to tell new doctors where they must practise medicine in Alberta, based on the recommendations of an expert panel.

Beach said he found that move counterintuitive, given the possible impact of changes being proposed.

“The reason why a lot of things were put in place over the last 20, 30 years, is because we had such a shortage of rural doctors. We had to find ways to incentivize people to come,” he said. “That started to work, and now we’re taking steps back. Forcing peoples’ hands on where they’re going to go simply isn’t going to work.

“All that’s going to happen is, trainees will just finish off their medical education and say, ‘if I don’t want to work in rural Alberta, I’ll just go to another province.'”

The AMA is currently developing its response to the proposed changes, and plans to submit its feedback prior to the Dec. 20 deadline.

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Brain injury from domestic abuse a ‘public health crisis,’ says B.C. researcher

A British Columbia mother in her late 30s says there was “no support in sight” after she suffered two serious blows to the head at the hands of different partners more than a decade ago.

“I was exhausted. I had to quit my job because I couldn’t get up,” said the woman, whose name is not being used because she is separated from her child’s father and fears for her family’s safety.

“My head hurt so badly. I wasn’t able to focus. I felt really down on myself because I didn’t know why I couldn’t function properly.”

The mother said it would have been “life changing” if first responders, hospital staff and even family members had been aware of the effects of a potential brain injury from domestic violence and offered her support accordingly.

“I had no understanding that my brain was not working properly,” she said, adding that she did not have trouble focusing, managing her time or multitasking before the first violent incident.

“It’s been hell to figure it out on my own.”

She said learning about the effects of a brain injury helped her overcome the shame she felt after the two blows, which happened several years apart when she was in her 20s.

She sets timers and reminders on her phone to help structure her days and she keeps notes handy with ideas for meals and ingredients that sometimes elude her. She has also become certified in yoga and mindfulness, activities she said help her cope with the chronic effects of multiple concussions.

The B.C. mother is a member of an advisory committee for Supporting Survivors of Abuse and Brain Injury through Research, or SOAR. The organization was founded in 2016 by Karen Mason, the former executive director of the Kelowna Women’s Shelter, and her partner Paul van Donkelaar, a professor in the school of health and exercise sciences at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.

An ‘unrecognized public health crisis’

Compared with brain injury research being done on athletes, the research involving people who have suffered similar injuries from intimate partner violence is in its infancy, said van Donkelaar.

The silence and stigma shrouding domestic violence mean those who suffer brain injuries are falling through the cracks of what van Donkelaar calls “an unrecognized public-health crisis in Canada.”

Of nearly 96,000 victims of intimate partner violence reported to police in Canada in 2017, 79 per cent were women, according to Statistics Canada.

But spousal and domestic violence is often not reported to police and it’s hard to determine how many survivors might have experienced traumatic brain injury as a result, said van Donkelaar.

Based on research from the U.S., including a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said the prevalence of brain injuries could be anywhere from 30 to more than 90 per cent of all survivors.


A research trainee is seen during a demonstration of the measurement of blood flow to the brain through transcranial doppler ultrasound at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus, in Kelowna, B.C., in an undated handout photo. The ultrasound is one way UBC scientists are looking for evidence of traumatic brain injury in survivors of intimate partner violence. (UBC Okanagan/The Canadian Press)

Overlap with sports-related concussions

The SOAR team is assessing women to determine how many may have sustained traumatic brain injuries and the extent to which their symptoms overlap with sports-related concussions.

The researchers use lab-based tests as well as a questionnaire that includes questions like “Did you see stars?” and “Did you lose consciousness or have a period where you couldn’t remember things?”

The first results, published recently in the journal Brain Injury, show all 18 women initially recruited through the Kelowna Women’s Shelter reported symptoms consistent with traumatic brain injury. The research is ongoing and van Donkelaar said his team has now assessed about 60 women.

Domestic violence often includes blows to the head, face or neck, as well as strangulation, said van Donkelaar.

“Each of those experiences absolutely have the potential to cause some form of brain injury, similar to what you would see in many collision sports like football or hockey,” he said.

The B.C. mother said her former partner was strangling her when her head smashed against a bedside table as she tried to fight back.

When family members brought her to the hospital, staff seemed “frustrated” that she didn’t remember exactly what happened and she had difficulty speaking coherently, she said. They stitched up the gash in her head, told her she may have a concussion and advised her to rest at home.

