Brain Trauma, Concussions, and the NFL

For years, we’ve known that a link exists between football, concussions, and traumatic brain injuries. As we’ve blogged about before, a study from the Wake Forest School of Medicine shows that head trauma from football causes changes to the white matter in the brains of boys between the ages of eight and thirteen. The white matter is the part of the brain that facilitates communication. It plays an important role in cognition, personality, and general development. In young athletes, concussions can have a life-long effect.

The athletes who play in the National Football League (NFL) are fully-developed adults. However, their sport often involves head injuries from colliding with other players.

  • 1 in 3 NFL players experience some sort of brain trauma
  • In the 2013 season, there were 228 diagnosed concussions

A Serious Impact

While a concussion may not affect their development as severely as it would for a child or teenager, concussions in adult athletes have other chilling effects. In a class action lawsuit recently filed against the NFL by retired football players, the main concern is CTE.

CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, is a rare type of brain degeneration. It may cause:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Emotional instability
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Depression
  • Motor impairment

CTE may lead to substance abuse, and people with CTE are considered to be at a higher risk of suicide. It may also contribute to the development of other neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Parkinson’s disease.

Repetitive head trauma causes CTE. Football players have been the main focus of studies on the condition, but volleyball players, cheerleaders, and ice or field hockey players may also be at a higher risk, since their activities are more likely to result in concussions. Victims of physical abuse may also experience CTE.

The NFL Lawsuit

Clearly, CTE is a serious condition. In their lawsuit, the former football players cite the high risk of CTE as a reason for their claims— and assert that the NFL covered up the link between concussions and CTE. In their class action lawsuit, the former players are asking for medical compensation and other benefits for concussions and related injuries. While do not exhibit CTE symptoms, most of them have likely suffered concussions through their NFL career. An estimated 1/3 will develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

In their settlement, the NFL agreed to pay compensation to injured former players. However, some feel this is unfair. They believe that, due to the high risk, they should receive compensation even before their conditions manifest. The fact that CTE is not diagnosed until after death complicates the matter even more.

Studies on the link between football and concussions are constantly emerging, but the conclusions should not be that shocking. In a sport that involves diving for balls and colliding with other players, accidents are bound to happen. This is why everyone, from beginning players to professionals, should always wear a helmet!


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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