Contact Sports and Concussions

A concussion is a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that affects your brain function. Temporary effects include headaches as well as problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination. It happens when a hit to the head or body causes your brain to move rapidly back and fourth. This sudden movement can cause the brain to bounce around, or twist within the skull, which creates chemical changes in the brain.

The symptoms of a concussion may not start right away, they may start days or weeks after the injury. Symptoms include headache or neck pain, nausea, ringing in the ears, dizziness, or tiredness. Serious symptoms, such as convulsions and seizures, drowsiness, inability to wake up, a headache that gets worse and doesn’t go away, weakness, numbness, or decreased coordination, repeated vomiting or nausea, confusion, slurred speech or loss of consciousness, should be addressed by a medical professional immediately. A 2016 study reported that between 1.1 million and 1.9 million concussions occur each year in children due to contact sports.

Recently, football and the long-term health effects have been under a microscope. There is rising concern about subconcussive impacts, which are repetitive blows that may not be serious enough to cause clinical symptoms. A study found that nearly all of the brains of the 111-deceased NFL player showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a “tauopathy”, in which the normally occurring protein, tau, becomes mis-folded, and accumulated in the deep folds of the brain. The abnormal accumulation of the tau protein leads to cognitive impairment, neuropsychic problems, like depression, anxiety, aggression and reduced impulse control, functional decline, and eventually, death. 110 of the 111 deceased NFL players showed CTE. That's a 99 percent prevalence rate!

News outlets all over the world have publicized the reports of CTE. Many people now think that CTE is an inevitable outcome of playing football, and other contact sports. One problem is that no study has been evaluated in a living player to determine if he or she suffers from the cognitive, psychiatric, or behavioral signs of CTE, and then followed that person to autopsy to verify that CTE-associated pathology actually exists in their brains. The NFL is in denial. In 2013, the league agreed to pay $765 million to settle the lawsuit with retired players. The league did not admit to any wrongdoing. Although they have taken safety measures, such as having an independent neurologist on the sidelines of every game, and the “crown of the helmet” rule, concussions in football will never subside.