Americans are wild about football. Although the most popular sport in the U.S. is currently underway and fans are ready to tailgate, a recent study has found that hundreds have suffered potentially irreversible brain damage from the game. Among those injured are not only the professionals but high school and college athletes as well, raising considerable concern among parents for the safety of our nation’s youth.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a peer-reviewed periodical, researchers diagnosed 111 of 202 postmortem brains of football players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disorder typically stemming from repeated head traumas. Although these results may come as a surprise, it should be noted that the astounding percentage abounds from participants who previously experienced adverse symptoms and therefore donated their minds to science, contributing to the significant rate. Nevertheless, the 111 subjects diagnosed indicates a striking frequency of encephalopathy.
Severe Brain Injury
CTE comes with a broad range of signs and symptoms. Researchers found high school competitors to have the mildest cases, whereas college and professional players had the most severe; indicating that length of experience participating in football may be directly related to the onset of the disease. Among the 111 brains diagnosed, 89 subjects had severe CTE, meaning they presented symptoms of cognitive decay and dementia. According to the Mayo Clinic, patients may also exhibit signs of Parkinson’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and depression. In fact, one participant involved in the study died of suicide, a tendency associated with major depressive disorder.
There is currently no cure for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and no means of detection other than via autopsy, as noted by the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Through examination, doctors find an accumulation of clumps of tau proteins, which form protection for the nervous system’s blood vessels. Following head trauma, the proteins may become displaced; resulting in deterioration of nerve cells and, ultimately, atrophy.
Technology May Have The Answer
The findings out of JAMA may spark discussion among NFL officials on whether to implement superior safety regulations. Some fans argue that added rules to prevent blows to the head may take away from the fun of the event, as it is a collision sport, after all. Taking such stances may eventually lead to the “dying out” of football, however, as more parents may disallow their children to participate due to the heightened risk of brain damage. Instead of resorting to changing rules to the game, scientists have offered hope to maintain the action, while protecting players through enhanced gear. Some companies have developed technology in which a membrane lining within helmets redirects the force away from the head following impact, averting instances of concussion and injury, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
With the high number of cases of CTE among athletes, America’s most popular sport may begin decreasing in popularity as smaller numbers of people may choose to pursue the field. Through the help of science, a cure for the disorder or improved technology to prevent the harm may eventually arise.
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