When the National Football League (NFL) in the US made rule changes in 2009 to make the game safer for players, they also brought attention to the seriousness of head injuries. American football is a violent sport and its 400 million fans seem to enjoy the violent collisions. The NFL rules are carefully crafted and continuously improved to make them more effective and easier to enforce. While collisions are an essential part of the game, using the head to strike a blow or hitting another player in the head or neck area has caused an alarming number of severe injuries. Despite the popularity of the sport and the fans’ appetite for violent collisions, the NFL made changes for excellent reasons. Most other American football leagues made similar rule changes for the same reasons.
A concussion is a form of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) resulting from a blow to the head. TBI can also be caused by a fall or a collision involving another part of the body if the head moves suddenly with a certain amount of vigor. The injury often creates chemical changes in parts of the brain and can damage brain cells. While most concussions and mild traumatic brain injuries are not life-threatening, repeated concussions and TBI can have severe and permanent effects.
The NFL is in the process of settling claims totaling over $800 million for former players who suffered concussions and TBI. In most cases, the players sustained repeated head injuries over a few years, leading to long-term consequences. At the time, the players, coaches, and trainers were not aware of the danger of repeated head injuries.
We can all learn something from the NFL and other sports who now have extensive rules to avoid head injuries. They also have rules for recognizing and evaluating concussions, and protecting players from complicating their injuries by continuing to play. If you or a loved one have an accident or fall, it is vital to recognize a potential concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). See the CDC’s Concussion Symptoms.
If you have any reason to believe a concussion or TBI has occurred, seek advice from a qualified medical professional. Even what appears to be a mild concussion can have long-term effects if not treated properly.