A study that conducted separate tests on Canadian university football players found that concussions or traumatic brain injuries suffered while playing the sport could lead to loss of inhibition. According to Medicalxpress.com, these findings open new doors to predicting the impact of these debilitating injuries and raise questions about the long-term impact of contact sports.
What the Study Found
The study, which was published recently in the Journal of Neurology, analyzed results of 12 cognitive tests from an online survey of nearly 20,000 people in the general population. Among the questions, participants were asked about their concussion history, if they had ever been knocked out, and if so, how many times. The study found that participants who had previously suffered a concussion performed well on 11 out of 12 cognitive tests, but showed a strong impairment when it came to the test of inhibitory control, which is one’s ability to suppress a thought, action or feeling.
The neuroscientists next used those results to successfully predict the cognitive performance of 74 Canadian university football players. Much like the general population, the football players performed well on 11 out of 12 cognitive tasks. But, a specific impairment of inhibition was also identified in all of the players.
Researchers said that when someone has an impairment of inhibitory control, they are likely to carry on doing something when perhaps they should have stopped. One example may be running an amber light when it might have been safer to stop. On the football field, a player might continue with a tackle long after they have heard the whistle to stop.
Changes in Sports
These findings come at a time when families and organizations are beginning to re-evaluate the risks of contact sports such as football, especially for young people. For example, some soccer organizations have banned heading and some hockey leagues have been prohibited from checking athletes under a certain age. It’s good to see science trickling down and affecting policy but, much needs to be done to protect athletes at all levels against concussions, which can lead to permanent brain damage.
Repeated concussions have been linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated head injuries. Symptoms do not typically begin until years after the injuries and can include behavioral problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking. The disease often gets worse over time and can result in dementia. CTE has been linked to deaths including suicides of former football players.
We hope these studies shed more light on the important steps that need to be taken to protect athletes not just in professional leagues, but also in college and high school sports. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury due to someone else’s negligence, please contact an experienced brain injury lawyer to obtain more information about pursuing your legal rights.