Head concussions and football. a concussion is an extremely common occurrence in the world of professional football.
The human brain the most complicated and powerful organ on the planet — is a squishy organ to say the least. Furthermore, when a person hits their head hard, the brain can bounce around and twist in the skull, causing permanent damage. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by the rapid movement of the brain within the skull, which causes the brain to become injured.
Individual neurons can be stretched and damaged as a result of an impact. The chemistry of the brain is thrown out of whack. In addition to seeing stars, becoming disoriented, losing consciousness, becoming sensitive to light and sound, and experiencing headaches, concussions can cause people to have sluggish or confused thoughts for several weeks or even months after the injury.
Every week during the football season, heads and bodies are smashed and shuddered to the ground. Furthermore, despite changing the rules to allow for more severe penalties and fines for flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits, the NFL has not been successful in preventing concussions thus far in its efforts.
As reported by the NFL’s injury data, the number of concussions sustained during practice and game action decreased slightly in 2018, going from a total of 281 in 2017 to a total of 214 in 2018 (see chart). After that, the number was raised once more to a total of 224 in 2019.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head and head trauma.
CTE does not occur as a result of a single concussion. It is the result of repeated concussions — and even less severe head impacts — that can cause structural changes in the brain that last for years or decades. During a 2019 interview, Philip Bayly, an engineering professor at Washington University in Saint Louis who has been researching the mechanics of brain movement inside the head, stated that “the pain you feel [after a hit] is not necessarily an indicator of the damage that is done to your head.”
In particular, brains affected by CTE accumulate a protein known as tau (which is believed to be dislodged from brain fibers during an injury). A protein called tau clumps together in brain cells and tissues, interfering with the flow of critical information.
The mechanisms by which all of this occurs are still not completely understood. According to Bayly, “the challenge is that no one can see what happens to the brain when someone gets a concussion.” A possible explanation is that considerable mechanical stress is applied to the sulci, the grooves on the surface of the brain, causing them to break open and release pockets of tau following an injury. This cluster of tau is often observed around the blood arteries at the bottom of sulci during autopsies.
The sickness has been around for quite some time. This particular strain was first detected among boxers in the 1920s (who, like football players, sustain regular hits to the head). The condition was formerly known as a punch-drunk syndrome or dementia pugilistica. At this time, the only method to conclusively diagnose CTE is via an autopsy procedure. In 2005, researchers revealed the first verified instance of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in an NFL player. CTE was shown to be quite common among football players, according to the findings of that investigation, which included the following grim statistics:
Headaches, short-term memory loss, and lack of focus are some of the minor symptoms that appear in stage I. By stage IV, “the majority of individuals also had substantial loss of attention and focus, executive dysfunction, linguistic problems, explosiveness, violent tendencies, paranoia, depression, gait, and visuospatial impairments,” according to the study’s findings.