Hawaii experts breakdown traumatic brain injuries

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii football legend, Colt Brennan, had an undoubtedly successful career on the field.

But he battled with his mental and physical health for years off the field.

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In one of his final social media posts, the Hawaii football great detailed his journey with his health over the years. The former Warrior cites drug and alcohol abuse, blood clots and traumatic brain injuries.

Experts say injuries to the brain can open a host of other issues.

“The injuries affect things like cognition, a person’s ability to problem solve, remember, it affects their judgment,” said Dr. Alana Coffee, a clinical psychologist with the Honolulu Psychology Collective. “We know that people make questionable decisions when their brain is injured.”

When the injury occurred can also have a toll on the individual.

“If the injury happened in adulthood, they recognize that I am now different than I was before this injury. Those differences are emotional irregularities and they can no longer manage their temper or maybe as well as they once could,” Coffee said.

Brennan experienced many concussions in his football career.

For athletes in contact sports, chronic traumatic encephalopathyis (CTE) a major medical concern.

“It’s a very scary illness that can result in behavioral changes and even in the most tragic form, death either by suicide or by losing one’s life to other issues related to CTE,” said Dr. Nick Crawford, an orthopedic surgeon with HOPE Sports Hawaii.

Experts say Hawaii has been a leading force in CTE research across the nation, but there is more work to be done.

“The medical community needs to really stand up and protect athletes, because there’s a lot of money out and a lot of scholarships out there. Everybody wants to succeed and we got to balance that with knowing what the science is, what’s safe, and what’s not safe,” Crawford said.

Those suffering from traumatic brain injuries and their families can seek help through a local organization called Brain Injury Association of Hawaii.

“These organizations sensitize us to remember, those are our family members, neighbors and, friends. They’re not this crazy person. They’re someone that has feelings, with a brain injury though,” said Coffee.

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