April 18, 2012

Are Catastrophic Football Brain Injuries Increasing?

by Levin & Perconti

More and more attention has been paid in recent years to the long-term consequences of contact sports injuries like football. Our Chicago brain injury attorneys know that new information about the long-term brain injuries and damage experienced by players has lead to lawsuits, rising safety standards, and renewed research to better understand the overall problem. Most stories explain that there has been a surge in brain injuries connected to sports, with many more child and high school players going to hospitals to have concussion treatments. However, most often those rising rates have been explained not as showing that the game is more dangerous but instead as a sign of increased awareness. More players are getting treatment now than in the past.

Yet, new research into the most serious traumatic brain injuries caused by the game of football is casting the issue in a new light. The research suggest that in at least some areas the total number of injuries may actually be growing, and it cannot be explained away by increased awareness of the presence of traumatic brain injuries.

As explained this weekend by WFMY News, new research from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has found that the total number of “catastrophic” brain injuries caused by football is increasing. The trend is especially evident among high school players. In this case “catastrophic” injury refers to those that cause death or permanent disability in the players. These are injuries that would never have been overlooked in the past because of their severity.

According to the research, in previous decades the total number of high school football players who experienced a catastrophic traumatic brain injury was always in the single digits each year. That is changing. In 2008 and 2009 there were 10 reported injures across the country. In 2011 that number had jumped to 13.

All of this information was recently shared by the university’s National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research. The head of the research center admitted that the data suggests a major problem, noting that the most recent figures were the highest ever reported by the center.

The research center also released data on long-term trends in the area. They explained that in the past 28 years there have been about 164 catastrophic brain injuries reported among football players, with the vast majority involving high schoolers. In the last decade, however, there has been a 25% increase in catastrophic football-related brain injuries. Our Illinois brain injury lawyers appreciate that unlike other stats (which include concussions) it is harder to explain away these figures as caused by heightened awareness. The research center director noted that data collection methods have remained unchanged for the past decades, and so the increased occurrence must be related to some other factors.

Addressing the problem requires a multi-pronged approach. Coaches need to be better informed of brain injury risks and prepared to take action to pull players who may have suffered an injury. Proper tackling should be shared and taught to prevent particularly dangerous contact. Trainers must be properly certified in these areas and referees should be vigilant about penalizing dangerous and illegal tackles.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Head Injury Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Ex-Football Players

Former Illinois Athletes File Brain Injury Lawsuit Against Eastern Illinois University