Congress needs to recognize the seriousness of football-related brain injuries

It’s just a ding, the coach would tell the parents. He will be okay. He needs to be a man and get tougher. Everything is fine.  This is what I heard growing up in a place where football was valued more religion. In fact, it was our religion. Unfortunately, we now know that a ding is not just a ding. It’s a potential tragedy.

Some members of Congress recognize the seriousness of the problem but, to date, there has not been any legislation proposed that would mandate minimum standards or guidelines to reduce sports-related brain injury. That’s something for which physicians, community leaders, and other members of the public should ask their representatives.

 Last year, a friend’s son was dazed from a hit to his head while he was playing in his eighth grade football game. The boy was a straight-A student, but following his injury, he struggled to earn passing grades. He gradually recovered, but it took nearly 6 months for him to fully heal.

Repeated concussions from athletics can produce a traumatic brain injury (TBI) similar to what our soldiers experience with explosive devices such as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

It is hard to know how many hits to the head are necessary to cause irreversible damage. The New York Times reports that Kevin Turner, who played eight seasons of professional football, “suffered for six long years with a brain disease that research has linked to head trauma in football.” He died in March of this year at age 46.

Turner’s situation isn’t unique. The Journal of the American Medical Association ((JAMA) recently published an updated study that found 99 percent of deceased National Football League (NFL) players whose brains had been donated to science suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Among deceased players across all levels of American football (including high school, college, and professional) whose brains were studied, 87 percent were diagnosed with CTE. This is a neurodegenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma, including concussions.

Dr. Ann McKee, the study’s senior author, warns against accepting the results at face value. By her own admission, the study was biased, because all the brains were donated. According to NPR, Dr. McKee cautions, ” ‘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.’ “

That said, the National Football…

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