Football helmet

Football surpassed other sports as our favorite pastime a few years back; estimates vary as to the actual percentages of those who call it their preferred sport to watch. Many of us who agree don’t understand why everyone doesn’t like football—it’s an exciting and dramatic sport, but it also includes technical rules for those who enjoy a “thinking game” full of strategy.

However, our love affair with football may be about to end. Since March, 2016, it’s been confirmed that concussions arising from playing football are a major cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), with the danger not limited to those who play professionally.

What is CTE?

A degenerative brain disease, CTE results from recurring blows to the head. Its symptoms include loss of memory, general confusion, mood disorders (especially depression), behavioral problems that often feature violence, and dementia. But symptoms may not appear for many years after the damaging blows have stopped.

The diagnosis of CTE can be confirmed only by a posthumous examination of the brain. In a late July, 2017, report that appeared in The New York Times, a neuropathologist revealed her findings after studying the brains of 202 former football players.

The Alarming Study Results

Dr. Ann McKee was the neuropathologist who tested the 202 brains from deceased football players: the brains of 91 players ranged from the Canadian Football League to high schoolers, while 111 NFL players’ brains were examined. The results were extremely disturbing: Out of 202 brains, CTE was diagnosed in 87 percent of them. In the case of the NFL players, 110 out of 111 showed signs of CTE.

Dr. McKee has warned that her sample is biased, meaning that it is not random: many brains tested were included in the study at the request of families who wanted to know whether CTE was present. But consider this: 1,300 NFL players have died since the study began. Even if every single one of the 1,300 players tested negative for CTE—which is extremely unlikely—it would still mean that 110 positive results represented 9 percent of the deceased. When compared with CTE levels among the general population, 9 percent is tremendously high. So, even in the best and most unlikely case, CTE appears to be a real threat if you play football.

Spotlighting One Player

Football fans will recognize some of the deceased’s names who tested positive for CTE, such as quarterback Ken Stabler and linebacker Junior Seau. But we’ll bet you haven’t heard of defensive back Tyler Sash, who had a brief career with the NY Giants before dying at 27 from an accidental pain medication overdose. Sash’s brain was tested at the request of his family because he played 16 years of football and had begun to show signs of CTE at his young age. Sadly, he tested positive. If you have children who play football, this result might give you pause.

Youth Football Changes

Because of these recent discoveries, the NFL has begun to encourage youth football leagues to play less damaging versions of the game. Their recommended changes include employing tackles that reduce danger to the players and playing modified versions of flag football.

U.S.A. Football, the national organization that oversees amateur football, is introducing a much-changed version of the game for youth. This new variety attempts to avoid the violence of the regular game and is run under the name Heads Up Football. The programs are specifically designed for youth and scholastic football organizations. If you have a child who plays or who wants to play football, check to see whether your locality participates in the Heads Up Football program.

CTE is a special risk to those who begin the game at a young age. Our kids need protection.

We’re Here to Help You.

It can be difficult for victims and their families to negotiate the confusing emotional and legal territory of a brain injury. The victim may experience fundamental shifts in ability or personality that can affect day-to-day life, ability to work and earn money, and capacity to participate in family and friend relationships. The costs of brain trauma can be crushing and affect an entire family’s finances and peace of mind.

At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we know how difficult a brain injury can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a family member has been the victim of a brain injury, call Baltimore personal injury attorney Steve Heisler. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims in Maryland. If you have been injured in an accident or have otherwise incurred a personal injury, you should not delay. For a free initial consultation, call us today at 1-410-625-4878, or use our confidential online contact form.