New Concerns for Indiana Athletes and Head Injuries

Brain Injury HelmetIndiana’s high school and college football season is underway and thousands of youth take the field in competitions of shear, brute force and strength. For many fans, football is a highlight of the sports seasons, with crisp autumn air, pep bands playing the school fight songs, and school spirit on full display.  Unfortunately for many players this season, as in seasons past, these young people will be subject to life-altering injuries; not the least of these being a traumatic head injury (TBI).

News reports increasingly inform the public of another player who is sidelined by an major injury or even death.  USA Today focused on this issue last year in their own investigation but the trouble has not diminished, even with increased scrutiny.  In fact, the problem is growing into epidemic proportions and the trouble is greatest at the high school level.  As the USA Today article points out, “High school football players suffer three times as many catastrophic injuries as college players — meaning deaths, permanent disability injuries, neck fractures and serious head injuries, among other conditions, according to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.”  This report notes that nearly all the serious injuries came from either being tackled or tackling.

In a recent Frontline investigation, it was determined that more than 80% of football players examined after their death were found to have a severe form of brain chronic injury known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.  This was true whether they played at the elite professional level, college, or even high school level of the sport.

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy occurs when head trauma is repeated.  This produces abnormal proteins in the brain and these abnormal proteins form tangles around the brain’s blood vessels.  This, in turn interrupts normal function and results in the killing of nerve cells.  The condition is very serious even for those patients who might have a less advanced form of the disease. Those with mild CTE can suffer mood disorders, depression, or bouts of rage.  However, those who have more severe cases of CTE may experience everything from confusion, memory loss, and eventually dementia.

The National Football League has remained mute to this obvious problem.  A search of the organization’s website reveals nothing more than a re-posted news report of the above mentioned study.  However, CTE and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have major implications for those who play this brutal sport.  A redesigned football helmet in 2010 and some rule changes on head-to-head impact are the only major advances in head injury prevention for decades.

While the National Institute of Health has invested a huge amount of research dollars into better understanding the effects of CTE and TBI, there has been little done to protect Indiana players from TBI or CTE.  One has to wonder how many injured or killed high school and college athletes it will take before someone takes this risk seriously.

If you, or a student athlete you love, has been injured to to a sports-related activity you should contact the personal injury attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP.  The attorneys in our office specialize in personal injury and medical negligence law across the state of Indiana.  Call them, today.