Medical studies have shown that head injuries sustained while playing contact
sports have led to severe long-term complications associated with brain
function. Football in particular has recently come under increased scrutiny
due to the numerous instances of brain damage amongst former NFL players.
Unfortunately, there is still a pervasive misunderstanding that the only
head injuries serious enough to cause damage to the brain are those resulting
in concussions. To the contrary, even a mild blow to the head can cause
harm to a person’s brain, especially if it leaves the player feeling
slightly dazed or light-headed. Furthermore, football players frequently
experience incidents of mild head trauma but these types of injuries do
not necessarily result in obvious symptoms or immediate side effects.
As a result, coaches and even the players themselves mistakenly believe
that the injury is not severe enough to keep the injured player out of the game.
Regrettably, this misguided assumption has led to severe degenerative brain
diseases amongst a vast amount of former football players. These long-term
effects have led to conditions such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy
(CTE) and early onset of various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s
disease. Doctors who have diagnosed former football players with CTE and
other similar brain injuries have explained that the neurological damage
is caused by long-term repeated injury, rather than the result of a single
catastrophic event. According to a study conducted by the Boston University’s
Center for Study of Encephalopathy, it has been estimated that the average
lineman suffers from approximately 1,200 sub-concussive injuries per season.
Furthermore, the study concludes that although these types of mild head
injuries lack the same symptoms as concussions, they cause the same amount
of trauma to the brain in the long run.
Recently, blood tests taken from football players have shown a type of
protein called S100B, which has now become the marker for traumatic brain
injury. The existence of this particular molecule has been found to indicate
damage to the “blood-brain barrier” resulting from trauma
sustained to the head. As a result, such injury causes the release of
this particular molecule, which then creates a barrier in the brain, preventing
certain molecules from traveling through the blood stream. Although this
occurrence may not generate side effects that are immediately noticeable,
it is very likely to cause severe damage later in life.
Due to their unawareness concerning the propensity for these diseases,
most football players do not receive adequate medical attention and safety
protection to prevent such complications from occurring. As a result,
the National Football League has been the first governing body to take
responsibility for failing to educate and warn its players of the risks
associated with playing this game. A recent class action settlement between
the NFL and 4,500 retired football players resulted in a payment of approximately
$765 Million dollars from the League to the families of retired players
who have suffered from various head- trauma related injuries. As part
of the settlement, these former players will receive a monetary amount
for compensation of their injury based on their specific diagnosis, as
well as their age, number of seasons they played for the NFL, and other
relevant medical evidence. Additionally, the League will be held responsible
for the long term medical care of former players who suffer from these
complications and will implement more health programs for its current
players. Furthermore, stricter safety regulations will be recognized and
enforced to ensure that the NFL makes America’s favorite pastime
a safer game.