A Brain Boggling Problem: Concussions in the NFL

George Dinkins

George Dinkins

Nick Davidson, Staff Writer

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Imagine this scenario; you’re running, grasping a football for dear life, charging up the field at full speed, and BOOM, you’re on the ground, seeing stars, no recollection of where you are or what just happened, with a 300 plus pound behemoth towering over your flimsy corpse.  This is the life of an NFL football player, a daily endeavor into head trauma and violent injury, all for the name of the game (and the money, of course).

 

These scenarios are everyday occurences in the world of football, and especially the NFL.  A brutal sport at heart, the equipment utilized by every player for protection is vital to the safety of each individual, and at rits current point, the helmets used in the NFL are not providing adequate protection to the players, and an overhaul of their functionality needs to take place.  Every year adjustments are made, yet concussion rates are not on the decline whatsoever.

 

A recurring solution amongst helmet safety researchers is to add external padding, which softens the blow from direct hits, which is generally fantastic,, yet this is not what is causing the majority of concussions. According to an article  by The Verge, current helmets utilized by NFL teams  “…do almost nothing for the hits that twist players’ heads violently.” This is what lies at the center of the concussion issue in the NFL, a violent twisting of the neck, and by adding external padding, the current smooth exterior benefits would be negated.  External padding increases friction greatly, so when a collision occurs, the helmets have a greater tendency to stay in contact, twisting the players’ heads violently. This twisting of the neck also twists the brainstem, which can potentially cause nerve damage in the brain, leading to severe concussions, or worse.

 

The short term results of these concussions are apparent; memory loss, confusion, reduced awareness, and other symptoms of that nature, but the real threat resides with the long term effects. The constant head trauma leads directly to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, CTE for short, which according to a Boston University article causes “memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, suicidality, parkinsonism, and eventually progressive dementia.”. The severity of these effects is terrifying, and post-retirement players often deal with one or more of these issues.   

 

There is the common theme that arises, where those opposed to spending so much on updated gear state that there is no such thing as a concussion proof helmet, which unfortunately is true. However, the present level of protection offered by top of the line football helmets can be greatly improved, and there are companies striving to change the way injuries occur to the head in the NFL. Companies such as Vicis, a progressive sports equipment innovator  have developed specialized helmets that emphasize absorbing not only linear force, but the dreaded rotational force as well. Innovations taking place do give hope yet, but the safety of players needs to drastically improve sooner or later, otherwise the sport of football will see a massive decline in player base.

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