How at Risk Are Football Players for Sustaining a TBI?

Controversy around traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and football has created a national debate over whether football leagues are doing enough to protect their players. Professional, college and high school football players are at high-risk for sustaining a mild-TBI, also known as a concussion. Mild-TBI does not underscore the danger of receiving a concussion, as the long-term effects from concussions are certainly not mild.

What Risks Are Associated with Sports-Related TBIs?

Athletes who receive too many concussions are at risk for a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE occurs when repetitive concussions produce proteins that disrupt the normal functioning of the brain’s blood vessels and eventually begin to kill nerve cells.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of CTE include a decline in recent memory, executive function, changes in mood and suicidal behavior. Two months ago, an Ohio State University football player was found dead in a dumpster with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. One week prior, he had mentioned to family members the severe toll concussions were having on him.

What Policies Are in Place to Protect Players?

Concussions can be an immediate danger to the health of football players, and currently, no preventative measures exist that work with absolute efficiency. Recently, a San Diego high school student was severely injured with a mild-TBI, and now coaches are arguing amongst themselves over what could have been done differently. Many states have passed laws that require athletic coaches to undergo training to recognize concussions so players can be pulled from the game.

How Widespread is the Problem of TBIs and Football?

CTE may be more widespread in football than originally thought. Recent research found that CTE was present in the brains of 80 percent of recently deceased players. Although CTE can only be examined posthumously, it does show the true nature of the risk of brain injury associated with playing high-contact sports like football.

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You can read more about CTE and football by visiting the PBS website.

Did You Know? 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur every year in the U.S. from high-contact sports, including football.