2011 July 21st
If you have been following our blogs about football and concussion risks, then you know that this was bound to happen.
According to an article on CNN.com:
Seventy-five former professional football players are suing the National Football League, saying the league knew as early as the 1920s of the harmful effects of concussions on players’ brains but concealed the information from players, coaches, trainers and others until June 2010.
Not only did the NFL fail to inform the players of the risks, but they failed to protect the players from known risks.
Multiple concussions can lead to long-term brain injury, memory loss, depression, dementia, and a neurologic condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), which mimics Lou Gehrig’s disease. The condition has become so wide-spread among football players that retired player Dave Duerson, who committed suicide at age 50, donated his brain to Boston University’s brain bank. (To read our blog about this, click here: Football Player Donates Brain to Research)
According to an article in The New York Times, published February 11, 2011:
Players who began their careers knowing the likely costs to their knees and shoulders are only now learning about the cognitive risks, too. After years of denying or discrediting evidence of football’s impact on the brain — from C.T.E. in deceased players to an increasing number of retirees found to have dementia or other memory-related disease — the N.F.L. has spent the last year addressing the issue, mostly through changes in concussion management and playing rules.
The N.F.L. has also donated $1 million to Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy [known to players as the "brain bank"], the research group that will soon examine Duerson’s brain.
At the brain bank, brains of 15 former NFL players have been studied — 14 of them show signs of degenerative C.T.E.
What the Suit Is About
According to the CNN.com article, the players contend that members of the NFL’s Brain Injury Committee denied knowledge of a link between concussion and cognitive decline. In addition:
“When the NFL’s Brain Injury Committee anticipated studies that would implicate causal links between concussion and cognitive degeneration it promptly published articles producing contrary findings, although false, distorted and deceiving, as part of the NFL’s scheme to deceive Congress, the players and the public at large,” the suit says.
“The defendants acted willfully, wantonly, egregiously, with reckless abandon, and with a high degree of moral culpability,” the former players charge in court documents.
Due to multiple and severe concussions, some former players have died…many currently suffer from post-concussion syndrome…and nearly all now have cause for serious concern. We’ll be watching how this suit proceeds and report back with news. We wish the players luck in their pursuit of justice and the truth, for their own sake, and the sake of future players.
To read the full article on CNN.com, click here: Former NFL Players: League Concealed Concussion Risks
2011 July 20th
[from The New York Times
In order to reduce the number of injuries–especially brain trauma–in college football players, Ivy League schools announced today that they will be changing the rules for practices. According to an article in The New York Times
, the new rules are being implemented because research shows that college players sustain more total hits to the head in practice than during games. And, of course, the more head hits, the greater the risk of brain injury.
The new rules stipulate that teams can only hold two full-contact practices each week during the season (N.C.A.A. guidelines suggest a maximum of five full-contact practices per week). Other practices, then, cannot include contact or live tackles, and players cannot be “taken to the ground.” In pre-season two-a-day practices, only one practice per day can be full-contact.
According to the article in The New York Times:
“Because of the seriousness of the potential consequences, the presidents determined the league needed to take proactive steps in protecting the welfare of our student-athletes,” said Robin Harris, the executive director of the Ivy League.
This is a terrific new set of rules. Anything to help protect the brains of young, active adults is welcome, especially in the super-tough world of college football. After this up-coming football season, statistics will show whether this tactic actually works. If so, no doubt more colleges and universities will adopt similar rules.
To read the full article, click here: Ivy League to Limit Full-Contact Football Practices
2011 July 12th
We have been writing a lot about how sports participation can increase the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Now, new research sheds some light on the causes of TBI in the workplace.
ScienceDaily reports on an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine about the causes and trends of fatal TBI in the United States between 2003 and 2008. The goal of the research is to identify the areas that could benefit from preventive efforts.
“While TBI is an important topic for public health researchers, there has been a lack of attention paid to the investigation of brain injuries occurring in the workplace,” commented lead investigator Hope M. Tiesman, PhD…. “With limited resources available for occupational safety and health programs, the identification and targeting of high-risk populations, including older workers, should be a priority for industry.”
The analysis showed that some jobs are definitely more hazardous than others. Nearly half of all fatal traumatic brain injuries occurred in a handful of industries: construction, transportation, agriculture, forestry (including logging), and fishing. The fatalities happened as the result of motor vehicle accidents (31%), falls (29%), assaults and violent acts (20%), and contact with objects or equipment (18%).
