Football Hall-of-Famer Barry Sanders Tackles Pseudobulbar Affect; A Little-known But Widespread Condition Caused by Brain Injury

'Tackle PBA,' a New Educational Campaign, Addresses Why Many Former Pro Football Players Cry or Laugh Uncontrollably with Little to No Clear Trigger

21 Jan, 2015, 07:30 ET from Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

ALISO VIEJO, Calif., Jan. 21, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- New research shows 99 percent of former professional football players surveyed by the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, Inc., have suffered a head injury, repeated concussions, or a blow to the head sometime during their football career. More concerning is that a third of these players admit to experiencing symptoms consistent with a little-known neurological condition caused by brain injury called Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA); and most were unaware that PBA symptoms may result from head injury. To help educate the community, legendary football Hall-of-Famer, Barry Sanders, has teamed up with Gridiron Greats and Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to launch Tackle PBA, a new educational campaign to increase awareness of PBA as a potential consequence of brain injury.

"There's been a lot of attention recently on the consequences of sports-related brain injuries, yet PBA – a neurologic condition that can impact people with brain injury – is absent from the dialogue," said Mr. Sanders. "There's low awareness for PBA and many people don't know they have it. That's why I'm thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of the Tackle PBA campaign and help educate my peers as well as the larger sports community and beyond."

An estimated two million Americans suffer from PBA, a neurologic condition characterized by uncontrollable, sudden outbursts of crying and/or laughing that don't usually match what a person is feeling on the inside. PBA is not limited to sports-related brain injury; it can also occur in people with brain injuries from other causes like car accidents or falls, or certain other neurologic conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke or multiple sclerosis. 

Additional findings from the "Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund Survey" include:

  • The majority of the former players surveyed were aware of symptoms like memory loss (73 percent), difficulty thinking (60 percent), and headache (60 percent) as a result of brain injury. However, few were aware of PBA symptoms
  • Among former players surveyed with PBA symptoms, the greatest impact of these symptoms appears to be on spending time with family, maintaining a marriage, working and being able to participate in social activities
  • Only 16 percent of former players reporting any PBA symptoms had discussed their symptoms with a healthcare professional and just over half of them received any diagnosis or explanation for their symptoms
  • Common reasons for not reporting crying or laughing episodes to a physician were "thought it was just depression" (29 percent) or "too embarrassed to mention" (25 percent)

"People who suffer from PBA may find their symptoms challenging, and suffer an emotional toll. PBA can negatively impact social interactions and sometimes these crying or laughing episodes are so interpersonally disruptive for people that they may interfere with their normal activities," said Dr. Greg O'Shanick, National Medical Director Emeritus of the Brain Injury Association of America. "The good news is that PBA is treatable. People who have, or think they may have PBA should talk to their doctor about ways to manage their symptoms."

The Tackle PBA campaign activities include an online resource at TacklePBA.org where people can learn more about PBA and take a self-assessment test. In addition, shareable, educational content, including a public service announcement, will be distributed through the website and @PBAInfo to help ensure PBA remains in the national dialogue. People are encouraged to join the dialogue through #TacklePBA.

"We are honored to be joined by our Tackle PBA partners to help us raise awareness and ensure that people with PBA have the appropriate knowledge and support to manage their condition," said Rohan Palekar, chief commercial officer of Avanir Pharmaceuticals.

About PBA
PBA is a neurologic condition characterized by uncontrollable, disruptive laughing and/or crying outbursts that are often contrary or exaggerated to the patient's inner mood state. As a result, many of those afflicted with PBA show significant impairment on standard measures of health status, and impairments in occupational and social function, often leading to social isolation. PBA occurs secondary to a variety of neurologic conditions such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. When these disorders damage areas of the brain that regulate normal emotional expression, they can lead to uncontrollable, disruptive episodes of crying or laughing. For more information about PBA, please visit www.TacklePBA.org and follow @PBAinfo.

About the Survey
The 2014 "Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund Survey" examined the types of head injuries that occur in football and the possible after effects of those injuries. For purposes of this survey, head injury, concussion or traumatic brain injury included skull fracture, being knocked unconscious, having a head injury requiring hospitalization, feeling wobbly or disoriented after taking a hit to the head and experiencing temporary memory loss after being hit. 

All respondents were required to be at least 18 years old, have played professional football or be the family member or person who lives with or helps care for someone who has played professional football. Of the 7,000 members of Gridiron Greats emailed to take the survey, 516 people responded including 474 former professional football players and 42 family members or caregivers of former players. GfK, a leading market research organization, executed the study which fielded in November of 2014. Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc., was not identified as the sponsor. The prevalence of PBA symptoms was determined using the Center for Neurologic Study-Lability Scale (CNS-LS), a validated measure of PBA symptoms.

About Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders is a former American football running back and considered to be one of the greatest of all time. He won the Heisman Trophy while playing football for Oklahoma State University in 1988. Sander's played professional football for 10 years and won Most Valuable Player in 1997. In 2004, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Today, Barry's time is focused on his family, community and charitable projects.

About Gridiron Greats
The Gridiron Greats mission is to assist dire need retired football players and their families. These men were pioneers of the game and have greatly contributed to making pro football the most popular sport in America. Gridiron Greats provides hands-on assistance to help retired players and their families deal with hardships they face after football. The services include medical assistance, transportation costs for medical evaluations and surgeries, dental assistance, housing assistance, financial assistance for utilities, medication, and coordination of services for food and other day-to-day necessities.

About Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on bringing innovative medicines to patients with central nervous system disorders of high unmet medical need. As part of our commitment, we have extensively invested in our pipeline and are dedicated to advancing medicines that can substantially improve the lives of patients and their loved ones. For more information about Avanir, please visit http://www.avanir.com.

Avanir is a subsidiary of Otsuka America, Inc. (OAI), a holding company established in the U.S. in 1989. OAI is wholly owned by Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. The Otsuka Group employs approximately 42,000 people globally, and its products are available in more than 80 countries worldwide. Otsuka welcomes you to visit its global website at https://www.otsuka.co.jp/en.

Avanir® is a trademark or registered trademark of Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in the United States and other countries.

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