There is steadfast, growing awareness of the link between high-impact sports and brain injuries, in large part thanks to both the scientists doing the research and athletes coming forward with their stories and suing entities like the NFL in connection with issues like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Research shows that CTE is the result of repeated blows to the head—even hits that do not technically result in concussions. This triggers a process of brain degeneration that, years later, can cause a number of behavioral and mental issues, including anxiety, aggression, agitation, depression, memory loss, and suicide risk. It is a difficult condition to study in large part because most of the more reliable research has involved looking at donated brains and diagnoses after death.
In mid-November, the NFL announced that it is awarding more than $35 million in funding to five organizations that conduct research into diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries, focusing on concussions and associated conditions (including CTE). Those specifically receiving the funds include:
These funds will not only enable several institutions to study thousands of former NFL players and methods of mitigating damage to the brain from contact sports but to also study the short- and long-term effects of concussions on high school athletes, which is still a neglected issue that affects a number of young people each year. An additional $5 million will be contributed towards medical research focused on player health and safety.
It is expected that, as a result of the new research, new insights into the living will result, and researchers will be able to assess the neurological health of retired players. One study will specifically look at whether there is a direct connection between players’ neurological health and the number of concussions and/or blows to the head they experienced. Ultimately, researchers will try to detect whether abnormal levels of tau—a brain protein that becomes misshapen after injury and may trigger CTE—can be detected while players are alive, thus signaling the presence of CTE. Researchers will also look at four potential treatments for CTE, including an antibody that destroys tau, a drug used to treat Alzheimer’s, carbon monoxide, and environmental enrichment.
This funding came as a surprise to many after the NFL’s decision in 2017 to back away from a funding arrangement with the National Institutes of Health concerning CTE research. Meanwhile, the National Hockey League just recently settled a lawsuit with players for close to $19 million, demonstrating that concussions and brain injuries as a result of high-impact sports are not limited to football.
At Lafferty, Gallagher & Scott, LLC we have been helping brain injury victims throughout Ohio for close to 50 years. We understand, firsthand, what even a single concussion can do in terms of permanent damage. Contact us today to find out more about our services.
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