While motor vehicle wrecks still account for the most cases of TBI, that is actually changing. According to ScienceDaily:
The authors also found that the leading cause of fatalities has recently shifted from motor vehicle to falls. This change mirrored changes seen in overall TBI fatality rates. This effect may also be related to the “graying” of the American workforce, with employment of workers 65 and over increased by 101% from 1977 and 2007. These older workers are more susceptible to falls.
And one bit of good news in the data also appeared: Over the course of the 6-year study, occupational deaths from TBI declined by 23%. That dry statistic equates to lives saved…and that’s always good news!
2011 July 11th
His career is not well known here in the United States, but his pain may someday have an effect on the treatment of sports head injuries. Last Friday (July 8, 2011) Canadian Football Hall of Famer Matt Dunigan gave an emotional televised interview about his personal fight with post-concussion syndrome. The story was reported on the Canadian television station TSN.
Fifteen years after retiring from the Canadian Football League (CFL), Dunigan is still waiting for the clouds to lift from the 12 diagnosed concussions that he sustained over the course of his career as a superstar quarterback.
“He forgot how to laugh. He didn’t think anything was funny anymore,” explains Kathy [his partner of nearly 30 years]. “Physically he had really bad headaches and he had ghost spots over his eyes.”
Dunigan’s concussions also deeply affected the life of his youngest son, Dolan. At age 14, Dolan was a promising quarterback himself. But after the child’s third sports-related concussion, Dunigan pulled him out of football. It was a difficult decision, affecting the boy’s future career and well-being.
“Just watching him and hearing stories about how good he was in the CFL, I wanted to be just like him,” says Dolan about his father. “It was almost impossible to give [football] up but it was probably the best decision he made for me.”
And, like many American football players, Dunigan has made arrangements to donate his brain to concussion research, with the hope of advancing science and treatment of brain injuries.
2011 July 6th
This is the kind of story no one wants to report. We believe and defend everyone’s right to free speech and beliefs. This story is nothing but tragic. But sometimes, out of tragedy and sadness, lessons can be learned.
On July 4, 2011, ABC World News reported that Philip A. Contos, 55, died while participating in a ride with 550 other motorcyclists to protest the state’s mandatory helmet law. With so many witnesses, the details are clear: Contos hit the brakes, and his Harley Davidson motorcycle fishtailed. He was thrown over the handlebars, hit his head on the pavement, and was pronounced dead at the hospital. According to a State Trooper interviewed by ABC News:
“The medical expert we discussed the case with who pronounced him [Contos] deceased stated that he would’ve no doubt survived the accident had he been wearing a helmet,” state Trooper Jack Keller told ABC News 9 in Syracuse. [ABC World News]
The rally rid was sponsored by ABATE–American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. Their goal is to promote motorcycle awareness and freedom. Despite the death, ABATE still supports the repeal of helmet laws. According to the ABATE of New York website:
“Mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent accidents. The decision on when to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle should remain with each responsible adult rider.”
It is true that wearing a helmet does nothing to prevent accidents. However, it is also true that in the event of an accident, a biker wearing a helmet is more likely to survive a head injury, and will have less brain injury than a biker not wearing a helmet. It’s like saying steel-toed shoes won’t prevent warehouse accidents–true, but they will protect your toes should something fall on your foot.
According to a recent report by the Insurance Journal, Delaware (the only state included in the report) saw deaths from motorcycle crashes increase by more than 300% in the past year, compared with the previous year. Of those deaths, 80% occurred when riders were not wearing helmets.
At HensonFuerst, we have seen the aftermath of severe head and brain injury caused by auto and motorcycle wrecks, and we have represented and consoled many families grieving the loss of a loved one. From our perspective, helmet laws are in place to protect people who might be too short-sighted to recognize the physical damage that can occur after just a split second of poor judgment…or after another motorist causes an accident…or when road conditions become treacherous.
We’re not saying motorcyclists are unsafe–some of the bikers we know are better and safer on the road than many car drivers. We’re saying that protections are needed so that everyone stays as healthy and intact as possible should the worst occur.
To read more about motor vehicle safety, please feel free to visit our website at http://www.lawmed.com/. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.