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Research Shows Brain Functions May Be Impacted During Football Season

Scientists at Purdue University have spent 2 years conducting a study on the impact of hits to the brains of football players.  Studies show that cognitive impairments increase with the number of hits a player sustains.*

In the study, players were outfitted with special helmets so the impact and the force of the hits can be recorded.  MRIs were then performed to scan the players' brains.

Dr. Eric Nauman and Dr. Tom Talavage were the Purdue professors who ran this research.  The research also involved taking MRIs of the players' brains at 3 different times:

  1. before the football season begins,
  2. in the middle of the football season, and
  3. at the end of the football season.

The MRI of a player's brain before the football season typically shows a healthy brain with many orange areas. 

The MRI of the player's brain during the middle of the season typically shows less orange areas.  By this time, the player has endured about 600 hits.  The player at this point also has more problems learning at school.

The MRI of the player's brain at the end of the season often shows very little orange, especially at the front, where reasoning is usually performed.  By this time, the players have endured about 1,500 hits.  The brain is no longer functioning correctly as a result of the hits sustained.

Dr. Nauman and Dr. Talavage say that this is a very typical MRI pattern they see in college football players.   They also believe that though better helmets can be built, the better way is to reduce the number of hits the players are subjected to. 

The high number of hits is putting the players at a high risk of developing brain impairments at an early age or even having permanent brain injuries. 

From a legal standpoint, can the coaches and colleges be responsible for the players' traumatic brain injuries?  There may be an argument that they are responsible.

Last year, the NFL reduced the number of contact practices to 1 a week to reduce the number of hits sustained.  Youth leagues and high school football teams also reduced the number of contact practices.  The only league that didn't was the NCAA. 

If college players sustain traumatic brain injuries from these hits, a lawsuit could be brought against the NCAA for not protecting its players by not reducing the number of contact practices for the players.  Further, in light of all the research and attention to concussions and traumatic brain injuries, the NCAA should be aware that excessive hits could lead to brain injuries.

PA & NJ Sports Injury & Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers

If you would like more information about traumatic brain injuries sustained during a contact sport or recreational activity, contact the lawyers at White and Williams LLP.  We have helped many injured victims as a result of playing a contact sport or participating in a recreational activity in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

*Source of Research: Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel

Published: 1-8-13

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