The short and long term effects of multiple concussions can be devastating to the human mind. Not only does the brain suffer long term physical damage, players often suffer from long term mental problems. So what is the NFL doing about this? Surprisingly enough, very little. Before we get started, its very important to know what exactly a concussion is. A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. A concussion involves a transient loss of mental function. It can be caused by acceleration or deceleration forces, or by a direct blow to the head.
Whether a player is hit with a helmet to helmet type of hit, a face mask, or just hits his head to hard on the turf; they can all cause serious concussions. Concussions werent taken very seriously until the middle of the 20th century. Often times, if a player said he was ok to go back onto the field after a concussion; the team doctors would let him. Recently, however, the NFL began doing studies on concussions due to the career ending injuries to Troy Aikman and Steve Young.
In 1994, the NFL commissioned a research committee to learn more about concussions and the lasting effects that they had on players. The lead investigator, Dr. Elliot Pellman, took a look at videotapes from 174 different concussion instances to determine what designs they could make in the NFL helmet to reduce the amount of concussions that players suffered. Pellman and his colleagues wrote in January 2005 that returning to play after a concussion does not involve significant risk of a second injury either in the same game or during the season.
However, a 2003 NCAA study of 2,905 college football players found just the opposite: Those who have suffered concussions are more susceptible to further head trauma for seven to 10 days after the injury. Pellman and his group have also stated repeatedly that their work shows no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects of multiple concussions in NFL players. But a 2003 report by the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes at the University of North Carolina found a link between multiple concussions and depression among former pro players with histories of concussions.
A 2005 follow-up study at the Center showed a connection between concussions and both brain impairment and Alzheimers disease among retired NFL players. Pellman told the NFL commissioner that half of the players that suffer concussions in game are allowed to return to the game. Pellman has no objections to having the players return because he doesnt think the players risk any significant long term damage by returning. However, many experts completely disagree with Pellman.
The Second International Conference on Concussion in Sport met in Prague in 2004 and released the following statement: When a player shows ANY symptoms or signs of a concussion the player should not be allowed to return to play in the current game or practice. Many sports doctors agree that no players should return after concussions for a while because they are extremely susceptible to further brain damage. Many NFL players report having blacked out after returning from a concussion in the same game. According to Pellman though, they are completely fine.
Several of the countrys preeminent neurosurgeons and neurophysiologists have grown increasingly concerned that the league is putting players at risk by following Pellmans lead. For one thing, Pellman is a rheumatologist by training ” a specialist in the treatment of joints and muscles ” not a neurologist. To be honest, that is all I really need to hear about him. How is a guy that is not even a certified neurologist giving advice to the NFL about the seriousness of concussions? Not only that, Pellman refuses to look at other data regarding concussions because he only wants to look at the data that he extracted from his players.
Pellman reportedly left out many different cases involving players with concussions that did not coincide with his data. An associate he worked with said that 850 or so baseline cases were left out of their study when they should have been included. The NFL has to decide how much longer it can afford to send players back into games after theyve been knocked out. How much longer it wants to tell players that multiple concussions pose no threat to their future mental health. And how much longer it wants to keep relying on Elliot Pellmans research to make its calls.