Earlier today, a piece on football-related brain injuries, written by Jim Schnabel, was posted to the Dana website. It addresses the growing concern over the dangers of the sport as well as skepticism from some researchers regarding the lack of studies. The story comes on the heels of several news items about head trauma in athletes:
In July, 75 retired NFL players sued the league, claiming it knew for decades about the harmful effects of concussions but concealed the information. Last month, seven former players filed a class-action lawsuit against the league. According to an Associated Press report, “the players accuse the league of training players to hit with their heads, failing to properly treat them for concussions and trying to conceal for decades any links between football and brain injuries.”
The NFL has taken some steps to address the concussion issue in the past couple of seasons, including adjusting the criteria to make it harder for players with head injuries to return to the field, and placing an informative poster in team locker rooms. Not surprisingly, many feel the league isn’t doing enough. Writing in a recent issue of The Nation, former player Nate Jackson says that players are still encouraged to play through injuries—even potential concussions—and that post-career health care is inadequate.
The NFL isn’t the only professional sports league with high-profile concussion cases. Sidney Crosby, the face of the NHL, took hits to the head in two games in early January and has been sidelined since. Reports that Crosby’s rehab process was being handled with the utmost caution were encouraging, but the latest news is more alarming. Just a couple of weeks ago Crosby’s neurologist said the 24-year-old superstar “was not close” to participating in contact drills. But Crosby skated with his team this past weekend in a rigorous practice after his chiropractor said he was “as ready for physical contact as just about any player in the NHL.”
Meanwhile, researchers are working towards better ways to assess head trauma. A Cleveland Clinic study includes a post-game blood test to see if football players have elevated levels of a particular brain protein, as it would indicate a serious head injury. The hope is that such a test would be quicker, easier, and cheaper than a trip to the hospital.