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There’s no denying that the NFL has a serious issue with concussions. After years of trying to sweep it under the rug, they’ve since come around to establishing procedures for dealing with concussed players. But what about the NHL? Is the group that governs the professional league of Canada’s most loved sport playing in the same headspace?
A leading expert on traumatic brain injury (TBI) speaking in Vancouver last month suggested that professional hockey may be in the same state of denial football found itself in a few years back. Examining the incidences and consequences of concussions and brain injuries on NFL players, there are parallels and concerns for all players – whether they’re sporting cleats or skates.
Dr. Frank Conidi presented findings of an initial study of 40 retired NFL players (the study has since expanded to include 80 to 100 participants). Most shockingly, he reported that almost half of those in the study showed evidence of brain abnormalities.
Speaking in April at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology held at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Dr. Conidi pointed out that players came to him with other serious problems resulting from their head injuries. Anxiety, depression, sleep and attention issues, as well as executive functioning, learning, and memory problems were experienced by many of his patients.
“You see NFL players retiring over head injuries,” Condini added. Given that the median age for the players in the study was just under 36 years, these are serious concerns for a group of men in the prime of their lives.
Dr. Conidi is no stranger to treating patients with sports related brain injuries. He’s the director of the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology, specializing in the treatment of sports related neurological disorders. He’s also team neurologist for the Florida Panthers and a consulting neurologist for the Miami Dolphins and NY Mets.
A former hockey player, Conidi knows the risks associated with our national pastime: “Hockey has the highest incidence of concussion per participant, at any level.”
With many high profile hockey players experiencing concussions, Conidi’s research shows that our love for sport must be tempered by an equally dedicated drive for protecting players from brain injury.
Will young football players dream of playing for the NFL after they learn about the deadly concussion risks? Alternatively, will parents let their children play football after they learn 87 out of 91 former NFL players tested positive for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)?
NFL players were unaware of concussion dangers until approximately five years ago according to Houston Texans running back Arian Foster.
Arian Foster publicly shared his thoughts about concussion unawareness with Michael Rapaport on the highly popular “I am Rapaport” podcast on CBS (you can listen to the podcast here). His message was clear – there’s a huge misconception within the NFL about the deadly risks associated with concussion injuries. According to Foster, most people assume NFL
Did you know up to 3.8-million cases of sports-related head trauma will occur this year in North America alone?
Public anxiety is at an all-time high after an autopsy revealed that former NFL player Tyler Sash suffered from an extreme case of CTE. Tyler had displayed irrational behaviour before he died from an accidental overdose of pain medication.
To combat sports related concussions, a group of local university students invented the HeadCheck Health app. The app will be used by trainers to assess potential concussions by measuring player cognition and balance. The app’s unique algorithm is designed to eliminate human error when diagnosing a concussion. Therapists and medical personnel will use the app on children.
Gunter Siegmund, and international expert in injury biomechanics and an adjunct professor at UBC says, “If it can be just as useful in the real world as it is in the lab, the need for better concussion assessment tools is there.”
Our children are walking and cycling to school, and for some it is the first time. Vancouver Police are reminding motorists to slow down and pay attention in school zones. According to The Province, police and speed watch volunteers are strictly enforcing the 30-km/h speed limit in school zones between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
According to ICBC, 30 children aged five to eighteen are killed and 5,100 injured in 14,700 crashes every year in BC.
This Christmas, SONY pictures will release a film titled Concussion, a drama capturing the struggles Dr. Bennett Omalu endured after discovering a pattern of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in autopsies of former professional football players.
CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that results in a wide range of devastating symptoms including depression, Parkinsonism, dementia, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Dr. Omalu brought this information to the National Football League in 2003 but, they simply refused to listen.
The NFL has done their best since to refute the science and prevent this information from getting to the general public, future players and concerned parents. The NFL and former players are currently settling a class-action concussion lawsuit. A federal judge is resolving thousands of NFL player concussion lawsuits based on a plan that will cost the NFL up to $1 billion over 65 years. The suit alleges the NFL didn’t do enough to warn players about the risks of brain damage.
Concussions should never be ignored. Even minor head and brain trauma can create serious, lifelong complications. This is sadly illustrated by hockey superstar Sidney Crosby and his battle with multiple, career-killing concussions.
Crosby’s first reported concussion occurred during the Winter Classic in 2011. Four days later, Crosby received his second concussion when his head was driven into the boards during a game. He suffered severe concussion symptoms and was sidelined multiple times.
“Concussions are still kind of a mysterious thing. We do know a lot more now, but there are still things that we can learn and hopefully ways and methods we can learn to either heal or to find out more about the actual extent of the injuries,” Crosby said in The Globe and Mail.
Football players who lose consciousness after concussions are more likely to suffer from memory loss later in life according to a recent study conducted by retired NFL players.
“Our results do suggest that players with a history of concussion with a loss of consciousness may be at a greater risk for cognitive problems later in life,” says Munro Cullum, chief of neuropsychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. According to a recent CBC article, “We are at the early stages of understanding who is actually at risk at the individual level.”
The study compared brain scans of 27 people who didn’t play college or pro football to 28 former NFL athletes. Participants ranged in age from 41 to 77 and were similar in age, education and mental capacity.
Researchers concluded football players were far more likely to suffer brain damage and cognitive impairment years after retirement. Players who had a concussion history paired with mild cognitive impairments got the lowest scores.
The long-term effects of NFL player head injuries are in the news again. The NFL and former players are settling a class-action lawsuit according to USA Today. A federal judge is resolving thousands of NFL player concussion lawsuits based on a plan that will cost the NFL up to $1 billion over 65 years. The suit alleges the NFL didn’t do enough to warn players about the risks of brain damage.
The agreement provides up to $5 million per retired, inured player. These players suffer from developmental memory and cognitive issues such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Retired players suffering with Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia will receive $190,000 on average. The awards could reach $1 million to $5 million for players with
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative disease of the brain and is associated with repeated head traumas like concussions. Players suffering with CTE have symptoms such as depression, aggression and disorientation.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland is retiring early due to concussion concerns.
It’s not worth the risk Borland tells ESPN. According to the National Post, Borland said, “I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I’m concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it’s too late. There are a lot of unknowns. I can’t claim that X will happen. I just want to live a long healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”
Goodbye NFL stardom, hello… golf?
Here are a few facts from Wikipedia that put his difficult decision into perspective:
The NFL Super Bowl XLIX was watched by millions of people, but will the event be around forever? With the NFL concussion lawsuit in the spotlight, football youth participation has been steadily declining. According to ESPN, Pop Warner, the United States’ largest youth football organization, saw a 9.5 percent decrease in registration in just two years.
According to the New York Times, the NFL hopes to keep kids playing football by hosting workshops for mothers to reassure them that the game is safe. Mothers are taught how to square their feet like a linebacker and how to tackle safely.
“For moms, it’s less X’s and O’s and more safety and directions,” says Mike Haynes, a former NFL defensive lineman.
Youth participation is integral in maintaining NFL talent and a strong fan base. But will this be enough?
Just this past Wednesday, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology released a study that found NFL retirees who began playing tackle football before they turned 12 were at increased risk of developing memory and thinking problems compared with players who started playing later on. Both groups of former plays scored below average, but those who began playing before they turned 12 were found to have performed 20 percent worse.
Some mothers found the program useful. “I learned a lot and I can take that information back to him,” said Rebecca Morgan in the New York Times, whose 15-year old son plays high school football. “As a nurse, it gets me scared.”