The woman did not return to that abusive relationship, but several years later she sustained another serious blow to the head when a different partner threw her out of a moving car.

She doesn’t remember how she got to the hospital, but she had a similar experience with staff at the hospital, where her then-partner urged her not to disclose what happened.

“I remember trying to ask for help and I feel like they treated me like I was intoxicated because I could not speak.”

They gave her an MRI, said she had a concussion, encouraged her to avoid watching television or otherwise straining her eyes and told her she should be fine within a couple of weeks.

In addition to assessments of the cause of the injury and the resulting symptoms, the best predictor of sustaining a concussion is having had one previously, said van Donkelaar

“Each time, you will be less likely to recover fully,” he said, noting that people who have suffered multiple concussions may end up with chronic symptoms such as dizziness, nausea or difficulty concentrating.

“That can be debilitating and absolutely reduce the quality of life in terms of the ability to hold down a job or go to school or parent your children or interact with colleagues and friends.”

Stigma and fear

The fear and stigmas that make it difficult for survivors to disclose domestic violence mean that brain injury becomes even more invisible, particularly if there’s a more visible injury, like a broken bone, van Donkelaar said.

In response, SOAR is developing resources to help shelter workers and health-care professionals have conversations with survivors of domestic violence to assess whether they might have a brain injury and refer them to the appropriate support services.

People with brain injuries often need a range of support services, said Mason, from counselling and parenting help to occupational therapy.

This past summer, the Department of Women and Gender Equality gave $ 1 million over five years to van Donkelaar and Mason’s work, funding they hope to use to provide training for shelter workers in communities across B.C. next year.

The B.C. mother said she still struggles some days but the knowledge, tools and support she has mean she no longer feels guilty or ashamed.

“I was so upset about why I didn’t feel like myself,” she said.

“Now I’m able to say, ‘Well, there’s a reason I can’t do this,’ and there’s forgiveness.”

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Pain, agony and ‘years of duress’: How hockey wives are fighting back over players’ chronic brain injuries

Jennifer Belak Liang remembers her car phone ringing as she was picking up her daughters Alex and Andie from school one day in August 2011. It was the agent for her husband, hockey player Wade Belak.

On speaker phone, the agent asked her if she had spoken to her husband that day. 

She hadn’t. It was the second phone call she received asking that question and it filled her with dread. 

“Wade is really hurt,” the agent said.

“It was awful. I was called by multiple friends … they knew before I knew. But they didn’t know what to say,” Belak Liang said of the day she lost her husband to suicide.

Belak’s suicide was the third death in a cluster of tragic and sudden deaths of NHL enforcers, including Derek Boogaard, 28, and Rick Rypien, 27. All had been tasked with fighting on ice and all suffered multiple hits to the head. There have been other deaths of players since, including Steve Montador and Todd Ewen.


After the loss of her husband, Wade Belak, Jennifer Belak Liang struggled with feelings of isolation and guilt (Jennifer Belak Liang)

Now, the wives of some of the retired hockey enforcers are in their own fight, taking on the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman. They want the league to acknowledge there’s a link between fights and head injuries on the ice and long-term effects like degenerative brain disease. They also want more support for families struggling with symptoms of traumatic brain injury. 

“My husband had CTE. He was showing signs of CTE. He took his own life,” said Belak Liang. “It’s going to be many more…  It’s [an] injustice to everyone else out there, I think, for them not to admit that this can happen.” 

Wade Belak had recently retired from his 14-year career with the National Hockey League and was in Toronto in the summer of 2011 rehearsing for the show Battle of the Blades — the CBC reality show that pairs hockey players with figure skaters. At approximately 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 31, he ended his life.

After the loss of her husband, Jennifer Belak Liang struggled with feelings of isolation and guilt. 

“I was drowning, blaming myself,” she said in an interview with The Fifth Estate.

At the time, she knew little of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease. Her husband had asked that in the event of his death, his brain be tested for the disease. She fulfilled his wish, and he was diagnosed with CTE.

Since the loss of her husband, Belak Liang, who has since remarried, tries to offer support to others facing tragic loss of loved ones.

‘Knew his role’

As an NHL enforcer who played 14 seasons in the NHL, Belak “knew his role,” said Belak Liang. “He didn’t love it, but he was fine with it [because] he wanted to stay within the NHL and have his career. 

