Sports-Related Brain Injury: It's not about the helmet.
And no helmet in the world is going to prevent the most common sports-induced brain injuries. That's just a fact. Scientists now know that brain injury occurs early from seemingly insignificant
little hits happening over and over again, like the impact of heading the ball in soccer or taking a tackle in football. It's not just the concussions that leave players down and dazed. While major head impact can cause acute severe injury and death, the smaller impacts, called repetitive subconcussive injuries, are the actual cause of brain damage leading to the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This disease is progressive, and it begins almost immediately; as soon as 24 hours after a brain injury.
Although serious scientific work and study underlies these conclusions, a quick glance at our physiology shows why it makes sense. The skull is designed to be hard on the outside to protect the brain, and the inside is no different. When the brain is jostled suddenly and roughly, it collides with the inside of the skull, effectively creating a bruise. Repeated brain bruising, impact after impact, day after day, causes damage that is profound and irreversible. Dementia, depression, aggression, attention deficits, are just a few of the devastating signs and symptoms of CTE.
In light of these recent findings, former NFL players are calling for an end to contact football for children. Joining with researchers and others, they have launched the Concussion Legacy Foundation's Flag Football Under 14 initiative. The campaign hopes to warn parents of the dangers of repetitive subconcussive injuries. This is a necessary step, along with rule changes to avoid head impact. A key question remains, however: Should children, who by law lack judgment essential to make informed decisions about their health and well being, be allowed to play sports that involve repetitive subconcussive hits now known to cause permanent brain injury?