A new study out this week adds to the body of scientific evidence showing that a history of brain injuries often leads to severe brain damage and degenerative disease. Tragically, researchers announced these findings only two days after a professional football player committed a murder-suicide, becoming the seventh NFL suicide in the last two years. Most of these victims consistently showed strong signs of brain damage.
This adds to the building consensus that brain injuries are always dangerous. While the consequences of severe brain injuries have long been more visible and immediate, concussions and other head injuries can take a long time to develop into identifiable symptoms. These outcomes are nonetheless extremely severe.
The study looked at 85 people who had suffered multiple brain injuries, including even mild hits. Eight out of 10 of the brains showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - a degenerative condition that damages large portions of the brain. CTE can cause memory loss, cognitive impairments, dementia, and even depression.
This research has implications beyond professional sports. Brain injuries happen everywhere - from car accidents to children's birthday parties. As more evidence piles up to show the long-term consequences of even relatively minor brain injuries, many victims will find themselves with clear claims in personal injury cases. More cases may begin to involve liability that we did not entirely understand in the past - for example, with more evidence of injuries from youth sports, schools may have more of a responsibility to keep young athletes safe on the field.
Source: The Atlantic, "More Evidence That Sports Concussions Destroy the Brain," Dashiell Bennett, Dec. 3, 2012