Doing Life Together

footballBad news for the NFL. In September, a study was released that looked at the brains of deceased NFL players who had donated their brain to science due to suspicion of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Of the 91 players tested, 87 had signs of CTE. That is 96%.

A larger and more diverse sample of American football players (high school, college, semiprofessional or professional) were also studied. Researchers their also found evidence of CTE in their brain tissue. 131 out 165 players had CTE in their brain tissue. And just last spring, the NFL paid approximately 5000 former players 765 million dollars to settle a lawsuit over health claims.

The brain takes a beating when a person is hit over and over. In football, especially if you are a lineman, you are repeatedly hit. According to new research, this repeated hitting may cause more of a problem than even concussions.

Genetics and past injuries, along with repeated blows to the head, appear to play a role in who will develop CTE. And we also know there is a connection between brain trauma and depression. 

Now I realize this is a skewed sample since the donated brains of players were the ones suspected of having brain trauma. The study doesn’t mean 96% of players will develop CTE, but the high number is alarming. In order to really know how at risk football players are for CTE, we would have to study the brains of all players or a representative sample. And the problem is that you can only diagnose CTE after someone dies.

Even thought the NFL is doing what it can to reduce injury and concussions, you can’t stop the hits from coming because contact sports are just that-contact. In fact, the University of Pittsburg neurological surgery department estimates that an athlete in a contact sport has as high as a 19% chance per season of experiencing a concussion.

So am I being an anxious mom by questioning if my kids should play sports that allow them to be hit in the head a number of times? The younger the athlete, the more vulnerable the brain is to injury, leading to cognitive problems.

When should a child quit or should he or she even play contact sports at all? This is a personal decision for every family, but at least we can make it being informed.

For me, basketball is looking good!

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