The NFL’s issues around brain injuries and how the league can keep players safe from a seemingly invisible but serious injury is often referred to as football’s “concussion crisis.” However, the NFL’s problems extend much further than how it handles the frequent mild concussions occurring on the field each Sunday.
While concussions are serious injuries that require immediate evaluation and removal from play, they are just one type of injury that contributes to the greater problem: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is a permanent neuro-degenerative disease that plagues many former athletes and causes severe mood swings, behavioral problems, cognitive and memory issues, and more. For years, it has been believed that repeated concussions accumulate over time and lead to the development of CTE. However, new research shows that isn’t the whole story.
CTE has also been directly linked to repeated small, non-concussive hits that are unavoidable in contact sports like football, soccer, rugby, and hockey. In isolation, these bumps look like “incidental contact” and are unremarkable. But, when researchers examined the bigger picture they saw that athletes frequently experience tens of thousands of these small hits every season.
While everything seems normal above the surface, these “sub-concussive” hits also accumulate causing micro-injuries that contribute to the development of CTE.
Comedian, writer, and entertainer Adam Conover recently explored this issue in his show Adam Ruins Everything, showing how the NFL’s brain injury problems aren’t as simple as stopping massive concussions from happening on the field. Watch the clip below to learn more about football, CTE, and sub-concussive hits: