Head Injuries in Football

Head injuries, including concussions, particularly in the game of American football, have become a subject of deep concern, much study and even Congressional hearings in the United States.

Concussions

Contrary to popular belief, a concussion is not a bruise to the brain caused by hitting a hard surface. Indeed, no physical swelling or bleeding is usually seen on radiological scans. The injury generally occurs when the head either accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, or is spun rapidly.

This violent shaking causes the brain cells to become depolarized and fire all their neurotransmitters at once in an unhealthy cascade, flooding the brain with chemicals and deadening certain receptors linked to learning and memory. The results often include confusion, blurred vision, memory loss, nausea and, sometimes, unconsciousness.

Neurologists say once a person suffers a concussion, he is as much as four times more likely to sustain a second one. Moreover, after several concussions, it takes less of a blow to cause the injury and requires more time to recover.

Court Cases

By late 2012, the National Football League was facing a raft of lawsuits brought by thousands of former players who accused the league of hiding information about the dangers of concussions.

Parallel to the court cases, a less visible battle that may have a greater effect was unfolding between the league and 32 of its current and former insurers. The dispute revolves around how much money, if any, the insurers are obligated to pay for the league’s mounting legal bills and the hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages that might stem from the cases brought by the retired players.

Regardless of how it is resolved, the dispute could hurt teams, leagues and schools at all levels if insurers raise premiums to compensate for the increased risk of lawsuits from players and their parents who play hockey, lacrosse and other contact sports.




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