Concussions have forever altered the sports landscape, calling attention to an injury that is difficult to diagnose and spawning a major motion picture.

Samuel D. Hodge, LAW ’74, professor at the Fox School, has co-authored a book that approaches head trauma and brain injuries, including concussions, from the perspective of the insurance, legal, and medical fields. His book, Head Trauma and Brain Injury for Lawyers, is the latest in a series of medical-legal guides he has penned for the American Bar Association. He’s written others spanning anatomy, the spine, and forensic autopsies.

“We used to assume that boxers were just ‘punch drunk,’ or that a football player ‘got his bell rung,’ but now, obviously, we know better,” says Hodge.

While the book delves into head trauma and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), Hodge says he and co-author Jack E. Hubbard, professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota’s School of Medicine, took a broader approach. The book covers basic anatomy of the brain and its functions, explains the neurological system, and demonstrates how to understand and interpret diagnostic tests for this area of the body.

“What makes the book so interesting and its breadth so wide is that we have chapters on head injuries sustained in military combat, sports, third-party lawsuits, social security disability, and workers’ compensation,” Hodge explains. “Our approach, from both a medical and legal perspective, should make this the seminal book on this subject—not only for medical and legal professionals, but also for those in the insurance industry.”

TBIs contribute to roughly 30 percent of all injury deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In his research, Hodge found that TBIs were the most common injury incurred in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“On the surface, that is surprising,” he says. “But because our military personnel have full body armor, they’re protected from shrapnel in pretty much every other part of their bodies. But road landmines, explosions, and IEDs made concussions and other types of brain trauma the signature injury of the war.”

Concussion litigation has shaken the NFL, as former players file federal lawsuits against the league both for failure to acknowledge the lasting effects of brain-related injuries and to establish guidelines for the recognition and prevention of them. TBIs have been identified as a major cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a protein buildup that causes degeneration of the brain. The discovery of CTE, and the NFL’s initial refusal to address it, inspired Concussion, the award-winning film starring Will Smith.

Robert C. Cantu, clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University, who previously has urged the NFL to embrace medical findings pertaining to concussions and CTE, authored a chapter in Hodge’s book.

“Concussions aren’t simply a timely topic that will go away. People still lack a fundamental understanding of their effect on the brain,” Hodge says. “The contributions of Dr. Cantu and other leading experts to this book demonstrate the relevance of TBIs, concussions, and all head injuries today.”

This story originally appeared in On the Verge, the Fox School’s research magazine.

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Photo of Samuel Hodge
Samuel Hodge

In his course “Law in American Society,” an animation of folk singer Willie Nelson, designed by Dr. Samuel D. Hodge, strums his guitar as he explains the difference between public and private law.

Professor of Legal Studies at the Fox School of Business, Hodge’s use of such animations demonstrates his place as an innovative educator. Hodge recently was chosen by the Academy for Teachers to serve as its 2016 master teacher and will lead a program on innovation in teaching.

The Academy for Teachers is an annual selective conference in New York City that’s intended for teachers. One master professor, as chosen by the Academy, leads a lesson for a number of selected high school teachers on innovative strategies in teaching. Previous master teachers include Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr.; Pulitzer Prize in Music winner David Lang; and renowned social and political activist Gloria Steinem.

This year, Hodge will teach 18 high school teachers Jan. 8, 2016, at the one-day conference.

Hodge has taught a variety of undergraduate- and graduate-level classes in law and medicine at Temple University for more than 40 years. He currently leads a law lecture that consists of 400 to 600 students, which is considered one of the largest courses at Temple. To keep students interested in a class of that size, Hodge has had to get creative.

“You have to throw conventional wisdom out the window,” Hodge said.

Hodge developed multimedia presentations for his courses, consisting of self-created animations.

“Everything moves. Everything I say projects behind me on the board,” Hodge said, “but I actually have a cartoon Professor Sam, and he sings and narrates.”

The animations include a long list of celebrities. His latest is actor Jack Nicholson discussing various areas in law. Hodge has an art and music background. Since 1982, he has owned music-publishing company Eastwick Publishing, and he’s also produced illustrations for various medical books he’s written. So it was fitting, he said, that for his educational animations he’d write the songs, record the audio, and then create an animated character to perform them.

