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Big Game, Big Hits; Inside the Operating Room

Aired February 3, 2013 - 07:30   ET


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning. And thanks for joining us. And just about 10 hours now until the Super Bowl.

You know, I love football and I'm looking forward to the game tonight. This year I'm also going to be thinking harder about all those collisions as I watch them and how they affect the health of players now and potentially for years to come. The most pressing questions as I see them are about lasting damage from hard hits to the head.

There's this new study out of UCLA and it has relevance for all of us. It may have found a way for the first time to look for telltale damage in the brains of players who are still alive.


GUPTA (voice-over): When he was a backup quarterback in the NFL, Wayne Clark was lucky to throw a pass or call a play. In fact, he spent most of his time on the sidelines.

WAYNE CLARK, RETIRED NFL PLAYER: So I didn't take the steady contacts that other players did.

GUPTA: Except for one game, one concussion in 1972.

CLARK: I went down in a slump because I didn't know where I was and didn't know what was going on and so forth.

GUPTA: He spent several bleary hours confused, and then boarded a plane back home.

CLARK: And somewhere over New Mexico or Arizona, I finally became aware of what was going on again.

GUPTA: Clark's brain was rattled, but it only happened once during his five year career.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scans turn red and green and yellow,

GUPTA: And that's what makes this picture of Clark's brain so interesting and perplexing. Researchers at UCLA say Clark has an abnormal protein called tau in his brain. Now, if tau sounds familiar, that's because it has been found in the brains of several former NFL players. Dave Duerson, Ray Easterling, Junior Seau, all had serious cognitive and emotional problems and eventually committed suicide. They were diagnosed with CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

(on camera): Let me show what I'm talking about. Take a look over here. That's a normal brain scan, compare two players in this study who had at least one concussion. You can immediately tell there are bright areas of yellow, bright areas of red. That's what the researches believe indicates the presence of tau.

Now, keep in mind, CTE in its most severe cases has memory problems, depression, and anger. So, they're not looking just whether or not tau is present, but whether it's present in parts of the brain that are responsible for those emotions.

(voice-over): Dr. Gary Small, the study's lead researcher, says he was surprised to find tau in the brains of all five players in the study -- tau that until now could only be seen by pathologists after death.

DR. GARY SMALL, LEAD RESEARCHER: What pathologists have been seeing in the brain these little tau deposits. We could see the same pattern.

GUPTA: Small is cautiously optimistic that this brain scan will eventually diagnose CTE in living people.

ROBERT STERN, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: It's a small step forward, but it's a baby step, because it's not specific to tau.

GUPTA: Robert Stern, a CTE expert at the Boston University School of Medicine is a bit more skeptical. He says Small's brain scan doesn't just measure tau, it measures another protein called amyloid, which is present in Alzheimer's disease.

STERN: But we don't know if what's lighting up is the tau alone, the beta amyloid, both.

SMALL: The tau protein we see in Alzheimer's, but it's a different pattern.

GUPTA: Could the players be suffering from CTE, Alzheimer's, or some other disease? These are important questions.

SMALL: I agree we need to do autopsy follow up studies to pin down that our hypothesis is correct.

GUPTA: And that brings us back to Wayne Clark. Remember, researchers found tau in his brain, but he is a cognitively normal 65- year-old. His case raises questions whether having tau in your brain necessarily means an early death or other factors like genetics also play a role.

Still, Clark says he's willing to keep up the brain scans until he dies to help figure it out. CLARK: Be able to find out what our conditions are now, address possible interventions earlier, so we don't have to wait until we're dead and autopsy our brains.


GUPTA: You know, I could tell you that players are much more concerned about head injuries than they were even just a few years ago. In fact, I want to take a moment to introduce you to former Detroit Lion Lamar Campbell. He took and gave out a lot of hard hits and he's now living with the consequences.


GUPTA (voice-over): Lamar Campbell has achieved what many young men only dream of. After four years of starting for the University of Wisconsin, he made it to the pros.

