Articles Posted in Brain injuries in sports

The New York Times has reported that a physician-led study at Boston University found that playing full contact football before age 12 leads to a 3 times greater risk of depression and a 2 times higher risk of behavioral problems and diminished executive function in the brain. The study followed 214 former football players with an average of 51 years old. Of the participants, 43 played throughout high school, 103 played throughout college, and 68 went on to play in the NFL.

A similar study at Wake Forest University found that playing just one season between the ages of 8-13 years old was enough to reduce brain function. Why is the age of 12 considered a magic number? Experts know that between the ages of 10-12, a child’s brain goes through rapid development and growth and that head trauma, such as hits during tackle football, can cause irreparable damage to the brain.

A prior Boston University study, conducted on the brains of 111 NFL players, also found that playing contact football before age 12 increased the risk of behavioral issues and depression. That same study found only 1 brain that did not have CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the formal name for the brain disease that afflicts those who have sustained repeated head injuries.

Several dozen well-known wrestlers that have worked for a well-known wrestling company have joined in a class-action suit against that company, according to the Chicago Tribune. The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs incurred “long term neurological injuries” as a direct result of working for the company because the company allegedly “routinely failed to care” for them “in any medically competent or meaningful manner.” The lawsuit also alleges that the company “fraudulently misrepresented and concealed” the nature of injuries sustained in the course of employment. The lawsuit has the potential to become another high profile legal action dealing with professional athletes that have allegedly sustained long-term brain injuries, and further highlights the risks associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries.

Like other lawsuits filed by groups of professional athletes, this new lawsuit alleges that repeated traumatic brain injuries have resulted in the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (“CTE”). CTE is a progressive form of a degenerative brain disease that is found in people, mostly athletes, that have a history of recurring brain trauma including concussions and asymptomatic subconcussive blows to the head. This degeneration can cause memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, issues with impulse control, depression, aggression, and eventually progressive dementia. Symptoms can start in as little as a few months after the athletic involvement, or may not appear until decades later.

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A recent settlement between the State of Maryland and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) may change the way college sports injuries are addressed. An article in The Baltimore Sun discussed the settlement, noting that while the payment to the victim’s family is relatively small, it could have far-reaching implications for other injuries and similar lawsuits across the country. The article explains that the State of Maryland became involved in the lawsuit because the victim’s family’s initial million-dollar claim named three state employees working in athletic capacities at a state university as among the defendants in the lawsuit.


The case centers around preseason drills that took place during a practice in 2011. According to the allegations in the lawsuit, players had been forced to complete a series of physically difficult practice drills, allegedly including running into each other helmet first even though regulations are supposed to prohibit such practices. Additionally, the lawsuit alleged that the state employees discouraged players from reporting injuries sustained during drills and practices, often ridiculing players that would choose to report such injuries anyhow.
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The name of any game is to win in a sportsmanlike manner. This applies to any sports whether it is baseball, football, hockey and lacrosse. Children’s involvement in any type of sports activity should always be prefaced with this admonition.

Take the game of lacrosse. It is a fast paced, highly competitive sport that is growing in popularity, in high schools and colleges across the nation. But like any sports activity, it is fraught with danger and risks of injury to its players. Injuries to the legs are common, as well as head injuries.

The rules of the game for lacrosse players are substantially different for boys and girls. Boy’s lacrosse is classified as a “contact” sport, meaning that because a higher level of player contact is allowed, the boys are required to wear protective gear including padding, facemasks, mouthguards and helmets. Girl’s lacrosse on the other hand is considered a “non-contact” sport, and although the players are not required to wear protective gear, there is still a risk of injury to the players.
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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are serious and life transforming incidents. A brain injury can lead to brain damage or death. Some life threatening injuries, even though they do not end in death, may result in disabilities that inhibit the sufferer from performing the minimal tasks required for life sustaining functions.

