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Concussion Reports Cast Shadow Over Upcoming Indiana Football Season

Steve Wagner

New Research Shows Evidence of Brain Disease in Nearly All 200 Former Football Players Studied

A new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the brains of former NFL players, as well as those of college and high school football athletes, showed evidence of a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, suggesting it may be related to prior participation in the sport. Scientists concluded that repeated blows to the head increase risks for developing CTE, leading to progressive loss of normal brain matter and an abnormal buildup of protein. The report summarized research conducted on more than 200 deceased former football players’ brains since it is currently believed that CTE can only be diagnosed by examining brains after death. Families who participated in the study felt it was important to contribute because of the players’ repeated concussions and troubling symptoms before death. The study findings also revealed that the most severe disease was found in former professional players and mild CTE disease was found in all three former high school players.

Additional report findings:

• CTE was diagnosed in 177 former players — or nearly 90 percent of brains studied.
• 110 of 111 brains from former NFL players
• 48 of 53 college players
• 9 of 14 semi-professional players
• 7 of 8 Canadian Football league players
• 3 of 14 high school players
• The average age of death among all players studied was 66.
• Among 27 participants with mild CTE pathology, 26 (96%) had behavioral or mood symptoms or both, 23 (85%) had cognitive symptoms, and 9 (33%) had signs of dementia.
• Among 84 participants with severe CTE pathology, 75 (89%) had behavioral or mood symptoms or both, 80 (95%) had cognitive symptoms, and 71 (85%) had signs of dementia.

As reported, “the most common cause of death for participants with mild CTE pathology was suicide (12 [27%]) and for those with severe CTE pathology was neurodegenerative (ie, Dementia-related and Parkinson-related causes of death) (62 [47%]).”

Latest statistics collected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), say there are 3.2 million cases of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) each year, and 1.5 million cases are sports-related.

Educating Yourself on CTE and Other Student Athlete Head Injuries

Although not common in all high school aged football players, CTE is a brain disease linked with the repeated head blows similar to the ones that cause concussions and other types of traumatic brain injuries. Most medical experts believe high school football ranks as the most dangerous sport related to concussions and serious head blows. Because of the high impact of this sport, and the lack of viable safety equipment and funding for such items at many schools, high school football players of all ages continue to sustain an excessive amount of concussions each year.

If your child is gearing up for the Indiana high school football season, you need to take note of research studies like this. Being informed on what a concussion or traumatic brain injury can turn into can help parents identify when their children are in dangerous situations caused by high school football injuries that coaches and administrators are not catching.

A summer annual concussion conference led by the American Academy of Neurology, shared results of an Indiana University study of how Hoosier school administrators were dealing with concussion. Of the 157 principals surveyed, only 34 percent had received training on returning to learn after a concussion. Perhaps worse was that 42 percent of the principals said they had had only one to five students with a concussion in the previous year. The data from other studies would advise that in a school of 1000 students, dozens of concussions would be expected. Although concussion protocols have been in effect for high school coaches and administrators for several years, improved legislation in Indiana took effect on July 1, 2017 ensuring coaches of all sports ranging from grades five through 12 are required to go through concussion certification courses to help prevent, identify, and treat head injuries.

Parents should also be able to align with their child’s coach and school to help recognize symptoms, acknowledge uncommon behaviors, and promptly treat them.

Symptoms of Concussion

What to Do if Your Child Athlete Has a Head Injury

Indiana’s concussion protocol says, “If a student athlete has had a bump, blow or jolt to the head or body, the student may be assessed by an athletic trainer or a licensed health care provider, if available. The athletic trainer or health care provider can make a first assessment of the student athlete at the time of injury. If the student exhibits any of the danger signs associated with a concussion, the student athlete should receive immediate medical attention.”

Recognizing a concussion or other serious head injury in your student athlete requires awareness of the warning signs. If not addressed, concussions and other serious head injuries can lead to traumatic brain injury issues or even CTE, creating difficulties down the road.

Indiana University provides this list of concussion symptoms to guide you:

• Headache
• Confusion
• Fuzzy or Blurry vision
• Nausea or vomiting (early on)
• Sensitivity to noise or light
• Feeling sluggish, tired, or groggy
• Feeling unusually irritable
• Sleeping more or less than usual
• Trouble falling asleep
• More emotional
• Nervousness or anxiety
• Difficulty thinking clearly
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty remembering new information

If a student athlete does exhibit even one of these symptoms, a concussion should be suspected and the student athlete should be removed from play, the athlete’s parents should be notified, the athlete should not return to play for a minimum of 24 hours and not before being evaluated by a licensed health care provider and a written clearance must be completed.

The traumatic brain injury attorneys at Wagner Reese can assist you in recovering the compensation you deserve for the concussion you have received. Was your child’s brain injury improperly diagnosed, or ignored by your student’s school? Help us raise awareness for the seriousness of these injuries and hold coaches, schools, and doctors accountable for properly treating and caring for our children. Give us a call at (888) 204-8440 today.

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