This month, the Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly joined a growing list of football players forced into early retirement due to injuries after suffering several concussions over the past few years. He is far from the only one. Five months before, the New England Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski retired from the game due to complications from repetitive head trauma. And still more players are becoming aware of one of the greatest dangers of football – an elevated risk of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
For years, football has enjoyed a lofty status as one of America’s great pastimes. The Super Bowl is just around the corner, and millions of people are looking forward to watching the game this Sunday. But despite football’s continued popularity, growing knowledge about the risk and consequences of traumatic brain injuries has cast a dark shadow over the future of the sport. TBIs have had a long-term impact on multiple football players, and they’re something everyone should take seriously.
The risk of traumatic brain injuries in football players is a significant issue, one the NFL has been accused of not taking seriously. There have been steps to reduce the incidence of TBIs in football players in recent years, including shock-absorbing helmets and increased penalty for helmet to helmet hits. That doesn’t change the fact that football is, at its heart, a game of massive bodies colliding into each other, which creates plenty of opportunities for players to suffer head trauma.
While the frequency of concussions suffered by NFL players has decreased somewhat thanks to recent safety measures, it is still an issue worth paying attention to. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury brought about when a hard blow to the head or body – a common occurrence in football – causes the brain to rattle around in the skull. There is never a such thing as a “minor” concussion. Even one concussion will cause brain tissue to change shape, stretch and damage brain cells, and temporarily impair mental activity, and multiple concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.
Repeated head trauma can lead to the development of a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a degenerative brain disease with symptoms closely resembling dementia. The symptoms of CTE, which include memory loss, increased aggression, and impaired motor skills, can take 8 to 10 years to show up and grow worse with time. The rate of CTE in football players is alarmingly high – a 2017 study examining the brains of deceased football players found signs of CTE in 90% of the brains studied and 99% in those of former NFL players.
Not all of us are professional football players, but any of us can suffer from a traumatic brain injury. In fact, the most common cause of TBIs is slip and fall accidents, with traffic accidents a distant second. You should always seek medical attention after head trauma, even if you don’t see any external damage or experience a loss of consciousness. Many of the more serious complications of TBIs, including intercranial bleeding and skull fractures can only be detected through a CT scan, and even a mild TBI like a concussion needs proper medical care.
Remember to always be mindful of the affects a traumatic brain injury can have, even years after the injury takes place. And if you or a family member has suffered a TBI due to someone else’s negligence, remember to reach out to our experienced personal injury lawyers and see how we can help you. A number of former NFL players were able to successfully sue the NFL for neglecting to warn them about the risks of brain injuries, and you are no less deserving of compensation.