Sports fans have likely noticed a big increase in the awareness surrounding sports head injuries. The NFL has raised the level of awareness to a serious level establishing new rules to penalize, fine and suspend players who make contact with other player’s heads. This is, of course, in response to a long battle they have had with their retired players, many of whom have died tragic deaths following development of CTE.
There has been a strong link made between repeated concussions and long term brain trauma. The link is particularly clear for those suffering repetitive head trauma playing sports such as football. Scientists now believe that multiple concussions, or sub concussive blows to the head can cause CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). CTE is a degenerative brain conditions which results in cognitive and functional decline, emotional and psychological disturbance, and eventually death.
The NFL recently lost a $1 Billion lawsuit launched by former NFL players, many of whom have been diagnosed posthumously of CTE. CTE can only be diagnosed after death as the brain must be examined physically to make the diagnosis. Thirty more former NFL players have pledged their brains to science to allow further research on the risks associated with chronic repeated concussions, and the brain damage suffered as a result.
The settling of the lawsuit means that many players who have been living with brain damage due to their game play can now begin to get payouts.
There is a movement throughout sport, and the military, to donate brains to science to allow research to continue that has a specific focus on the impact of concussions on brain function. Sports ranging from football and hockey, to race car driving and soccer, are all considered high risk brain injury activities.
Boston University and the US Department of Veterans Affairs now has the world’s largest CTE brain bank and it focusses particularly on concussion, ALS and other conditions. There stated purpose is “The purpose of the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is to collect and study post-mortem human brain and spinal cord tissue to better understand the effects of trauma on the human nervous system.”
It is hoped that with better understanding of how and why CTE is developing we can prevent the damage to future generations of athletes and soldiers. Researchers also hope to find ways of reversing the damage once it occurs, or stopping the damage from progressing to the point where individuals can no longer function.