The start of the NFL season has been somewhat overshadowed by a series of high-profile arrests and suspensions due to allegations of domestic violence and abuse. These recent scandals may have a connection with another issue that’s plagued football in recent years: the mounting evidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among NFL athletes. Some researchers suggest there might be a link between severe or repeated head injuries and an impulse toward violence.
Although the link is tenuous and much research is needed, there’s no disguising the problems that traumatic brain injury can lead to, and the NFL has already been ordered to pay out a large settlement to players who allege the league was negligent in failing to warn of the risk and consequences of TBI.
Sports injuries are just one possible cause of TBI. Others include falls, combat, violent crime and motor vehicle accidents. Symptoms of TBI vary depending on the severity of the injury. Mild cases may involve, among other things, disorientation, nausea, sensory problems and issues with memory and mood. More severe cases often involve amplified versions of the above symptoms. In all cases, some symptoms may appear immediately following the injury, while others may not manifest for months or years.
TBI may result in a variety of physical and cognitive problems. Of particular concern in the NFL may be the behavioral and emotional problems experienced by many victims of TBI. Decreased impulse control and aversion to risk, as well as an inclination toward violence, are among the many possible effects. There may even be a heightened risk of a TBI victim developing degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, affecting both memory and movement on a permanent basis.
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