The best way to gain the interest of the “MTV generation,” he said, was through an audio-visual format.

“I call it edutainment,” Hodge said. “It is a combination of education and entertainment. People grew up in a visual format, so people want to be taught in that format.”

From a nominated group of 6,000, the Academy for Teachers selected 18 high school teachers that Hodge will educate. The “master class” can be given in any subject matter. The focus is to showcase unusual or innovative teaching techniques. Hodge will teach anatomy to the group of teachers in his area of expertise: AV format.

On the morning of the program, Hodge will teach the fundamentals of anatomy through song at the Museum of Natural History. He also plans to show the dozen-and-a-half teachers video of a heart being dissected. During the second segment of the day, the group will travel to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, where he will take them into the lab to see a dissection first hand.

Joe Pangaro, a second-year teaching assistant in Hodge’s “Law and American Society” course and “Legal Environment of Business” courses, said Hodge’s passion for teaching is present daily.

“Every year, when a new set of TAs gets to know him and gets exposed to his workload, there is a period of shock when you are just in awe of how much he accomplishes in a day,” said Pangaro, a third-year law student. “When you find out he does not drink coffee, it seems all the more amazing, but then you spend some time with him and you realize it’s because he truly loves everything he is doing.”

Hodge hopes to impart to the high school educators a degree of fearlessness in their use of technology to demonstrate complex topics.

“This was a total surprise,” he said. “I didn’t apply for it, they just called me out of the blue one day. Then I saw the list of people who have been selected before me and I said, ‘Why am I within that elite group?’ But I am, and it’s exciting.”

Samuel D. Hodge Jr., chair of Fox School of Business’ Legal Studies Department, is co-author of Clinical Anatomy for Lawyers, the recently published first installment in a series of medical-legal textbooks published by the American Bar Association.

Hodge teaches law and anatomy at Temple University, and he is also an in-demand lecturer who has spoken at conferences and seminars across the country about his particular area of self-taught expertise: anatomy and trauma. Hodge has a gift for breaking down complex medical terms and concepts into metaphors that make sense to the least scientific person in the audience.

“Medicine plays a large role in the practice of law from a claim for personal injury to ascertaining the cause of death in a homicide investigation,” Hodge said. “My research fills that void by supplying attorneys with an explanation of how the human body works along with tips on how to present medical evidence to a jury or judge.”

In Clinical Anatomy for Lawyers, Hodge and co-author Dr. Jack E. Hubbard of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine provide an understanding of the human body and its many systems with the sophistication of a medical text and the ease of a For Dummies guide. In addition to the various systems – such as the skeletal, nervous, muscular and reproductive – the textbook covers trauma, immune disorders, pain and diagnostic imaging, which is what led Hodge to learn more about anatomy.

It was while reading a scholarly article that Hodge, a color-blind aspiring artist, saw a color image generated by a new diagnostic test that reminded him of an abstract painting. Anatomy had him at a glance.

Now, he’s the author of five other published textbooks – Law and Society, Thermography and Personal Injury Litigation, The Legal Environment of the New Millennium and, with Hubbard, Anatomy for Litigators, a book that was named the best legal publication in 2007. As part of the new medical series for the American Bar Association, Hodge will author three more medical-legal guides during the next five years. These books will cover the spine, traumatic brain injuries and diagnostic tests.

Medical Fun Facts

These oddities of the human body are drawn from a slideshow Hodge uses before he delivers a lecture.

  • Your left lung is smaller than your right lung to make room for your heart.
  • The brain itself cannot feel pain.
  • The tooth is the only part of your body that can’t heal itself.
  • Fingernails grow nearly four times faster than toenails.
  • If saliva cannot dissolve something, you can’t taste it.
  • You get a new stomach lining every three to four days.
  • Women’s hair is about half the diameter of men’s hair.
  • A full bladder is roughly the size of a softball.
  • The human body is estimated to have 60,000 miles of blood vessels.
  • Women blink twice as many times as men do.