In sports athletes who are committed to playing for an organized team knows that there is a huge risk involved by the time you are stepping onto the field, court or Ice Rink. One of the most public sports that athletes are being injured in is the sport of football. Athletes knows the dangers of the full contact sport because it is so extensively commercialized in for all ages. Beginning from club teams, High School all the way to the NFL football is a great deal but what about the injuries that come with playing this violent game. Concussions are one of the most common injures that occur out of the football field and it has begun to get the public talking about what is being done to save these athletes from serious head trauma. Each organization, weather it is pop Warner to the National Football League is doing everything they can to prevent head injuries in the sport of football. Concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy are serious conditions that must be taken seriously in order to help prevent serious health disorders later in life for tons of athletes.
A concussion is an injury to the brain when something hits the head or the body to make the brain move within the skull and hit the side of the skull. The brain has the consistency of gelatin and floats, to a degree, in cerebrospinal fluid. A sudden blow to the head or harsh movement of the body can cause the brain to move within the head to bang against the side of the skull causing some type of injury. The symptoms can vary due to several factors, especially due to the severity of the movement of the brain within the skull. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, fainting, nausea, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, memory loss, confusion, drowsiness, anxiety, irritability, and slurred speech. However, the more severe the concussion, the more severe the symptoms can be.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease that causes Tau protein to build in the brain around the brains blood vessels, interrupting normal functioning and eventually killing nerve cells. (Wexler) CTE is caused by repeated blows to the head and concussions which occur frequently when playing football. The first stage of CTE has no symptoms and is when isolated spots of tau build up mostly around the frontal lobe, or crown if the head (Wexler) The second stage of CTE is rage, impulsivity, and depression. In stage 2, symptoms being to appear as defective tau protein affects more nerve cells in the brain’s frontal lobe. (Wexler) The third stage of CTE is confusion and memory loss. In stage 3, Tau deposits expand from the frontal section to the temporal section of the brain. Condition begins to affect the amygdala and the hippocampus, which impairs emotions and memory. (Wexler) The tau deposits grow in the brain disrupting and killing the healthy cells around it. The process continues throughout someone’s life with CTE and is why today we are now seeing the effects in retired or older athletes. The fourth stage of CTE is Advanced Dementia. In stage 4 Tau deposits have overwhelmed the brain, killing many nerve cells and shrinking it by nearly half the size. The brain becomes deformed and brittle, and cognitive function is severely limited. (Wexler) These four stages are very serious and life altering. It all starts with repeated head trauma which is why this disease is particularly associated with football. The effects of CTE are being seen worldwide on national television as former athletes with the disease are struggling with living life.
While the NFL is putting new rules and regulations on equipment and which type of tackles are allowed, living retired NFL players are found to already have symptoms of CTE (Fainaru, 2013). Through brain scans and research done by UCLA, they have identified proteins in player’s brains that cause CTE, which as Dr. Julian Bailes, co-director or North Shore Neurological Institute said, is the holy grail to studying CTE and finding ways to cure and prevent it (Fainaru, 2013). While this is a break through, there is still no cure or way to treat CTE (Fainaru, 2013). But this research also raises questions about CTE and the NFL. Nevertheless, a lot about the long-term effects of concussions, especially the relationship between repetitive concussions and chronic traumatic encephalography. However, physicians and scientists continue to research this topic to help find a cure.
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