Football is an American tradition that unites millions of fans and inspires young athletes around the world. But while football is a beloved sport, it also has a dark side. New research suggests that head injuries and brain injuries, which can have devastating and potentially fatal effects, are shockingly prevalent in professional athletes who play for the NFL (National Football League). For professional football players, brain injuries can be financially, mentally, and physically costly. Keep reading to hear recent statistics on NFL head injuries, learn about common brain injuries in football, and find out how an experienced Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney for injured NFL players can help.
NFL Head Injury Statistics
Football is a physically rough sport. Players stumble, get tackled, and crash into each other head-on at full speed, protected from harm by only a helmet, a set of shoulder pads, and a few other pieces of padding and safety gear. While these protective devices help to reduce catastrophic injuries on the field, they have ultimately proven ineffective in preventing neurodegeneration that occurs over time, as evidenced by an ever-growing body of scientific research into the effects and prevalence of brain injuries in the NFL.
As recently as July 2017, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) – a prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal whose history stretches back to the nineteenth century – revealed that virtually every player whose family donated their brain for the study had developed degenerative brain disease. In the study, an astounding 110 out of 111 deceased NFL athletes – more than 99% – showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that can only be diagnosed after the patient’s death.
These findings would be cause for concern in any context. But what makes them even more alarming is the prevalence of CTE specifically within the NFL. The study showed that 177 out of 202 football players (87%) had mild to severe CTE when high school, college, and semiprofessional players were included, compared to the much higher 99% figure observed in NFL players. It should be noted that the study included only players whose family volunteered for the testing, so there is no control group. These results are only suggestive of the extent of injuries that can occur for players with head trauma.
Study author Dr. Ann McKee noted, “Families don’t donate brains of their loved ones unless they’re concerned about the person. So all the players in this study, on some level, were symptomatic. That leaves you with a very skewed population.”
Still, McKee is adamant about one point: “We’re seeing this [CTE] in a very large number that participated in football for many years. So while we don’t know the exact risk and we don’t know the exact number, we know this is a problem in football.”
Because CTE can only be diagnosed after death, it is impossible to definitively say how many of the NFL’s nearly 1,700 players are currently living with the disease. Careful diagnosis and evaluation are crucial for all football players.
3 Common Brain Injuries Caused by Football
CTE is a degenerative disease, which means it grows progressively more severe over time. The disease, which occurs in people who have suffered multiple concussions or other brain injuries, causes the brain to physically shrink (atrophy) and deteriorate. CTE-related damage to brain tissue can result in an array of debilitating physical and cognitive effects, including:
- Difficulty balancing
- Mood disturbances, such as increased anger or depression
- Reduced impulse control
CTE is not the only serious head or brain injury that occurs in professional football players. Other examples of common head injuries in NFL athletes include:
- Concussions and TBI – TBI stands for “traumatic brain injury.” A concussion is actually a mild form of TBI (MTBI), though the term “mild” is misleading. The severity of a traumatic brain injury, which may be “mild,” “moderate,” or “severe,” is determined by several medical criteria, including how long the victim was unconscious and how long the victim experienced post-traumatic amnesia (memory loss). Some brain doctors measure the severity of post-concussive symptoms instead. Depending on the severity of a brain injury, effects could include chronic pain, chronic fatigue, incontinence, difficulty communicating, difficulty concentrating, and other serious impairments. Moreover, repeated TBI injuries are considered the primary risk factor for developing CTE.
- Intracranial Hematomas – The term “intracranial” means inside the skull (cranium). A “hematoma” is an abnormal accumulation of blood outside the walls of a blood vessel. An intracranial hematoma occurs when blood builds up in the space between the brain and the skull. This exerts pressure on the brain, which can be fatal without emergency intervention. According to a 2001 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training, “The occurrence of intracranial injuries in sports has now been well documented. Intracranial hematomas… can result from head injury.”
- Cerebral Contusions – A “contusion” is a bruise, and the “cerebrum” is the largest part of the brain, comprised of the left and right hemispheres. While a bruise on the arm or thigh is seldom cause for concern, a bruise on delicate brain tissue is a medical emergency. Cerebral contusions, which can result from sports-related head injuries, can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, uncontrollable movements, and seizures.
Timely reporting of concussions, “having your bell rung,” or other blows to head is crucial for all injured players. North Carolina has a two-year statute of limitations for filing a claim, with limited exceptions. Speak to a certified specialist in workers’ compensation immediately after an injury to be certain your rights are protected.
Contact a Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Attorney for NFL Players
Charlotte workers’ compensation attorney Martha Ramsay has been a member of the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) Workers’ Compensation Panel for North Carolina since 1995. With more than 25 years of experience representing injured NFL players, athletic injury lawyer Martha Ramsay wields a sophisticated understanding of the legal tactics and investigative techniques that are needed to demonstrate negligence and obtain compensation in NFL head injury cases. Martha Ramsay is dedicated to holding negligent parties accountable for injuries, and has repeatedly obtained favorable case outcomes during her many years representing professional athletes.
If you were injured while playing in the NFL, Martha Ramsay can work to aggressively pursue financial compensation. To arrange a free and confidential legal consultation concerning an NFL head injury or NFL brain injury, contact the Ramsay Law Firm, PA at (704) 376-1616 today.