New ‘Concussion’ movie brings head injuries to the forefront

New ‘Concussion’ movie brings head injuries to the forefront

On Christmas day, a new movie will be released that will shed light on a major obstacle facing the National Football League (NFL). In this movie, Will Smith plays Bennet Omalu, a pathologist who discovered former football players have a higher likelihood of developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) by studying the brains of NFL players.

CTE is believed to be caused by repeated brain trauma. Symptoms include memory loss, confusion impaired judgment, impulse control problems, and dementia. This disease is somewhat unique because the symptoms don’t begin until years, or even decades after the brain trauma has occurred and it cannot be diagnosed until after death. In the past few years, CTE has become a cause for concern among former NFL players.

Recently, Mayo Clinic researchers studied the brains of 66 men who participated in contact sports during high school and found that 21 of them contained proteins consistent with CTE. The sample size for this study is incredibly small, yet the findings that even high school sports may be enough to cause this neurodegenerative disorder are alarming. This will, without question, lead to further research and discussion about the health and safety of young athletes.

As the research continues, many parents are being put in a difficult predicament of trying to decide whether or not their children should continue playing contact sports.

“There are several studies currently underway about concussions and CTE and the research thus far has proven incredibly valuable as it has made the sport of football safer for all levels,” says Dr. David Lessman, a sports medicine physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “It has brought about rule changes including the elimination of head-first tackling and decreasing amount of contact in practice both before and during the season. By decreasing helmet to helmet collisions and teaching the appropriate tackling technique, we hope to make a significant impact in the number of concussions we see each year.”

All states now have laws regarding concussion management, and Illinois is in the process of revising its most recent law making it mandatory for each school with a sports program to have a concussion oversight team responsible for helping kids transition safely back to school and athletics.

Players and parents should consider the benefits and risks of participating in contact sports, but parents can take solace in knowing that they aren’t expected to handle concussions on their own. When a child experiences concussion like symptoms, they should seek the help of a health care professional trained in dealing with this unique and delicate injury.

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Mickey Ramirez
Mickey Ramirez

Mickey Ramirez, health enews contributor, is the director of Brand Services. He enjoys kimchi, honesty and a room with a view. He claims to not be a writer, but he occasionally learns information that is just too important to keep to himself.