“He told me: ‘I can’t stay here unless I fight.’ “

Watch Jennifer Belak Liang remember her husband:

Jennifer Belak Liang remembers her husband’s happiness as an NHL player 0:35

While many hockey players can make millions during their career, brain trauma and concussions can take a toll, especially for those who played the role of an enforcer — a role now being phased out.

It  was during her husband’s last years with the Nashville Predators that Belak Liang noticed a shift in his behaviour.  

“It started about five years before he passed. He just got really introverted, really quiet at home. When the kids were screeching or making noises, I could see him not able to handle it, which was not like him.”


Wade and Jennifer Belak had two daughters: Andie, second from left, and Alex. (Kerrie L. Cooper)

About eight months before he died, Belak noticed a decline in her husband’s memory. He’d use his phone to help remember daily tasks, including taking pictures of groceries he had to buy.  

‘Through sickness and in health’

Many experts say concussions can often lead to a cycle of substance abuse, depression, memory loss, even suicide. 

Daniel Carcillo, 35, from King City, Ont., has won two Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks, and was known as Car Bomb for his reckless fighting style on ice. He now battles depression and suicidal thoughts. 


Daniel Carcillo was know as Car Bomb for his reckless on-ice fighting style. (Getty Images)

Carcillo said his wife, Ela Bulawa, has been burdened. “But I think that’s what marriage and loving somebody is all about, right? Through sickness and in health.” 

While he was in his final NHL season with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, Carcillo suffered great personal loss: the passing of his grandfather, as well as his best friend and teammate, Steve Montador, who was found to have CTE.

Carcillo, who had seven concussions during his NHL career, wonders if he could become another statistic. “Wade had CTE. Are these reaffirmations that I’m going to have CTE?… “There’s a pretty good chance.”

Recognizing the signs

Once retired, players can often feel abandoned and without support. Carcillo said he has felt that way. But he’s taken steps to heal: functional neurology therapy, acupuncture, proper nutrition and diet. He speaks publicly, often on social media, about traumatic brain injury and the impact it can have.  

“I’m very, very proud of Daniel, from where he has been, and where he is now,” Bulawa said.

They have started a foundation called Chapter 5, which aims to provide support to retired players and their families, especially players who are suffering post-concussion syndrome, anxiety and depression.


The Carcillo family: Ela holds baby Scarlett, while Daniel holds Laila and their son Austin is in front. (Ela Bulawa)

   

“They put their whole lives into playing hockey and being the best of the best. And once it’s over, then what?” said Bulawa. “It shouldn’t just be,’Oh, that’s it, sorry guys. See ya later.’ ”  

Carcillo and Bulawa have learned to recognize signs of his depression returning, for example sleeping in, impulse control issues, loss of appetite and withdrawal from friends and family.

Blurry vision and headaches

Todd Ewen played hockey in the era when even after getting rocked on the ice, players were sent back out again. Both he and his wife, Kelli, believed he experienced head trauma because he had symptoms: blurry vision, headaches and sleeplessness.

After playing 11 seasons in the NHL, Todd Ewen retired in 1997. He became a real estate agent, was a musician, patented several inventions and coached the St. Louis University Billikens.

But Ewen was struggling. He became aggressive with Kelli. Depression, memory loss and confusion plagued him.


Originally from Saskatchewan, Todd Ewen played for five teams over 11 NHL seasons. (Getty Images)

  

By 2013, he gave up coaching because he couldn’t remember plays and was missing practices.  

“We didn’t know who we had. One day we had the sad Todd, the mad Todd, the angry Todd. We had no idea what was going on. This man suffered for years like this, our family suffered for years like this,” his wife said.

They wondered if he could have Alzeimher’s or Parkinson’s disease, but with the loss of Rypien, Boogaard and Belak in 2011, Ewen began to wonder if he could have CTE.  He told Kelli one day that he didn’t want to be a burden. At the time, she did not realize the weight of his words.

On Sept. 19, 2015, Kelli Ewen found her husband in the basement of their home near St. Louis. He was 49 when he killed himself.


Kelli and Todd Ewen believed he experienced head trauma because he had symptoms such as blurry vision, headaches and sleeplessness. (Kelly Ewen)

  

The Ewen family was contacted by the Canadian Concussion Centre in Toronto asking to study Todd’s brain. 