LAMAR CAMPBELL, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I got offered to camp at the Detroit line as a free agent in 1998. I made the team and played with them for five years.

GUPTA: Injuries ended his NFL career, but Campbell successfully found a new life after the game, as a real estate broker.

CAMPBELL: Welcome back to life after the game.

GUPTA: And radio talk show host on the "Voice America's Sports Network." A platform he uses to educate other players about transitioning to life after football, as well as the dangers of injuries you can't really see. Repeated hits to the head.

CAMPBELL: The perception of what a concussion was, was different. I don't think you thought you had a concussion until you were knocked out on the field and looked at that as a badge of honor.

GUPTA: As a player, he didn't know that concussions can cause serious injuries to the brain. Now, Campbell says playing football takes years off a player's life.

CAMPBELL: I get cramps all over my body, and headaches and migraines.

GUPTA: He says he's also suffered some memory loss.

CAMPBELL: There are situations where I don't remember certain series. I would be out there and not realize what was going on.

GUPTA: While he was never diagnosed, looking back, Campbell believes he had over 1p concussions in his football career and he believes players today need to recognize the symptoms and be willing to let their brains heal.

A year ago, Campbell considered donating his brain for research in Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. It's a degenerative brain disorder found in athletes with repetitive brain trauma and most recently linked to the suicides of former NFL stars Junior Seau and Dave Duerson.

CAMPBELL: I wrapped my brain around it for a long time. I think my decision was made. It was the timing of when to tell my family. With everything going on, of course, when (INAUDIBLE) Georgia was such a hot topic and players committing suicide. And what they didn't want to is scare your family members. You didn't want them to think that you were possible on the verge of doing something that drastic.

GUPTA: Just a few months ago, he sent the paperwork. For him, it's all about giving back to the game, making it safer for future generations, including his son should he follow in his dad's footsteps.


GUPTA: Yes, watching the Super Bowl today, I know that seeing those collisions, they're going to show them in slow-mo and make me shutter just a bit.

Coming up, making fictional medicine as realistic as we can. I'm going to give you an exclusive look behind the scenes of my new TNT show "Monday Mornings".


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw his brain and there was nothing you could do.



GUPTA: I've always been a fan of medical dramas. In some ways, it's like holding up a mirror in a fun way to the work that I do in the hospital.

So, it's a thrill to get a call last year from a TV legend David E. Kelly. He's made lots of my favorite shows, "Boston Legal," "Ally McBeal", "The Practice", "Chicago Hope". And tomorrow, he rolls out a new one. It's a medical drama called "Monday Mornings," and it's based on a novel that I wrote. I'm also an executive producer.

I'm excited now to give you a little preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming through.

GUPTA: Welcome to Chelsea General.

This is the emergency room and it's a trauma center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get out of my way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Clear. GUPTA: Place like this, we get multiple traumas at once. This is the sort of place where they all end up. Multiple trauma bays, lots of action in this area.

But you remember this from Dr. Tyler Wilson comes in with the entire team of Chelsea General doctors to make it all happen. That's what this hospital is all about.

It's a shooting day here in Chelsea General.

It's a single-level set, as you might imagine. There's ways we can make it multiple levels. For example elevator over here that goes straight through. You go through that elevator and you're suddenly on a different floor. Are these real?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be real.

GUPTA: OK. Anything could be real.

We're going to go to my favorite place at Chelsea General, the operating room. This is an operating room that you're going to see where we could actually perform surgery.

We wanted the entire room to be real. So, nothing in here is out of place, nothing doesn't belong. This is what a real operating room looks like.

This is a microscope we use to perform surgery. Be able to move this microscope all around and focus in on different parts of the head.

If I had to do surgery because someone need it on the set, I could do it right here in this room.

But Chelsea General is like every other hospital. And sometimes complications occur. People are held accountable here in room 311.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, let's get started, shall we?

GUPTA: This is the room that very few people know about. And even fewer people get to see. It's room 311.

