May 26, 2018

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The Alarming Rise in NFL Concussions

With the Super Bowl a few days away, and the winding down of football season, the NFL is examining how to go about the alarming increase in concussions.

The 2015 season saw a 58% increase in concussions, with 182 occurrences in comparison to 115 during the 2014 season. The increase in concussions has come after the leagues rule change prohibiting forcible hits to the head or neck area, or the use of the crown or hairline parts of the helmet.

Concussions in the NFL have been a controversial matter for some time now, with the film Concussion bringing more light to this serious issue. The film is the story of pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu who first identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in football players.

Dr. Omalu has fought the football establishment on the severe damage that results from concussions sustained by professional football players. He discovered a degenerative brain disease when performing an autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steelers center, Mike Webster.

Webster had severe damage to his frontal lobe due to multiple concussions, experiencing cognitive issues such as amnesia, dementia, and other physical and psychological pain. As the NFL tries to cover up health risks associated with the game, more football players are starting to experience similar symptoms to that of Webster.

Dr. Omalu has gone on to study the brains of dozens of deceased football players, and believes that 90 to 100 percent of professional players will suffer from CTE.

Though the NFL has made close to 40 rule changes over the last decade, including strict concussion protocols, medical care, and better training, it is still not enough. The NFL is currently in the process of developing new equipment in an attempt to help reduce injuries among players. However, that may not be the answer. It may be that concussions are only part of the problem, with the repeated head trauma suffered over years of football on every single play even though they do not result in actual concussions, may be a more significant problem.

Thanks to Dr. Omalu’s findings and the research him and his colleagues’ have done, the dangers of concussions as well as the effect of repeated collisions over years of playing football are becoming better understood. Dr. Omalu has established a foundation that is currently looking for ways to diagnose CTE while we wait for the NFL to come up with additional initiatives to improve player safety.

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