Research is revealing traumatic consequences from football head injuries. The brutality of the sport has never been in question, but now we know the degree of the severe, long-term health risks that are primarily associated with CTE.
The sport is trying to solve the problem by changing the rules, but what if science could also find a solution? That’s what former Kentucky linebacker Jim Kovach is trying to do.
Before he was Dr. Kovach, he was a tackling machine. Between 1974-78 he had 521 career tackles, the most ever recorded by a Kentucky football player. His illustrious career earned him a place in the UK Hall of Fame.
Kovach began medical school during his final year of football at Kentucky. He was drafted in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints where he played for seven years while also becoming a doctor.
Now Kovach is spearheading research into a preventative head trauma treatment that involves “captons.” The science behind captons is complicated, so I’ll let The Monday Morning QB give it a shot:
The theory behind captons is that they could be taken as a prophylactic before injury. When a concussion causes a spike in reaction oxygen species (ROS), the captons will react with those free radicals and neutralize the oxidative stress. Additionally, the transformed captons will then act as neuroprotectants to de-excite the neurons at the site of injury, and only there. “[Pathology after concussion] is like a ripple effect,” says Sara Isbell, Mercaptor’s CEO and co-founder, “we prevent those ripples from expanding.”
It’s still a ways away from being a viable preventative treatment for NFL athletes. They expect initial human trials to begin next year, with clinical trials for patients with CTE five years later. Kovach is willing to be one of the first to receive the experimental treatment.
“I’ll raise my hand and say ‘Yes, me too,’” Kovach says. “It’s naÃ¯ve to think that there’s no chance that I could get [CTE]. It’s tragic to believe that you will, but you can’t believe that you won’t, either.”
Learn more about Kovach’s life, research and the complicated neurological science behind head injuries in this piece from The MMQB.