Is Brain Damage an Inevitable Result of Playing Football?

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By Russell M. Bauer

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

For many, American football is a beautiful game that is simple to enjoy but complex to master. Choreographed with a mixture of artistry and brutality, it features the occasional “big hit” or bone-jarring tackle, forcing a fumble and turning the tide of the game.

But with this part of football comes justified concern about the long-term health effects of engaging in this type of activity over time, concerns that abound in practically every high-impact contact sport. It is possible that effects of continued involvement may accumulate quietly in the background until they show themselves, later in life.

A recent study appeared to give a “big hit” to the game of football itself, with findings that nearly all the brains of 111 deceased NFL players studied showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Is Brain Damage an Inevitable Result of Playing Football?

    More likely a necessary condition for playing it, well the American variety anyhow.

  2. I recall that when I was in hospital as a result of a car crash many years ago, my fellow orthopaedic ward mates were mainly sportsmen and those from heavy industry!

  3. A recent study appeared to give a “big hit” to the game of football
    itself, with findings that nearly all the brains of 111 deceased NFL
    players studied showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or
    CTE.

    Good snark, eejit. I trust you’re European. This (re: the excerpt) is not a surprise. Do the same study with longtime boxers, wrestlers, MMA fighters, rugby players, hockey players, even soccer players, etc, and you’re likely to find the same result. The reason this is being focused on NFL players is because of the initial denial and later acknowledgement by owners/leadership of the link between football-related head trauma and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. It can be argued that in the past players had no idea of the risks involved (aside from the more obvious risks), hence the litigation and eventual settlement by the NFL. That ignorance however is no longer the case.

  4. Good snark, eejit.

    Thanks for the compliment Stephen. Brain damage is common enough in soccer players, due mostly to ball heading, rugby in latter years has become almost as dangerous as American football, but to their credit the rugby authorities have taken great pains to modify the rules on scrimmaging and tackling, and doctors and referees are instructed to remove players who show any sign of concussion. In this country (Ireland) the matter has become a minor obsession.Boxers, wrestlers (professional) and MMA fighters can’t complain if they get hurt, that is what those sports are all about, whatever they say.

    Professionalism in rugby, and the general level of intensity of training and commitment in all elite sports, along with the untold money involved, have led a rise in injuries.

  5. The amount of punishment my body has taken as an electrician should be looked at as well. I didn’t get a million a week in wages though.

  6. The amount of punishment my body has taken as an electrician should be looked at as well. I didn’t get a million a week in wages though.

    Very good point. Occupational health and safety are major problems, which are not addressed in the building industry. I have many builders in my acquaintance and all the evidence is that after the age of fifty, most construction workers are in serious physical trouble. The same is true of farmers, miners, chefs (standing for ten hour shifts), etc., but while going through the motions of OH&S, the industries do not face the real problems; that the work is heavy, out in the elements, wet, or hot, dirty and on your feet all day. The usual answer is that this is the nature of the industry and nothing much can be done to change it. So the authorities compensate by enforcing trivial regulations which are an annoyance but do little to tackle the problems.

  7. eejit #6
    Aug 8, 2017 at 4:25 am

    The same is true of farmers, miners, chefs (standing for ten hour shifts), etc.,
    but while going through the motions of OH&S,
    the industries do not face the real problems;
    that the work is heavy, out in the elements, wet, or hot, dirty and on your feet all day.
    The usual answer is that this is the nature of the industry and nothing much can be done to change it.
    So the authorities compensate by enforcing trivial regulations
    which are an annoyance but do little to tackle the problems.

    There is a deeper underlying issue of unregulated global capitalism, and lowest tender contracts!

    I recall that the UK ship-building industry took to building ships in large tooled-up mechanised sheds, and the UK ship breaking industry had strict rules on toxic substances and dangerous practices.

    The industry response was out-source the work to unregulated places such as India, where the workers were ignorant and desperate, and the management and government did not care!

    The same happened with the UK mines. Looking after workers’ health is just too expensive for unregulated competitive profiteers to support!

    In shipping, many abuses and risky ventures, operate under flags of convenience.

    It is not without reason that the uncaring wealthy, and their right-wing media propagandist stooges, are pathologically opposed to regulation, sponsor politicians who under-man and under-fund enforcement agencies, and are opposed to organisations like the EU, which harmonise coverage to avoid (as far as they can), a competitive race to the bottom!

    Various occupants of tower-blocks are discovering to their cost, lax regulations, lax enforcement of what regulations there are, and serious fire risks in the structures, which have been built down to a cost, with cheap materials, cheap supervision, cheap labour, and cheap contracts.

    Meanwhile, vast sums of money are splashed around on televised sporting events, disc jockeys, advertising, and game shows, which keep the public distracted!

  8. International outsourcing, zero hour contracts, money – to use Clive Jenkins’ colourful though dated phrase – “whizzing around the telex wires of the world,” money having no national home of its own, money accumulating at an ever increasing rate at the top of the unstable pile, stored in places unknown. Altogether not a situation where regulation is likely to have much success.

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