Essay on Football Concussions

The National Football League has recently faced a class-action lawsuit from hundreds of ex-football players regarding the lifelong effects of football concussions. The NFL has settled its brain trauma case in September of 2013 with an agreement to pay out $765 million to 4500 football retirees (Ezell). Concussions have become a major issue in not only the game of football but the business of football as well. In high contact sports, such as football concussions are going to be very prevalent.

Equipment and regulations do not meet standards for players in the National Football League, college, pep warner, and many other football league across America. Of the many theories to sustain this major problem an equipment change seems to be the most logical solution. We cannot change how we play football but we can change what we wear when we do play football. The National Football League needs to solve this problem through developing and/or using more proactive equipment because of how dangerous the long term effects of concussions are.

There are many factors that go into the cause of a concussion but the long term effects of repeated concussions is the grim problem. A concussion is a traumatic brain injury that changes the way your brain functions. Concussions cause temporary loss of brain functions which lead to cognitive, physical, and emotional symptoms. These symptoms include confusion, vomiting, headache, amnesia, moodiness, disturbed sleep, depression, and nausea.

The symptoms of a concussions do not last forever but the brain will never return to 100 percent normal, according to Dr. Maryse Lassonde, a neuropsychologist and scientific director at the Quebec Nature and Technologies Granting Agency. She has also came to the conclusion that, “There is an abnormal brain wave activity for years after a concussion, as well partial wasting away of motor pathways,” which can lead to significant attention problems. The brain is made up of soft tissue that is protected by blood and spinal fluid. When a player gets a big hit and is jolted too hard, the brain shifts and hits against the wall of the skull.

This collision can lead to bruising and swelling of the brain, tearing of the blood vessels, and injury to the nerves which in conclusion causes the concussion (Nordqvist). A high percent of the concussions are mild and can be easily treated with proper care. However, when a concussions is left untreated and a player goes back into the game it can become very deadly (Nordqvist). When a concussion is gone unseen the long term effects include memory problems, lack of inhibition, intense anger or aggression, personality changes, lack of concentration, language impairment, and problems organizing, planning, and problem solving.

A number of deceased professional players have donated their brains to various institutions for medical analysis. These medical researchers are finding very strong evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition that is caused by repeated impacts to the brain. The brains of former players have similarities with those of elderly Alzheimer’s patients and former boxers with severe dementia.

These effects to the brain attribute to the suicides and deaths of former professional players that include Junior Seau, Dave Deurson, and Chris Henry (Polnero). Concussions in the game of football need to be better protected and treated in order to make the game of football a safer game. The lack of research that we have on concussions is holding us back from finding a permanent solution. Despite the best efforts from the league, the players, and the medical and engineering communities the incidence of injury in the game of football continues to increase.

This pattern is said to continue until three crucial changes come about the effect that different impacts have on players must be quantified or determined to a certain extent of different hits, the causes of a concussions needs to be better understood and more reliably diagnosed by the medical community, and a more complete testing on the equipment (Polnero). Common to many other studies done, every study ever done in relation to brain damage in football has recommended that additional research on the topic be conducted.

The medical community cannot definitively say what exactly causes a concussion, whether it be strong linear force or rotational acceleration. Linear forces are strong mostly centered impacts that are experienced by a helmet when the NOCSAE performs its drop tests. Rotational acceleration caused by an off-axis impact that causes the brain to rotate within the skull which is far more common in the game of football. Recent information is leading to rotational acceleration as the primary cause but that doesn’t mean strong linear force does not cause harm as well.

At this point it is unclear whether the two types of forces are remotely related to one another. The NOCSAE, who sets standards for athletic equipment, currently only tests for protection against strong linear force. It would be difficult and expensive to create a helmet that works against rotational force. As the problem continues to get worse the NOCSAE has received heavy criticism for not protecting their players. The linear impactor test has seemed to be more practical in recreating high-speed collision.

This test is conducted using a face mask attached to a helmet which isn’t used in the original drop test that the NOCSAE uses (Polnero). Hundreds of thousands of football players remain at risk while we attempt to figure out the concussion. For such a prevalent problem in leagues all across America there is very little data on the actual problem here that is concussions. “Helmets have a natural limitation,” said study contributor, Dr. Julian Bailes, former NFL and NCAA team physician and new chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at North Shore University Health System in Evanston, III.

With some major collisions, the helmet—the head -stops moving. Helmets work well for preventing scalp laceration, skull fracture and bleeding in the brain, but they don’t always prevent rotation and tearing of brain fibers,” he said. Helmets do not offer full protection from concussions but there has been no alternative up until now. A group of researchers have developed a potential solution to this concussion problem that doesn’t involve helmets but external protection that internally affects the players.

A simple collar has been created that compresses the vessels in the neck to increase blood volume and reduce internal movement of the brain. The concept of this product was to reduce slosh. Slosh is the term researchers use to describe the movement and tearing of the brain that occurs when a player suffers a concussion. An 83 percent reduction in the amount of brain fibers torn was shown when testing the collars on rats. The collars have yet to hit the big stage and be studied on people but the wearability of these collars are being tested by our military.

Bailes has also stated that these finding are preliminary and further work needs to be conducted to determine the effectiveness of this method in humans, “Hopefully we are on the right track,” he said(Cole). This collar is a milestone in the world of concussions seeing that these collars will not only be able to aid our beloved football players but also our troops across the world fighting to keep the game of football in a frenzy. The long term effects of repeated concussions is taking its toll on our retired football stars and the National Football League needs to take action so it can better the game that we all love which is football.

It is no question whether concussions are a major problem in the National Football League but if these players were to integrate this new brace, the game of football would be a safer game for our loved ones to play. We do not want our alumni football players to be forced to live with these dreaded effects of concussions for the rest of their life, these players deserve better. Together we need to spread the word so people know that this is a problem and start a movement for a safer game of football.