Concussions while playing football—they just sort of go with the territory, right? Maybe, but there could be dangers in that territory that don’t always get the attention they deserve. While many people might not give a lot of thought to head injuries and football—the rough and tumble nature of the contact sport lends itself to such blows—the
consequences of multiple hits to the head can be far-reaching. Several studies have shown that repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs), often called concussions, can cause patients to suffer from permanent brain damage if the injury is not evaluated and they don’t allow themselves enough time to heal before getting back to their normal routine.
Recently, 75 former professional football players filed a lawsuit against the NFL claiming that the league concealed information on the harmful effects of concussions since the 1920s. The football players’ suit suggests that the NFL was aware of the fact that repeated blows to the head can have serious long-term consequences like memory loss, dementia, depression, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), but did little to warn players or protect them against the risks. They believe that, as a result, former players have been cleared to play too soon following head injuries, have experienced varied levels of brain trauma, and in some cases, have even died.
The lawsuit isn’t the only thing drawing attention to the risks of multiple brain injuries in the world of football. Former football player Dorsey Levens is working on a documentary called Bell Rung in which players discuss the injuries and debilitating conditions they’ve experienced during and after their days on the field; concussions are a main topic of conversation. There’s also the sad story of David Deurson’s recent suicide and his request to have his brain donated and studied to see what connection could be found between brain disease and football players. Scientists ultimately found that Deurson’s brain was the 14th of the 15 footballers’ brains studied to have CTE, a dementia-like brain disease.
The discussion taking place off the football field about what’s happening on it is critical for the well being of the players. Additionally, the conversations highlight the larger issue surrounding multiple mild brain injuries and the major impact they can have on individuals’ brain functioning. Keep in mind that the severity of an accident does not determine the level of injury to the brain—any impact, large or small, can have serious consequences. The term “mild brain injury” can be misleading, so even if you’ve experienced what seems to be a minor head injury, make sure you get checked out so that you can be treated and monitored properly. While you should also do your best to guard against any additional brain injuries, it’s not always easy to avoid them—this is especially true in situations where repeat injuries are more common (for example, with members of the military serving overseas). That being the case, it’s important that each injury receives appropriate medical attention and evaluation so that long-term damage can be minimized as much as possible…and so that you can still enjoy tossing the ol’ pigskin around whenever it suits you.
Popular football video game, Madden 12, tackles concussions and addresses safety in the latest version: