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Football and the Risks of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Casey Woodruff

Is it worth taking the risk of sustaining a concussion—and potentially developing a life-threatening condition—for the sake of sports? According to a recent article from National Public Radio, many commentators are suggesting that football simply isn’t worth the risk of a traumatic brain injury. And as more players file claims against the National Football League (NFL), researchers continue to explore the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and its link to multiple concussions on the field.

Repeated Hits to the Head Cause CTE

footballWhether you’re a youth athlete or a professional football player, suffering multiple concussions can result in CTE, a degenerative brain disease that has recently been linked to the deaths of numerous professional athletes. According to the article, CTE is “associated with memory loss, impulse control problems, depression, and eventually dementia.” The CTE Center at Boston University emphasizes that the severe conditions associated with the brain disease “can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement.” In other words, sustaining multiple head injuries when you’re young can have deleterious effects later in life.

Should you worry about the consequences of brain injuries if you have a child who wants to play youth football? Physicians suggest you should, and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka supports that stance. Indeed, when interviewed on HBO’s Real Sports and asked whether, if he currently had a young child, he would allow him or her to play tackle football, Ditka responded, “No. That’s sad. I wouldn’t, and my whole life was football. I think the risk is worse than the reward.”

Chicago Players Affected By Repetitive Head Trauma

If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to let your teen athlete play football, you might want to take a closer look at some of the professional athletes who have developed CTE after years of playing. For instance, Dave Duerson, a former defensive back for the Chicago Bears, committed suicide in 2011. One year later, Duerson’s son Tregg filed a lawsuit against the NFL.

Tregg Duerson believes his father’s death resulted directly from CTE. Dave Duerson’s suicide note “described having trouble with spelling, blurred vision, short-term memory problems, issues with putting full concepts and sentences together.” And “at one point” in the note, Tregg Duerson explained, his father admitted that “other NFL players have similar issues.” Dave Duerson requested that his brain be donated for further research on concussions, and scientists indeed discovered that the former player’s brain “showed advanced CTE.”

As one of the researchers explained, “Dave had damage on his frontal lobe, [and] throughout his medial temporal lobe, which controls things like memory and emotional control.” They determined that Duerson had been in the third of four stages of CTE. But there’s still a lot of research to be done.

At the CTE Center, researchers continue to investigate the precise causes of the disease. For example, they’re not positive yet whether it’s caused by a single, very hard hit to the head, one hard hit followed by several smaller hits, or two concussions in close temporal proximity. In the meantime, researchers at the Center suggest that kids not be allowed to play football at least until high school.

Contact a Chicago Brain Injury Lawyer

If you or your child sustained multiple sports-related concussions, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. An experienced Chicago traumatic brain injury attorney can answer your questions today. Contact Woodruff Johnson & Evans to discuss your case.

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