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Brain Injuries Cause Permanent Problems for Football Players

60 Minutes recently reported on alarming new research about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries on football players.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as many as three million sports related concussions occur each year. New research shows that concussions can cause permanent brain damage and early onset of dementia. Concussions may occur in any sport, but they are most common in football. They occur in children’s games, high school games, college games, and professional football games.

A few weeks ago, Tim Tebow of the Florida Gators took a hard hit and suffered a concussion. During a concussion, the brain slams into the skull and disrupts normal brain activity. Tebow spent the night in a hospital and was sidelined for 10 days.

Multiple concussions ended the careers of several NFL players, including Troy Aikman, Steve Young, and Ted Johnson. Johnson, a linebacker for the New England Patriots, hit opponents with so much force that he once cracked another player’s helmet. That kind of impact couldn’t have been good for either of their brains.

Johnson estimates that he suffered over 50 concussions during his career. Sometimes after a concussion he couldn’t remember plays and had trouble seeing, but he kept playing. He revealed to 60 Minutes: “Lot of times, if I didn’t get my vision back before the next snap, I’d have to have another linebacker call the plays. I couldn’t see on the sideline. I couldn’t see my defensive coordinator signaling in ‘cause my vision was still blurred.”

“I wasn’t as worried as maybe I could’ve been if I knew what the potential risks,” Johnson later said.

New information about those risks has recently come to light. A University of North Carolina study found a correlation between the number of concussion and the onset of dementia and depression among retired NFL players.

Johnson said he suffered from depression after retiring: “I was in bed with no contact with anybody, curtains drawn. I would get up, go eat, go back to bed. That was my routine for a long, long time.”

Johnson’s neurosurgeon Dr. Robert Cantu said he believes his patient is suffering from brain damage.

“A large segment of society thinks that concussions are innocuous and everybody recovers from them, and life is going to be merry ever after,” said Dr. Cantu. But that’s not the case.

“The impacts can be tremendous, because athletes can run almost 20 miles an hour, and their size and their weight would be equivalent to crashing a car into a brick wall going 40, 45 miles an hour,” Cantu explained.

Dr. Ann McKee of the Boston University School of Medicine has found physiological evidence of brain disease in athletes who have suffered multiple concussions. Diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, are common among former football players, boxers, and mixed martial artists. Unfortunately, it can only be diagnosed after death, when the brain can be examined.

Earlier this year Dr. McKee examined the brains of 16 former athletes and found that they all had CTE. CTE silently progresses for years, causing dementia and other cognitive problems.

“It seems to be triggered by trauma that occurs in a person’s youth; their teens, their 20s, even their 30s. But it doesn’t show up for decades later,” she explained. “People think it’s a psychological disease or maybe an adjustment reaction, maybe a mid-life sort of crisis type of thing. But actually, they have structural disease. They have brain disease.”

On October 28, a Congressional hearing will be held to examine the lasting impact of brain injuries among NFL players, how to limit the injuries, and how to compensate players and their families. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will testify at the hearing.

If you or a loved one suffered from a traumatic brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to recovery. Contact an experienced Georgia brain injury lawyer as soon as possible. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.