Fall has come and one of the great pastimes many partake in with that is football. Often we will gather ‘round our televisions with family and friends all cozied up on couches in warm houses eating snacks and munchies and cheering for the home team.

Some of us make our way to the stadiums in rain, shine, snow, sleet or severe wind chills to cheer our players on.

Football is a culture in our society that many can’t seem to get enough of, from fantasy football leagues, to Sunday parties, college games and even high school, but with all of that watching a game can also be painful.

The hits that players undergo and suffer in the name of the game could be the end of their career where each hit could be their last. It’s interesting that according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) finds that National Football League (NFL) players may have an increased risk of death associated with Alzheimer’s, ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases[2].

American Football is not only the most participated in but also has the greatest number of traumatic brain injuries[1]. According to all the different national statistics for high school, college and junior college participation there are almost two million athletes who participated in football in the 2009 season[1]. Head injury rates continue to climb even with increased awareness and safety precautions being put into place and unfortunately in 2009 all nine cerebral injuries which occurred in high school athletes never fully recovered[1].

The amount of concussions per 100 players varies per study, one states that 3.66 concussions occur every 100 players, another states out of 233 football players in one season reported 110 concussions- a rate of 47.2% and multiple concussions were noted in 81 or 34.9% of the athletes[1,4,5].

The most common reason for a concussion was tackling and being tackled a percentage of 67.6% of concussions occurred with this[1,3].

Interestingly college athletes seem to have more concussions than high schoolers, which could be to the fact that they have better access to medical personnel who can properly diagnose them with a concussion than high school students[1]. Despite this high school football players show worse recovery from a concussion[1]. This could be due to the fact that the high schooler’s brain is still developing and therefore is more delicate, previous injury takes longer to recover from as well and they could be going out again to play before they are fully healed and even having less developed neck and musculature compared to a college athletes can cause a greater chance of concussion[1].

Taking this into account one may watch these games with a bit more trepidation and hope that technology can one day help decrease or end these brain injuries.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2987636/ Opens in new window
  2. https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2012/09/06/nfl-brain-injury/ Opens in new window
  3. Gessel LM, Fields SK, Collins CL, Dick RW, Comstock RD. Concussions among United States high school and collegiate athletes. J Athl Train. 2007 Oct-Dec;42(4):495–503.
  4. Powell JW, Barber-Foss KD. Traumatic brain injury in high school athletes. JAMA. 1999 Sep 8;282(10):958–963.
  5. Langburt W, Cohen B, Akhthar N, O'Neill K, Lee JC. Incidence of concussion in high school football players of Ohio and Pennsylvania. J Child Neurol. 2001 Feb;16(2):83–85.