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Brain Injury Statistics Darken the Start of Football Season


The recent awareness of traumatic brain injury, particularly chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) has cast a penumbra over the start of the football season.

As fans scrutinize offensive lines and passing games and players still work to master playbooks, a new threat lurks on the sidelines. The threat is not a linebacker or a kick return specialist but a statistic. The potential for brain injury to players has many in the game rethinking whether they should to continue in the sport.

A report released over the summer revealed that only a single player out of the 111 National Football Players tested was free of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease connected to repetitive head injuries. The same report showed that 48 out of 53 college players showed apparent CTE as well as three out of 14 players of only high school football.

Although the report was not considered scientific, it pushed the sports risks of brain injury into the forefront.

The symptoms of CTE, including memory loss, depression, paranoia and aggression, prior to their deaths, were evident according to their loved ones. These symptoms also included some suicides. The player's brains were donated to Boston University's CTE Center where research took place.

The report did not make a comparison between players and the general population or athletes from other sports. Questions regarding the development of CTE, in some players but not others, were also raised.

Because of this report some players, personnel and fans have chosen to distance themselves from football.

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman, John Urschel, 26, retired two days after the autopsy report was released. A.J. Tarpley, a linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, retired last year after suffering several concussions. San Francisco 49er's linebacker, Chris Borland, retired after only one season in the NFL citing concerns regarding head trauma.

Even sportswriters are affected by the grim statistics. Jerry Brewer, sports columnist for the Washington Post wrote that the start of the season fills him with dread and nausea. New York Daily News sportswriter Even Grossman published a column about quitting fantasy football and deserting the sport he has "followed, covered, played, loved and grown disgusted by."

"I truly feel that in watching a football game you're watching people slowly kill themselves." Grossman wrote

Deception Followed by Change

The NFL has been criticized for years of hiding the problem of CTE. Lawsuits against the NFL alleging cover-ups led to a $1 billion settlement, which is available to thousands of former NFL players.

This year, in an attempt to make the game safer, the NFL has changed some rules. Players must be sidelined if they experience any signs of concussion after a hit, such as loss of consciousness, forgetfulness, or confusion. Certain types of tackles and hits have been banned including hits to defenders leaping to block a kick. In addition the league brought in Dr. Allen Sills, a Vanderbilt University neurosurgeon and concussion expert, as its chief medical officer.

The number of concussions from last season was 244 according to the NFL injury report, which was down from 275 the previous season. The actual number is thought to be much higher since players are known to hide their symptoms from coaches and trainers to remain in the game.

At youth, high school and college level football, similar concussion programs have been initiated and new helmet technology shows promise in reducing traumatic brain injury.

Four Stages of CTE

CTE is a disease that progresses slowly in most cases. It can be present for decades without showing any symptoms. The Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and the Sports Legacy Institute has categorized CTE into four stages.

· Stage I - Headaches and attention and concentration issues

· Stage II - Depression, explosivity and short term memory loss

· Stage III - Cognitive difficulties, problems with planning, organization, multi-tasking and judgment

· Stage IV - Evidence of full blown dementia including severe memory and cognitive problems diminishing the ability for daily living

If you played football, or any other contact sport such as boxing or soccer, at any level and experience any of the symptoms categorized above, medical attention should be sought immediately. Cognitive testing will determine if CTE is likely. Even if your sports activity ended decades ago, you should be tested. If CTE is likely, it is important to consult a brain injury attorney to discuss your options. An experienced brain injury attorney is the only one qualified to review your case and plan the best legal path for you.

If you have any symptoms of CTE and played in any contact sports, the personal injury attorneys at Vititoe Law Group would like to speak with you. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call 818-851-1886 or fill out the convenient online form.

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