Researchers have determined that certain sports activities are a major culprit when it comes to causing head injuries. Brain injuries are usually thought to occur mainly with such sports as football, soccer, boxing, rugby, skiing, etc., and any other contact sport. Surprisingly, however, equestrian sports have been found time and again to be one of the highest at risk sports for serious head injuries.
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Football is one of the most popular sport activities amongst youth and teenage boys; as a result, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued potential guidelines and recommendations for students, parents and school officials for the purpose of improving the safety of players while on the field. These recommendations are as follows:

(1) Sports trainers, coaches and athletic directors should enforce the rules for proper tackling;

(2) Parents of players and school officials must decide whether the benefits of playing the game outweigh the risks;

(3) Non-tackle leagues should be encouraged and expanded in order to give players and their parents the choice of being able to participate in football without the risk of injuries from tackling;

(4) Skilled athletic trainers should be placed on the sidelines of all games in order to reduce the number of player injuries; and
(5) Tackling should not be allowed until a certain age.
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It has been determined that repeated blows to the head can cause brain injury and, eventually brain damage, in professional sports. Professional football has come under considerable fire because of this, but how about boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Do participants in these sports also run the risk of brain injuries due to repetitive blows to the head during their matches? The easy answer is “yes.” But how bad is it? See Medical Daily
By now it is a well settled that individuals who suffer repeated blows to the head are at a high risk for brain injury possibly leading to brain damage, loss of brain processing speed, and shrinkage of brain matter. Professional sports teams, players, boxers and MMA fighters, and their managers, as well as the healthcare industry are now admitting that this is definitely a risk factor for the sport participants. It may also lead to the onset of various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). These conditions are the progressive degenerative function of the brain and can be displayed by memory loss, confusion, aggression, depression, impaired judgment and loss of impulse control, and ultimately death.
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When you think of bicycling, you probably think of children wobbling from side-to-side or families riding through a neighborhood park. Unfortunately, what may not immediately come to mind is the vital importance of wearing a helmet when bike riding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 48% of children between the ages of five and 14 wore adequate helmets when riding on their bicycles. Additionally, biking injuries resulted in more than half a million serious injuries and 800 deaths in 2010. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are among the common bike related injuries. From a fall on the street to a collision with a vehicle, the head should be protected when riding a bike.

A recent study published on researchers how well helmets protect cyclists from TBIs. The study involved 6,200 people who experienced a TBI after a biking accident, only 25% of which were wearing a helmet at the time of the incident. Researchers found that:
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Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are a serious problem in the modern medical landscape. From athletic concussions to military related battlefield injuries, doctors and scientists diligently search for new methods of diagnosis, treatment and prevention. While no one doubts the importance of this work, the recent public interest in TBIs spawned what appears to be a lucrative business field. Makers of new inventions claim to understand concussion prevention, while physicians and researchers purport to have discovered new and effective treatment methods. A recent article in the New York Times is calling attention to this trend and asks whether these new innovations are truly worth their earnings.

Awareness about concussions and TBIs greatly increased over the past decade. This is due in part to very high profile lawsuits against the National Football League (NFL), as well as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). As concern grew, the federal government began collaborating with several medical organizations to increase public awareness and research new treatment options.

Dr. David X. Cifu, is a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who also works for the Veterans Affairs Department. He believes that this growth in government spending led to the increased research and suspicious claims. Cifu is quoted in the Times article as stating, “It was a small field that got amazingly large because a lot of people were making stuff up and claiming things.”

Military Spending
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The risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among football players and boxers is well documented and commonly discussed among medical professionals. But another sport is becoming part of this international conversation. A new study in the May edition of the Quarterly Journal of Medicine is examining the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries on rugby players. As reported on HealthDay, medical experts now believe that injuries related to this popular sport can lead degenerative brain disease later in life.

The study comes after the death of a rugby player who regularly played the game from the age of 20-years-old until 50-years-old. Upon his death at 57-years-old, the player was reportedly showing signs of brain injury. According to the report, the player suffered from numerous concussions and head injuries throughout his athletic career. The autopsy revealed a diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which reportedly develops in cases of repeated concussions.
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