Over 1,500 former professional football players have taken part in various lawsuits against the National Football League. The players are saying that the league knew about the significant potential for long term and permanent damage to player’s brain as a result of repeated concussions, but did not properly inform or protect the players. Many are also alleging that NFL standards for treating concussions and other head injuries during games did not provide sufficient treatment or care, which also led to long term brain injuries.
These issues have come to the forefront in the wake of another recent suicide by a former NFL player who had been complaining about symptoms related to repeated concussions and brain injuries. Former professional football players have a higher rate of substance abuse, depression, and dementia than the general population, and many experts believe that is a result of traumatic brain injuries.
A study of 15 former NFL player’s brains showed brain damage in 14 of those individuals linked to a condition known commonly as boxer’s dementia. The damage often affects the part of the brain that governs impulse control, memory, and emotions.
Researchers are now waiting anxiously for the opportunity to examine the brain of Junior Seau, who sadly committed suicide recently. His brain may hold some additional clues about these brain injuries and help improve treatments for sports-related brain injuries.
Seau was the third player to end his own life since February of 2011. Experts say that one contributing factor to the suicides could be the deterioration of white matter in brains that have suffered from many concussions. Loss of white matter can reduce the brain’s ability to control impulses.
The NFL has disputed the allegations that they do not adequately care for concussions.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Seau’s brain could hold clues about NFL injuries impacts,” Sharon Begley, May 4, 2012.