from research to real life – brain injury and Parkinson’s

Recently, there has been lots of talk about head injuries and neurodegenerative diseases…

In September 2012, a study was published stating professional football players at 3 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases than the general population (from CNN). 3 players from the 334 included in this study were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, though this was not significantly different than the average population. The NFL took action by donating $30mil to National Institute of Health for brain injury research (link HERE!).

NFL hall of famer Forrest Gregg reveals battle with Parkinson’s disease
(Mark Lyons, Getty Images Sport)

… In other football news, the longest serving member of the Edmonton Eskimos, Dwayne Mandrusiak – who has been their equipment manager for 42 seasons (!!) announced he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in August. The following link shares his story of how he was diagnosed (approached by team physicians), who he is leaning on for support, his symptoms right now (rigidity) and how he is determined to not let PD stop him!  Check out the inspiring read HERE!

Dwayne Mandrusiak, equipment manager for the Edmonton Eskimos, diagnosed with PD Aug 2012 (

I thought I would mention (see previous info here!) about some of the latest Parkinson’s research…

The main idea: Participants with PD were twice as likely as those without PD to report having had a head injury in which they lost consciousness for more than five minutes. This risk was increased if the participant was exposed to paraquat (i.e. live <500m). The trauma from the brain injury may leave brain cells more vulnerable to the exposure of other environmental toxins – creating more damage (i.e. combination of multiple risk factors)

Research: Tramatic Brain Injury, Paraquat Exposure and their Relationship to Parkinson’s disease (Neurology, 2012)


and remember, safe is sexy!…. wear a helmet. much love.

P.S. interested in occupation and risk for Parkinson’s? Read more HERE!

“battling parkinson’s disease” (or, head trauma and risk of PD-part2)

In 1984, Muhammad Ali was a 42 years old former boxing champion who recently had to figure out how to live with his tremors, slurred speech and slow movements. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Ali 1980 (only 1yr prior to appearance of PD signs, 4 yrs before diagnosis)

Ali fought late into his life; and especially his last two fights, Holmes (above) and Berbick, left him battered and bruised… to say the least.

There are many people that believe Ali would have developed PD even if he lived a life as a quiet librarian, since the evidence linking boxing-related head trauma to development of PD is still controversial.

However, there’s another group that believe in a definitive cause-and-effect relationship.

In 2006, study shows an association between prior head injury with loss of consciousness and PD (odds ratio= 3.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.3–11; p = 0.014) in twins, especially monozygotic (Goldman et al. Annals Neurology, 2006). Risk was increased with subsequent head injuries and/or hospitalization.

Puerto Rico's Arroyo twin boxers (2008)

Another case-controlled study examined environmental risk of PD. This study found that head injury (OR=6.23) that occurred on average 37yrs prior to diagnosis was the strongest risk-factor for PD… Though you have to keep-in-mind people have a hard time remembering these events or may attach greater significance to them in hindsight, i.e.”recall bias”.

Ali has turned his battle with PD into a positive by:

– establishing the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Centre (at the Barow Neurological Institute)

– hosting the annual charity event (going on 17 years! wow) Celebrity Fight Night (

Ali @ Celebrity Fight Night 2009


so, to all those who are bravely battling this disease, i admire you! keep your mind active to have a fighting chance… and never surrender!

Or, as Dr. Lieberman puts it: “fight like a tiger, think like a fox”. much love.

coffee, cigarette, pills and risk of Parkinson’s disease (part1)

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. What we do know is that it is a combination of environmental and genetic factors that lead to its development.

Research (link here) shows coffee, cigarettes and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e. ibuprofen) are associated with lower risk of developing PD… BUT, becoming a quad-americano regular with a pack-a-day habit is probably going to do more harm than good.



It has been suggested that the association of cigarettes is due to the fact that:

1. persons with PD exhibit personality differences; for example, persons predestined to get PD are more likely to choose not to smoke, due to their inherent neuropsychological states (personality) that are influencing lifestyle behaviors

2. nicotine may stimulate dopamine release (the chemical that is degenerated in PD), and can therefore suppress signs of PD

(Morens, Grandinetti, Reed, White, & Ross, 1995)


1. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant (adenosine receptor antagonism). Caffeine may act to remove inhibition of dopamine neurotransmission (caffeine and dopamine share similar receptors) and thereby increases dopamine release. So basically, it can be a form of self-medication that decreases clinical expression of Parkinsonism.

2. Also, personality may be an influence. Perhaps behavioural factors (inherent personality) make persons likely to develop Parkinson’s disease choose to not drink coffee.

(Ross, Abbott, Petrovitch, et al. JAMA 2000)




1. inhibit cyclooxygenaze enzymes involved in inflammation. The inflammatory process have been implicated in PD pathology (due to glial activation and pro-inflammatory cytokines).

2. have been shown to reduce loss of dopamine and associated neurons

3. are hydroxyl-radical scavengers (i.e. clean-up free radicals, which may play a critical role in PD occurrence)

(Chen, Zhang, Miguel et al., Arch Neurol 2003)

 Just a note,

…this information needs to be digested with caution. A lot of this research is done by statistical analysis of medical records and health history, and there is a fine line between “associations” (a possible common etiological factor) and direct “cause-and-effect”.

So PLEASE, don’t grab a pack of smokes, pop some aspirin and chug a double-double on your way home… much love.

coming soon… Part 2: diet, dairy, head trauma and risk of Parkinson’s disease