North Dakota Brain Injury Advisory Council

This month (March 2017), the North Dakota Senate passed , “A bill for an Act to create and enact… a brain injury advisory council.”  Introduced in a bipartisan manner by Rep. D. Anderson (R-06) and Sen. Mathern (D-11), the bill passed the Senate unanimously.

According to the bill, the Council to be created will be comprised of at least one survivor, one family member of a survivor and others, both in government and outside of it.  Beyond the bill’s aforementioned mission, though, the text of the bill says little of what the Council is to do.

However, the North Dakota Brain Injury Advisory Council can take a cue from similar Councils in other states.  For example, in 2007, Washington State enacted House Bill 2055, which created the Washington Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council, “to bring together expertise from the public and private sector to address the needs and gaps in survivors.”  In 2003, Montana created a council, “to advise and make recommendations to the Governor on ways to improve and develop services [to aid] people with brain injuries and their families.”

It is heartening to see that another state has recognized the importance of its brain injured constituents.  It is just as important to see that it was done in a bipartisan manner, as brain injury doesn’t follow party lines.

All-American Head Injury

Though many people outside of the southern and western United States may find this surprising, rodeo, involving such events as roping and barrel racing, is a top sport in America.  Beyond these events, when most Americans think of rodeo, they automatically think of one of its most dangerous events: bull riding.  Bull riding and similarly dangerous events, such as bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, can easily result in physical and cranial harm to the competitor.  Therefore, it seems quite discordant that on Saturday, March 18th, Lubbock, TX is having its 4th Annual Brain Injury Awareness Rodeo.

Protect your brain and put your skills to the test with this fun educational event!” says Lubbock Park and Recreation of the event, open to people 4 ages and older.  In fact, the “rodeo” isn’t actually a rodeo – it is a bike-riding educational event, to be held at Safety City, “a unique kid-sized town where school age children learn hands-on the rules of pedestrian, bicycle and traffic safety.”  In New Mexico, another such children’s “rodeo” event will be happening in Albuquerque.

Although calling the event a rodeo may misconstrue its purpose, the name does give notice to the connection between brain injury and rodeo.  Rodeo is one of the most dangerous of popular sports, with riders ten times more likely to be seriously injured than football players. Earlier this year, for example, a 25-year-old professional bull rider who had numerous concussions and suffered from depression and anxiety, likely signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), committed suicide.

However, as the headline of this article notes, rodeo is an All-American sport.  Therefore, it is often connected to politics.  At the public University of Arizona, Rodeo is a club sport.  At Fall Creek and Houston, TX elementary schools, they just planned a rodeo for their students.  And last February, Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, TX, had a Rodeo Kickoff Breakfast, “to highlight the economic and social impact the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has on the city of Houston.”

It is not my place to comment on the legitimacy of Rodeo as a sport, as it is enjoyed by millions and its athletes are aware of its risks.  However, I find it counterintuitive for the government to promote a sport that actually injuries or kills some of its constituents.

Drones Promise Quick, Not Safe Delivery

Drones are on their way to becoming the preferred method of retail delivery and much more.  Currently, however, the air technology can only be used in a few limited locations.  Before they become ubiquitous, though, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) must assure that this way of delivery, that may weigh 50+ pounds, is safe for humans.  (Not just for airplane safety, the FAA is responsible for the safety of U.S. airspace from the ground up.)  Given their weight and their height of flight, head safety related to drones is of particular concern.

This has already been an issue this year.  On February 24, 2017, for example, a Seattle man was sentenced to a $500 fine and 30-days in jail because his drone hit a woman, causing her to lose consciousness.  However, current news also shows that drones can prove a benefit to those with a head injury.  In St. Louis, Minnesota the sheriff’s office is testing drones so, ultimately, they, “can look for missing persons, or a child, or maybe someone [who] was injured in an accident and sustained a head injury and wandered off.”

Federal-sponsored drone tests are also revealing.  At a government-approved test center at Virginia Tech, a drone is being tested again a crash-test dummy.  In testing, “the 21-pound drone tilted forward, accelerated sharply and slammed into [the drone’s] head, smacking the crash-test dummy’s neck backward and embedding shards of shattered propeller in his plastic face.”  Mark Black, director of the Virginia Tech drone test, asks, “When does the [head injury] threshold cross an unacceptable level?”

Although it is horrible to think of a head injury threshold, the Federal Aviation Administration knows that it can never make drones perfectly safe, just as airplanes will never be one hundred percent safe.  However, does the proposed FAA rule saying that, “Drones would have to fly 20 feet above people’s heads, and have a 10-foot buffer space on all sides,” satisfy the safety rules enough?

HEADS UP! March is… Brain Injury Awareness Month

First recognized in 2009, the CDC designates March as Brain Injury Awareness Month in order to “protect kids and teens by raising awareness and informing action to improve prevention, recognition, and response to concussion and other serious brain injuries.”  This year, the awareness month has been entitled “HEADS UP!”, as it primarily involves educational activities about concussion diagnosis and treatment.  As information regarding the month’s Awareness activities becomes available, this blog will update this post.  (View this year’s Facebook page about the month.)

Update: Tax Returns Could Trump Trump’s Philanthropy Claims

Donald Trump often speaks of all the donations he makes to various charities.  In January, Trump held a fundraiser for at least 40 veterans-focused nonprofits, which raised $4.5, $5.5, $5.6 or $6 million, depended on which member of his staff you ask and when you ask them.  Some of this money was donated by Trump himself, with the majority of the money coming from fundraiser attendees.  The Bob Woodruff Foundation received a check for $75,000, which Woodruff said, “We can put it to very good use to help our vets and their families.” Also, in May, “[Trump] gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.”

Recently, The Wall Street Journal looked into the history of donations from the self-proclaimed philanthropist to all charities throughout the years.  The title of the article that followed this investigation is “Trump promised millions to charity.  We found less than $10,000 over 7 years.”  (I think the title of this story explains the findings of the Journal, although it can neither be proven nor repudiated without Trump’s tax returns.)

Update: In March 2017, head of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force, Pascrell, 163 Bipartisan Colleagues [Called] on Congress to Request Trump Tax Returns.  In actuality, the call for tax returns was only requested by two Republicans, Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Walter B. Jones (R-NC).  However, the request must be approved by the Senate Finance Committee and the Ways and Mean Committee, who are chaired by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Kevin Brady (R-TX), respectively, to submit a formal request to the Secretary of the Treasury.