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New Study Reveals that Playing Professional Football Pose a Significant Risk to a Player’s Mental Health

Written by Ankin Law Office

Last Sunday, more than 108 million viewers gathered around their televisions to watch one of America’s most popular events – the Super Bowl. In fact, Nielson estimates that this year’s Super Bowl was the third most-watched program ever – behind only the 2010 and 2011 Super Bowls.

But while hundreds of millions of people were watching the Baltimore Ravens squeak past the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, the players themselves may have been placing themselves at risk for serious – and even deadly – medical conditions down the road. Of course, there are the immediate risks of a torn ACL or a shoulder dislocation, but there are also the unnoticed risks of depression and other mental diseases that can even result in suicide.

A recent study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting next month shows that the effects of playing professional football can pose a significant threat to the player’s overall mental health later in life. According to US News & World Report, the research found that brain damage sustained during their football careers makes former players more likely to show symptoms of depression later in life than the general population.

The study looked at 26 retired NFL players and found that those with depression had “impaired white matter integrity” and other brain damage. Moreover, in a separate study of 34 retired NFL players with a history of concussions compared to people who did not play and had not sustained concussions showed that the former players exhibited more symptoms of depression.

As this article in US News & World Report states, the study’s lead author says that NFL players were more likely to exhibit the physical symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, sleep problems and loss of sex drive, rather than mental symptoms, such as sadness.

The dangers associated with football have been highlighted in recent years in light of the suicides of several well-known players, including Junior Seau, Dave Deurson and Ray Easterling. The NFL has been named in at least 81 lawsuits filed by thousands of players, which accuse the NFL of failing to properly treat players for traumatic head injuries, including concussions, and tried to conceal the link between football and head injuries. The players have alleged that the NFL knew of the harmful risks associated with multiple concussions as early as the 1920s, but did not disclose this information to players until 2010.

Head injuries, including concussions, are a serious medical condition that should not be overlooked or understated.  An athlete who suffers a concussion is up to four times more likely to sustain a second concussion, according to neurologists.  When a football player returns to play before he has fully recovered from the initial concussion, the athlete is at serious risk for second impact syndrome (SIS).  SIS can result in massive swelling of the brain and, in some cases, may lead to a loss of blood flow to the brain, which can place the athletes at an increased risk for learning difficulties and other neuropsychological difficulties.

Despite the recent attention on the hidden mental risks associated with head injuries, many children and adults choose to play football. The following are some recommendations for preventing head injuries in football:

  • Always wear a properly fitted helmet.
  • If a player has experienced or shows signs of head trauma (loss of consciousness, visual disturbances, headache, inability to walk correctly, obvious disorientation, memory loss), obtain immediate medical attention. Do not resume play until a medical expert has approved resumed activities.
  • Maintain the proper posture during a tackle or block by leaning forward and keeping your head up in a neutral position.

If you or a loved one has suffered a football head injury, contact the Chicago football head injury attorneys at Ankin Law Offices at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible cause of action to obtain compensation for football head injuries.

Categories: Head Injuries