Research is revealing traumatic consequences from football head injuries. Â 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? Â That’s what former Kentucky linebacker Jim Kovach is trying to do.
Before he was Dr. Kovach, he was a tackling machine. Â Between 1974-78 he had 521 career tackles, the most ever recorded by a Kentucky football player. Â 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. Â 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.” Â 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. â€œ[Pathology after concussion] is like a ripple effect,â€ says Sara Isbell, Mercaptorâ€™s CEO and co-founder, â€œwe prevent those ripples from expanding.â€
It’s still a ways away from being a viable preventative treatment for NFL athletes. Â They expect initial human trials to begin next year, with clinical trials for patients with CTE five years later. Â Kovach is willing to be one of the first to receive the experimental treatment.
â€œIâ€™ll raise my hand and say â€˜Yes, me too,â€™â€ Kovach says. â€œItâ€™s naÃ¯ve to think that thereâ€™s no chance that I could get [CTE]. Itâ€™s tragic to believe that you will, but you canâ€™t believe that you wonâ€™t, either.â€
Learn more about Kovach’s life, research and the complicated neurological science behind head injuries in this piece from The MMQB.Â