Are we doing enough to prevent head injuries in football?

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It’s no secret that football is a tradition that has been a part of America for over a hundred years.
No other sport can compare to the heated rivalries, the tradition of Thanksgiving football games, and the Super Bowl games that draw millions of viewers from across the world every year.
It’s also no secret, however, that football is one of the most dangerous sports to play.
Across the high school, collegiate, and professional level, football-related injuries are not uncommon, with head traumas accounting for a large percentage of those injuries.
Last year, in the NFL alone, there were over 200 concussions reported.
A study done by the American Academy of Neurology also found that “more than 40 percent of retired National Football League players had signs of traumatic brain injury based on sensitive MRI scans” (www.washingtonpost.com).
This begs the question: should the NFL be doing more to protect players from head trauma injuries?
While head injuries in the NFL have always been a topic of discussion, the news of Aaron Hernandez, former star tight end for the New England Patriots, was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This event sparked national controversy on the safety of players.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a degenerative disorder believed to be caused by repeated trauma to the head.
Unfortunately, this disease is not diagnosable until an autopsy in the deceased.
Hernandez, unfortunately, was not the only one. A recent study done on over 200 deceased brains of former football players across all levels found a substantial percent of CTE.
In former NFL players included in this study, 110 out of 111, a whopping 99%, were diagnosed with CTE.
With more and more evidence coming out that multiple concussions are the most prominent risk factor for developing CTE, it is clear that NFL players are at a huge risk for developing this life-threatening disease.
While concussion protocol in the NFL has come a long way in recent years, it is clear that these efforts can only go so far in protecting players from the risk of traumatic brain injuries.
The NFL now allows a neurologist on the sidelines at each game that can assess and prevent any player from going back out on to the field if they believe they have been subject to some kind of brain trauma.
The NFL also has implemented a strict protocol for players who are assessed and confirmed to have a concussion that does not allow them to go back out on the field the same day.
While this was implemented years ago, it wasn’t until the 2016 season that the NFL enforced disciplinary actions for teams who violated this protocol through heavy fines.
There is also a new focus on making helmets more effective and there are multiple helmets on the market that claim to be more protective than all the rest.
However, even with all of these precautionary steps, more answers are needed for how to best prevent NFL players from facing head injuries.
At the end of the day, football is a contact sport and tackles are an inevitable part of the game.
Players know the risk and still go out on the field day in and day out.
Finding workable safety measures that don’t change the tradition of the game is still a work in progress.

Author: Geri Wissink

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