Vance Miller is a lifetime fan of the San Francisco 49ers. Growing up in the Bay Area Vance had the opportunity to attend sporting events in both San Francisco and Oakland getting a mix of football cultures. Now Vance lives’ in Florida and has had the opportunity to write for Sina Kasraeian MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. http://www.sinakasraeianmd.com/
Former San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau’s shocking suicide earlier this spring has amplified concerns that NFL players have voiced for years about concussions. As lawsuits continue to pile up against the league, more and more evidence is released on the long-term health effects of sports-related brain injuries.
Medical Studies and Mounting Evidence
The University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that 20.2 percent of NFL players with at least three concussions had depression. That percentage is significantly higher than the figures reported for players who remained concussion-free.
Droves of former gridiron stars have alleged in legal filings that they have experienced progressively worse brain defects, including memory loss, lack of concentration and even dementia. They say their on-the-field concussions have decreased their quality of life and, in some cases, robbed them of their ability to work after their football careers are over.
The NFL’s “Brain Bank”
The Dave Duerson case remains one of the most haunting. After the retired Chicago Bears defensive back shot himself in the chest, his family found a suicide note asking them to donate his brain to the “NFL’s Brain Bank.”
He was referring to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which has received money from the NFL to support brain research. The center concluded that Duerson had been afflicted with a degenerative disorder that has been associated with concussions.
Duerson’s family has brought a wrongful death case against the league. His children have been quoted as saying that his personality changed dramatically as a result of his concussions.
New Rules to Protect Players
As the sports medicine profession has gained a greater understanding of the long-term dangers of concussions, the issue has been debated from the courtroom to Congress. Under mounting pressure and criticism, the NFL has implemented several new rules designed to protect players from sustaining serious brain injuries.
Here are some of the league’s new rules:
- A player who has any symptom of a concussion cannot practice or play in a game.
- An independent neurologist must examine a player who has suffered a concussion.
- Helmet-to-helmet hits are prohibited and can incur serious penalties.
The NFL and NCAA also have encouraged individual states to enact laws to protect children who play youth football from sustaining head injuries.