Seventy-five former NFL football players are suing the NFL for neglecting to properly inform them of concussion dangers. The lawsuit was sparked in part, due to the death of NFL star Dave Duerson, who was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy which is caused by repeated brain trauma. Duerson was known as a fierce defensive hitter and sustained many hard hits to his head. He had requested his brain be donated for scientific study because he knew his mental health had declined during retirement to the point he had difficulty speaking normally, at times. The disease has been found in more than twenty deceased NFL football players.
Though this number is small, the total number of people who play football from the Pop Warner children’s leagues through junior high, high school and college is much larger. High school football alone has been estimated to have 1.2 million players. Research has indicated there could be 40,000 concussions per year in high school football. This number could be greater as it has been estimated only about half of high school football concussions are reported.
“The evidence in the literature has been building that repeated mild [brain] injuries in children and adults has the potential for long-term, cumulative effect,” Dr. Christopher C. Giza, a pediatric neurologist at UCLA, commenting on a related research study. (Source: LATimes)
The NFL is the football league most admired by the younger players, and many of them dream of playing professionally. If it can acknowledge the perils of head injuries for long-term mental health, and establish a science-based policy to protect professional players, it may signal to the college and youth leagues they need to also be more aware.
Image Credit: Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator; C. Carl Jaffe, MD, cardiologist.