Concussions in the Nfl

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Robert Wilson
ENC 91 10-06-10

Concussions in the NFL

Concussions, something that most players, from pee wee to pro football admit to

having had sometime in their career. As sports evolve, players are bigger, faster , and

stronger. NFL players are million dollar machines, they are owned, and are the product

of a business empire. Many players are forced to retire due to injury, but many don’t

begin to feel the long term effects until after retirement. At what price are NFL athletes

pay for glory, money, or love of the game?

The effects of multiple concussions on NFL players has become a cause for concern.

Many players and their families had begun to notice different behaviors. These behaviors

include deep depression, headaches, sleep disturbances, and severe memory loss. One

ex-NFL player has to write all his thoughts and activities in a small notebook. If the

events are not timed and documented, they never happened. Another player became so

depressed that he did not leave his house for two years, or interact with family or friends.

Some families became so concerned with the erratic behavior, they turned to the

NFL for help. At the time, the NFL did not have any studies being conducted, or any

assistance to offer the players or their families. They then turned to the Center for the

study of traumatic encephalopathy (CSTE). Currently the CSTE can only examine the

brains of dead athletes with informed consent. Concussions are considered to be

invisible injuries, since they are not detected on MRI, or CT scan. They are unable to

reveal the extent of brain damage, until they can directly examine the brain. So far over

one hundred NFL players have consented to have their brains studied after death.

When NFL players brains were studied, five of five were found to have large

amounts of brain damage, ie: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Their brains

were inspected closely, and found to have deep tissue injury, resembling the brain of an

eighty year old with dementia. CTE is a progressive disease, that continues to kill brain

cells, and cause damage to the areas of the brain that control emotion, rage, hyper

sexuality, and breathing. Like Muhammad Ali, and other punch drunk boxers, NFL

player brains show signs of damage and dementia, several times larger that the national

population.

When a player sustains a concussion, they report feeling woozy, drunk, or dazed.

NFL data shows that there are one hundred twenty to one hundred thirty documented

concussions per regular season, however many cases go unreported. Most players state

that when they get hit hard, they know that something is wrong, but do not report the

incident. They either feel that they are letting the team down, afraid of losing their spot

to another player, injury is a sigh of weakness, but most say that staying in the game is

what they were taught to do. In the past, the decision to return to a game post concussion

was made by someone employed by the team. Doctors, owners, and coaches would

decide when a player was ready to return, causing a conflict of interest on the players

behalf.

In addition to the CSTE, the university of North Carolina Chapel Hill, is attempting

to study NFL players brains while they are alive. They have over three thousand

participants to date. The study is using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging. This

measures the neurons that transmit information in the brain. The NFL is also planning to perform a long term study, following players into retirement,...
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