Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sports, Concussions, and Long Term Brain Damage

The other day, NPR had a great segment on NFL players, early onset dementia, and other neurodegenerative problems resulting from concussions and sub-concussive head injuries sustained while in the league.  There has been a lot more research lately into the long term effects of minor brain injuries, including concussions, and it turns out that the damage is rarely just short-term, particularly when the injuries are repeated.  It's a great segment, about 15 minutes long, and definitely worth listening to if you get the chance.

Listen to "Tell Me More", "Former NFL players battle dementia" at

Though, there was one part of the story that I had to check into.  At one point, the claim was made that more concussions are sustained in highschool girls' soccer than in boys' football.  So I looked into it, and it's a bit misleading... you can find the study here if you want to look for yourself.  It seems to me that, as a percentage of all the different types of injuries examined, concussions made up the greatest proportion within girls' soccer and girls' basketball (15.7% and 11.4% of reported injuries, respectively).  By contrast, concussions made up only 10.5% of all injuries reported in boys' football, but, the total number of reported concussions is still highest in the sport where helmets clearly don't offer enough protection (53,995 concussions for boys' football versus 29,195 for girls' soccer during the same 2005-2006 school year).  That being said, the point being made in the conversation is still valid. If you think girls don't run a serious risk of getting concussions playing "non-contact" sports, you're wrong, and if you're a parent, you should be worried about head to head contact regardless of whether your child plays football, soccer, or basketball.

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