Can football prevent concussions?

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Source: Flickr

Source: Flickr

With the upcoming Super Bowl we all are experiencing the pre-game hype, pushing for our favorite team, wondering about the ads and the half-time show and probably not really thinking much about concussions and CTE. Since 2012, the NFL has worked to reduce the risks which lead to concussions and has seen a 12% reduction in concussions. There is still a long way to go. The sport has been diligent in improving equipment, redesigning plays, outlawing certain strategies and penalizing players for engaging in dangerous tactics. Experts like Dr. Cantu of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy have been retained by the NFL to help lessen the risk of concussion-related injuries. Research at places like the Cleveland Clinic,  also continues to advance with studies established to identify the biomarkers associated with concussion and sub-concussive injuries which can lead to early recognition of brain injury. The NFL has contributed to future research as part of the settlement of the lawsuit against them.  Still, we have a sport in which physically  large, highly-trained, ultra-powerful athletes engage in a sport of aggressive physical encounter and with that a significant risk for injury. With concussion, the risks of additional injury and brain changes increases with multiple events. But, football is a compelling sport for the athletes and fans alike. In a recent pre-game survey of professional football players, 85% would play in the Super Bowl even if they knew they had a concussion prior to the start of the game.

I wonder if football’s survival as a sport hinges on making it safer for players and still retaining what is exciting about the sport. We have been advised of the dangers and have seen them manifested in players who have sustained multiple concussions and struggle with the onset of neurological conditions like CTE or have taken their lives due to the effect of neurological changes on their mental health. Duerson, Seau, McPhail and others have left that sad legacy of the sport.

Click here to read a story about the NFL’s approach to safety.

About Rolf Gainer Ph.D.

Dr. Rolf Gainer is the founder of the Neurologic Rehabilitation Institute at Brookhaven Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma as well as the Neurological Rehabilitation Institute of Ontario, in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Gainer is a psychologist with more than twenty-five years of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. Dr. Gainer has designed and operated innovative rehabilitation programs in the United States and Canada for individuals who have been regarded as difficult to serve. He is currently involved in conducting two outcome studies related to the long-term issues faced by individuals with brain injuries and a dual diagnosis. He has presented papers throughout the United States and Canada in many professional conferences and educational forums.

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