 “I knew something was wrong. And I thought maybe this is the answer. I read the articles about [CTE]. I could just check off the boxes, just one after another. And I thought this has to be it.” 

But neuropathologist Dr. Lili-Naz Hazrati at the centre told Kelli her husband did not have CTE. She was devastated and desperate for an explanation and said she asked the doctor to retest his brain, but Hazrati declined. 

Class action lawsuit

In 2018, a class action lawsuit between more than 300 retired players and the NHL was settled. Players had accused the league of failing to protect them from head injuries or warn them of the risks involved with playing.

Ewen’s negative CTE results were used as an example in the lawsuit of how media hype could lead a person to kill themselves because of fear of having CTE.

Bettman wrote: “This, sadly, is precisely the type of tragedy that can result when plaintiffs’ lawyers and their media consultants jump ahead of the medical community and assert, without reliable scientific support, that there is a causal link between concussions and CTE.” 


Ela Bulawa, left, and Jennifer Belak Liang want more support for families struggling with symptoms of traumatic brain injury. (Virginia Smart/CBC)

Kelli Ewen said she was was extremely hurt, and believed they were using her husband for the benefit of the lawsuit.  

The NHL announced an $ 18.9-million US settlement — $ 22,000 US per player and medical expense coverage up to $ 75,000 per person. However, there was no acknowledgement of liability for the players’ assertions. 

Carcillo refused to participate in the settlement. 

Another test

Kelli Ewen couldn’t live with the results from the Canadian Concussion Centre. She arranged to have samples of her husband’s brain sent to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist and director of Boston University’s CTE Center.

Her research, much of which has involved professional athletes, focuses on the long-term effects of all kinds of brain injury, which can include CTE. Currently, CTE can only be diagnosed with an autopsy. 


Kelli Ewen’s husband, Todd, loved riding motorcycles, and she now rides with memories of him. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

While there is no known treatment, the hope is research from Boston University’s brain bank will one day allow the detection of the disease in life, “while there’s still a chance to do something about it,” McKee said.

In late 2018, McKee revealed her own conclusions to Kelli Ewen, stating her instincts were correct: her husband did, in fact, have CTE. 

“[Gary Bettman] still stands by the [original] findings, which I find mind-boggling,” Kelli Ewen said.

‘It’s not about money’

Kelli Ewen filed a lawsuit against the NHL on April 30, 2019, challenging the league’s dismissal of  a link between hits to the head during hockey games and CTE . She wants to bring awareness to concussions and CTE and the suffering families go through when they don’t understand the symptoms they’re seeing with their husbands.  

“It’s not about money, you know? It’s about the pain, the agony, the years of duress,” she said.  

“I feel like it’s the NHL’s responsibility to stand up and take care of these players that this great game of hockey was built on; these fighters that gave, essentially, their lives for the NHL. And it’s time for them to step up and admit and help them get the help they need.”

Watch Kelli Ewen talk about her lawsuit:

Kelli Ewen has filed a lawsuit against the National Hockey League 0:45

The day after Kelli Ewen’s lawsuit was filed, Bettman appeared before a Commons subcommittee in Ottawa regarding sports-related concussions and safety.  

Bettman questioned any direct link between multiple hockey concussions and CTE, saying “in short, I don’t believe based on everything I’ve been told — and if anybody has information to the contrary, we’d be happy to hear it — other than some anecdotal evidence, there has not been that conclusive link.”

“Our players like the way the NHL game is played and understand the implications of playing a physical contact sport at the highest professional level in the world,” he said. 

“At the end of the day we view ourselves as a family, and our resources are available to the members of our family.”


NHL commissioner Gary Bettman appears before the Commons subcommittee on sports-related concussions on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 1, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Jennifer Belak Liang, Kelli Ewen and the Carcillo family would disagree. 

“It’s crazy to me that they won’t admit anything. It’s sad,” Belak Liang said. 

 “At least admit it’s real,” said Ewen. “That would go a long way with a lot of the families.”

The Fifth Estate requested an interview with Bettman to address the wives’ concerns, but the only response was: “Thank you for your inquiry. We will not be participating.”  

At a sports conference in Toronto last week, The Fifth Estate’s Bob McKeown approached Bettman. All he would say was: “How are you? Nice to see you. I gotta go.”

  • Watch “Hockey fight: Wives reveal the cost of concussions” on The Fifth Estate on CBC-TV Sunday at 9 p.m.

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