Brain Injuries and Sports: NFL Concussion Crisis – Will It Spread to Baseball, and Parents, What Does It Mean For Your Kids Who Play School Sports?

Brain Injuries and Sports: NFL Concussion Crisis – Will It Spread to Baseball, and Parents, What Does It Mean For Your Kids Who Play School Sports?

This week, ESPN will televise a week-long investigation into brain injuries and concussions in the National Football League and the long-term effects these head injuries have on those who play football. You can watch it on ESPN’s program “Outside the Lines,” in a series called “The Concussion Crisis.

You can also watch podcasts of each episode of the ESPN series online as podcasts here.

Meanwhile, the question is being asked regarding baseball:  will pro baseball players follow the lead of their football brethren and also file lawsuits for damages sustained due to head injuries and concussions suffered during their years of playing pro sports?

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed (and it’s not over) by professional football players, as well as their loved ones in wrongful death actions after the player has died from injuries believed to have been sustained to the brain on the field and directly contributing to their deaths.

Read the complaint filed in an Atlanta federal court here.

The Legacy of Junior Seau

Last Wednesday, Pro Bowl veteran Junior Seau committed suicide, and it is now being claimed that he did so – by a gunshot to the heart, not the head – in order to keep his brain available as proof that he is another casualty of traumatic brain injury suffered from playing football.  If this is true, then who knows how many professional football players as well as college players and those in high school down to the littlest boys (and girls) can thank Seau in the coming years for bringing the public’s attention to this very, very real problem?

Seau may have got the idea from Chicago Bears’ Dave Duerson, who committed suicide in the same manner back in Feburary 2011. In fact, Duerson left written instructions that his brain was to be used in research to prove that he did indeed suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which was caused by repetitive concussions, year after year, which happened while he was playing football.  Sure enough, doctors confirmed that Duerson had been a victim of CTE.

The list is growing to over a dozen other NFL players already also confirmed to have been victims of CTE after their brains have been examined upon their deaths.

What is CTE? It’s a sad thing, where the brain suffers a degenerative disease resulting in dementia, depression, aggression, confusion, and more.  And it doesn’t just strike football players.  Wrestling, hockey, baseball, soccer — any sport where the head can sustain a closed injury concussion means the possibility of permanent brain damage and CTE.

What About Your Kids and Sports – Are Brain Injuries and Concussions A Risk of School Sports?

Yes.  Helmets are not magical protections against head trauma and permanent brain injury.   Already, questions are being asked about children and concussions – but not enough is being done to protect kids on the playing field, during games or during practice.  Lots of parents apparently are opting to take their children out of football, for example, because they don’t feel the safeguards are sufficient.

Just as the NFL lawsuit alleges that the Powers that Be knew and failed to do enough to protect players from concussions and permanent brain damage from traumatic brain injuries, so will future claims against colleges, coaches, school boards, and other authorities who are allowing kids to play sports where their heads are being hit and hurt all in the name of the game.

It doesn’t take much to cause a concussion and especially in children, serious concussions are not always easy to spot when they happen.  Parents who allow their children to play sports that can involve hits to the head should be very vigilant for any sign of head trauma, and err on the sign of caution.  Don’t assume anything.  Be careful out there.

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