One team just got blindsided and is now lying on the ground unconscious. He clearly has a concussion, but what will be the effects of that concussion? The impact of concussions and their relationship to playing football has become a major topic of public health concern. Recent studies have attempted to identify the lasting effects of concussions, determine the link between concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), ways to adapt the rules of football to limit the number of concussions, and provide a safe way for players to return to football after having a concussion.
Concussions can be very serious and have both short lasting and long lasting effects. A concussion is also known as a mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). Although a concussion is a MTBI it doesn’t mean concussions always cause traumatic brain damage. They are caused by a blow, bump, or jolt to the head or body that causes the brain to move rapidly inside the skull and hit it to cause the brain to bruise.
Most concussions are identified by the symptoms. These symptoms can include headaches, nausea, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, mood changes, losing consensuses, and having one pupil larger than the other. The symptom of having one pupil larger than the other is a very serious concussion sign because it means that blood is rushing to a certain part of brain which is not good. Typically, symptoms happen right after the concussion but can go unnoticed for days and possibly even weeks. Alarmingly, 10% of collage and 20% of all high school players get a concussion (Brain injury institute).
Once getting a concussion, you are 4-6 times more likely to get a 2nd concussion. A very rare side effect of multiple concussions can be chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a very serious condition that can cause memory loss, confusion, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and eventually dementia. With the seriousness of concussions and CTE, football organizations must look at the statistics and outcomes of the sport. These serious implications are causing parents to rethink letting their kids play football. The leading cause of concussions are playing sports with football leading the pack of most concussions in the sport among any of the others. Because of this, half of all Americans won’t let their kids play football because of the risk of concussions. The number of concussions in children under 19 who play tackle football has doubled over the last decade (Helper). In the NFL only 9.3% of concussions result in losing conscience (Resnick). Repeated concussions can cause CTE to grow more rapidly in the brain (if you currently have it while getting or having a concussion). In 2017 they did an autopsy of 202 former NFL players brains 90% were diagnosed with CTE (Resnick). This is causing our nation to worry about the lasting effects football has on its players. While that is a very high ratio of players getting CTE, this study only looked at the brains of former NFL players who were suspected of suffering from CTE. More research should be done and the rules of football should be modified to ensure the safety of football players, but the link between playing football and CTE has yet to be proven. With football concussions because so prevalent, organizations on all levels have been implementing many things to help make the sport safer for all participants. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages head up tackle techniques. This forces players to hit with their shoulders and not make helmet to helmet contact. 67% of concussions in the NFL are helmet to helmet contact (Resnick).
Since placing emphasis on not making helmet to helmet contact while tackling they have seen a drop in concussions. In 2018, there were 214 concussions in the NFL which was a drop from 2017 (Resnick). On average per NFL game there are approximately there are 0.41 concussions (Resnick). That’s less than one concussion for every 2 games played. Since implementing some of these changes they have already seen a trend in improvement. In a recent study of 35 former NFL players that had several concussions it had showed no traumatic brain damage was present (Cullum). Another thing that organizations have been doing to try to keep players safe is implement some rule changes. Even small changes are yielding high rewards. One of these rule changes is in college football moving the kick-off forward 5 yards. Tthis small move is resulting in more touchbacks and thus less tackling and the option for helmet to helmet contact. Before the rule change kick offs were responsible for 21% of all concussions (George). After the rule change there were 93 less concussions in college football from 126 in the 2013-2015 (before rule change) to only 33 in the 2016-2017 (after rule change) (George). After the rule change there were 7.51 fewer concussions every 1,000 kickoff plays (George). Some states are even taking concussion research a step further and asking high schools to collect all data form their athletes that get concussions. They want to know what hits that caused them, how long it takes to recover from them, Even and how they affect boys and girls differently. If you do happen to get a concussion, there are ways to help you recover. First, get lots and lots of rest. Rest is a very important part of the rehab process after a concussion because it gives your brain the time to heal. Second, gradually return to activities under the supervision of a health professional. With rest and a gradual return to activates, your brain will heal to preform correctly. The worst thing for your health and brain is to return before the brain is back to normal.
This can lead to lead to more concussions, brain swelling, permanent brain damage, and even death. Concussions are serious and can be dangerous. The long term effect of repeated concussions can lead to serious health problems, CTE, and even death. Valid research must be done to determine if a link exist between concussions and CTE. The rules of football must be strictly enforced to make sure the players are being kept safe. New and safer football techniques must be taught. Teams must be able to better recognize concussions and ensure that return to play guidelines are followed. We can make football safer at all levels to allow players, coaches, and fans to enjoy all aspects football.