Our characters often sit in the same seats, for example. You have Ty and Tina will usually sit over here. They'll El Gato, Villanueva, he's big presence usually in the back of the room.

This is the place over here that you never want to be. I mean, if you can avoid it. But there's literally this walk where the doctors hear for the first time that they're the ones in the hot seat when they come to this podium over here. You see it's a glass podium. People can see their body language.

The only person who sits in the same seat every time is Dr. Harding Hooten. He is the boss. He is the only person who can see the entire room. He can read everyone's expressions and that was critically important. The ultimate goal of 311 is to make sure that we learn from mistakes. This is how medicine and science moves forward. The worst thing of all that a mistake occurs and no one learns from it.

Room 311 makes sure that doesn't happen.


GUPTA: Those meetings that we just saw, those are a real thing. They happen to many hospitals. In fact, many of the story lines on "Monday Mornings" are inspired from my own experiences not only as a doctor, but also as a journalist.



GUPTA: This is our writer's room, essentially. We brain storm a lot in here and just come up with ideas and I think we all sort of try ideas off each other, just sort of put them out there like trial balloons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I'll come up with a story and I'll be like, is that possible? We can do that, right? And then you'll talk me through a lot. I'll call, how do I do this?

GUPTA: There was a story we did for CNN about this doctor, Dr. Chung (ph), who is down in Texas, military doctor and they've been focusing on trying to create a presence in really, really tough spots -- war zones, areas that are difficult to get to.

You can be here controlling a robot in the hospital or controlling a robot really anywhere in the world, right?

(voice-over): This news story inspired one of the episodes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, don't hit the robot.

GUPTA (on camera): Had a 20-year-old medic who has never done anything like this before who is basically going to be talked through a major brain operation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to need three packets of Vicryl sutures, 10 blade and as many little clamps as you can find.

GUPTA: Even though it's scripted drama, you know, the authenticity and making sure the facts are right and really spending so much time on that stuff is that important.

RYAN CAUSEY, WRITER'S ASSISTANT, TNT'S "MONDAY MORNINGS": I joke with these guys a lot because I don't have any medical background, not a doctor but I research for ones on TV.

GUPTA (voice-over): And this research really matters. The CDC says about a third of TV viewers take action on health issues after hearing about them on primetime shows. That's one reason the government makes their medical experts available to consult with Hollywood studios, free of charge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do that. We have actual medical technicians down on set. Several medical meetings and prep. We clear everything through you and you see everything.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there anything else I could do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that we do the best we can to make sure it's as close to the real deal as we can be.

GUPTA: You've got to have the other two steps in there, too. That's perfect.



GUPTA: And next weekend right here, you're going to see my interview with Ving Rhames and Alfred Molina, where Doctors Villanueva and Hooten as I know them. You will, too.

"Monday Mornings", it's my new show, premieres this Monday night at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

But still ahead right here on SGMD, a fun way, I think, to keep fresh food on the table. I'm going to be with rapper T.I. Get this -- we're going to be planting a winter garden.


GUPTA: I talk all the time about eating fresh vegetables and how great it is to grow it on your own. I do this with my own kids. We have our own garden.

But I'll be honest, when our next guest reached out, I was a little surprised, because he's a gardener but he's also a hip-hop star, his name is Clifford Harris, but everyone calls him T.I. I got together with him and Taja Sevelle, also a singer who now runs the group Urban Farming.


TAJA SEVELLE, URBAN FARMING: If you're a family that wants to cut down on your month bills and eat right and teach your kids about healthy eating so they can grow up strong and healthy, then you can plant your own garden, and that's what we're about to do.

You can grow indoors, outdoors any time. If you're in Northern states, you may want to consider an edible wall or nice planter like this. Just make sure it gets a lot of sunlight.

We have some lettuces, and we have some spices, and we have some baby collard greens and some baby carrots. So, lettuce gets a little bit bigger, so we want to plant maybe three in here. Tip it over but hold onto the little plant and just pull it out, OK?

