Study: Mild head injuries can cause serious damage

Football is one of the most popular pastimes in Alabama, but scientific research is increasingly drawing a link between the sport and traumatic brain injuries. Specifically, researchers say that repeated mild trauma to the head, which is common in football and other high-contact sports, can result in chronic brain disease.

A recent study on the issue was published in the journal "Brain" by researchers at Boston University. The researchers studied brains samples from 85 deceased people between the ages of 17 and 98 who had suffered repetitive mild traumatic brain injuries throughout their lives. Many of the brains belonged to athletes or members of the armed forces.

It was determined that about 80 percent of the brains showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This degenerative brain disease causes the gradual deterioration of brain tissues. CTE can cause mild symptoms such as headaches and attention problems, but it can also lead to severe problems, including depression, dementia and aggression.

Researchers found evidence of CTE in the brains of 50 American football players, 33 of whom had played in the National Football League. The authors of the study concluded that "there may be severe and devastating long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma that has traditionally been considered only mild" amongst some athletes and veterans.

The results of the study could prove influential in a class-action lawsuit that has been filed against the NFL by former players who allege that the league did not adequately protect them even though officials knew about the risks.

This information is also valuable to people who have suffered mild brain injuries in car accidents. It shows the importance of seeking medical attention and taking precautions in the future to avoid subsequent head injuries.

Source: Alabama Public Radio, "Evidence Mounts Linking Head Hits To Permanent Brain Injury," Dec. 3, 2012

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