Chronic traumatic encephalopathy injuries
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is an untreatable neurodegenerative disease that is a long-term consequence of head trauma. This trauma can result from single or multiple head injuries. CTE is usually discovered only during an autopsy, making it difficult to estimate the number of athletes suffering from this disease. When examined, the brains of those who suffered CTE injuries are characterized by the degeneration of tissue and the accumulation of tau proteins. CTE has been closely tied to athletes who participate in martial arts, boxing, wrestling, rodeo riding or playing football, hockey, rugby, lacrosse and other contact sports that involve repeated brain trauma. CTE has also been found in military servicemembers who have experienced blast injuries and those suffering from old age. Individuals with CTE often show symptoms that are similar to Alzheimer’s disease such as motor skill and memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression. These symptoms can progress to Parkinsonian symptoms and usually appear years or decades after head trauma. CTE can be fatal in some cases. The NFL has agreed to a $765 million settlement with 18,000 retired players over concussion-related injuries. However, a federal judge has rejected this settlement over concerns it would not be enough to cover these injured players for the rest of their lives. Physicians say that eliminating CTE injuries from contact sports will be extremely difficult. Even though safety equipment has greatly improved over the years, doctors say it is not possible to prevent or cushion the brain from impacting the skull during contact, which can occur in training and during practices just as it does in games. They claim the cumulative effect of these injuries is also very worrisome since most adult athletes have been playing sports since their youth. Recent studies of football and hockey players who had completed a season without suffering a concussion or head trauma showed worrisome changes in brain structure and cognitive performance that weren’t shared by athletes who competed in varsity sports such as track, crew and cross-country skiing. These studies suggest that a season-long succession of small hits, none hard enough to cause disorientation or draw medical attention, may prompt changes in the brain that cause problems with memory, mood or mental performance in later years.

The NCAA allows football teams five days of full-contact practice during each week of the season. However, some schools have reduced these practices to three days a week to reduce CTE injuries. California has recently passed a law which limits full-contact practices in public and private middle and high schools to two 90-minute sessions per week during the season and preseason. It also prohibits full-contact practices during the offseason and requires a player who has sustained a concussion to be benched for at least a week. Some coaches caution that this could result in more injuries as lesser-prepared athletes take the field. Others claim that patronizing contact sport events contributes to the number of CTE injuries and that these sports should be banned for children under 18. Current CTE research is focusing on education and diagnosis of living victims and this has yielded some positive results. Recently, a new method of brain imaging has been used to reveal signs of CTE in living people. A brain-scanning technique used to identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease has been adapted to image tau proteins. Researchers say this technology could help susceptible players limit their exposure to head trauma and may lead to the development of better protective gear and treatment for CTE injuries.

Pending legislation:
H.R.582 - Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act of 2015

Issue Suggestions

Suggest an important issue not listed in this sub-category (). (Maximum 60 Characters)

Poll Opening Date
March 26, 2020
Poll Closing Date
April 1, 2020

Democracy Rules respects the privacy of your information.