That will be the all three you guys did as a family there.

Let's put arugula. See the purple one down there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Arugula.

SEVELLE: Let's put that here.

All right. Do you want to do some carrots?


SEVELLE: Carrots and lettuce, when you plant them together, they help each other because they give off different nutrients in the soil that help each other, so that's called companion planting.

RAPPER T.I.: How do you know when these things are ready to be picked?

SEVELLE: The lettuce, you can see, you can start picking it now. With the carrots, you want to wait a couple of months.

Should we put something in the edible wall?



We've just demonstrated how easy it is to do this and how quick it is to do it. I mean, that's pretty amazing. You guys have a problem now. Feed your papa.

RAPPER T.I.: Come on.



GUPTA: I'll tell you, with that edible wall, you can grow fresh vegetables all winter long and do it indoors.

Now, fresh fruit and veggies are only part of the regimen for our new group of Fit Nation triathletes. We brought the 6-pack, that's what we like to call them, to Atlanta this week to get them started on this journey on health.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One, two, three --

CROWD: Six-pack!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nice and easy. Nice and easy.

Last time around. We'll jog as a group and we're going inside. Whoo!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is it going?

GUPTA: Hey, how are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As soon as you said those words to me, that you're on the team, I thought, oh, my, I'm doing a triathlon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My goal for today is not to kill you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pedal, pedal, pedal. I think we're ready to get started now. I want 30 push-ups. You have three more in you.

As triathletes you can never slip.

Go ahead and hop in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to congratulate you all, number one, for making the decision to get fit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is kind of a full circle moment for me, walking in to the arena, I'm about to cry. That's no joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move those feet, move those feet. Get a burn. Butt down. Work, work, work. Rebound, rebound, rebound. Just keep counting.

CROWD: Defense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get up. Get a little shoulder burn. Same drill above your head.

GUPTA: How about this workout? (INAUDIBLE) train hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I think I started off a little too fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got one zip right now. Two-zip.

One, two, three --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got this. You're the man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chest pass -- nice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It only gets easier.



GUPTA: And we're going to follow their progress all the way to September and the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. They are going to finish this.

Get your own workout plan. Join us,

And a check to your top stories just minutes away when CNN Sunday Morning continues. But, up next, "Chasing Life" with two of the Atlanta Hawks.


GUPTA: This past weekend, two Atlanta Hawks took time out to help lead a free one-hour yoga class to children for CHOICES. That stands for the Center for Helping Obesity in Children End Successfully.


MICHELLE YOUNG, ATLANTA HAWKS' YOGA INSTRUCTOR: We're going to first pose and it is called child's pose.


GUPTA: That's the Hawks' yoga instructor Michelle Young. She introduced some beginner poses.

I said it many times before, yoga can help you lose weight and also help you keep it off. It can speed up metabolism. It can help your digestion. It can even help you sleep before.

Hawks center Zaza Pachulia, he is a big believer.


ZAZA PACHULIA, ATLANTA HAWKS CENTER: I did yoga with Michelle this morning before practice and practice went well.


GUPTA: How can you argue with that guy, he's 6'11"?

I want to end the show with a sad update. We talk a lot about the health struggles of 9/11 first responders. I met these men when I did my special called "Terror in the Dust." Well, this week, the Federal Compensation Fund paid out cash to 15 people, mostly firefighters with lung problems from breathing toxic dust when the Twin Towers fell.

But I'm sad to say that Marty Fullam, a New York City firefighter for more than 20 years, he died this past Monday, with a long struggle with lung disease. He died as he lived, valiantly and bravely, clinging to the hope he could get a second lung transplant that he desperately needed. He spent his last few months in the hospital waiting in vain.

Marty's funeral was yesterday. And his firefighter family, they showed up in full force. I only knew Marty a short time. But what's going to stay with me about him is his bravery in the face of those towers crumbling and also in the face of his declining health.

I hope Marty can now rest in peace.