Boxers, among other athletes may suffer severe head injuries: image via ysc87.xomba.com
Severe head injuries of the kind induced by motorcycle accidents, rough sports, falls, and blows to the head visit about 1.7 million Americans every year. Very difficult to treat, these occurrences often result in permanent brain damage, vegetative, or semi-vegetative states. Some doctors have been using an old flu medicine called amatadine to treat head injury patients and have reported success with the drug, but an international, inter-disciplinary team was recently the first to test the drug against a placebo.
Patients with minimal consciousness or in a vegetative state who were receiving rehabilitation treatment were placed on amatadine or a placebo within 4 to 16 weeks after traumatic injury. The treatment period lasted 4 weeks and the patients were followed for 2 additional weeks.
After 4 weeks, more patients in the amatadine group were able to correctly respond to simple commands and to answer basic yes and no questions correctly. Additionally, compared to 17 percent in the control group, 32 percent of patients in the amatadine group were no longer in vegetative states.
Though rates of recovery returned to the same levels after drug treatment was withdrawn, this research did statistically verify, for the first time, that amatadine is successful in treatment of many traumatic head injury events early in the treatment period. Amaditine was originally used as a flu medicine in the 1960's; it has and is being used often in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.
sources: RDMag, New England Journal of Medicine