Sports are popular all around the world. Many sports are dangerous and have the potential to cause concussions for those who play. There are dangers at every level from small children who are learning to play to professional athletes. However, one of the biggest dangers is concussions especially for those who play either football or soccer. Concussions are also common for participants of combat sports who might get hit in the head.
While there is still relatively little known when it comes to the long-term effects from concussions, the dangers of head injuries from sports have been increasing in recent years. There is growing evidence that concussions could increase the risk of neurodegenerative disease in athletes who have repeated impacts to the head.
Research is starting to show that it could cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is known to occur because of repeated blows to the head. CTE has the potential to also cause dementia. Please keep in mind that there is still only a scant amount of research done in this specific area.
One study from 2017 looked at the brains of four former soccer players who had used their heads on the ball regularly. They found that in those four athletes, there was a higher CTE incidence than would be found in the general population. Of course, one of the biggest difficulties of researching CTE is that it can only be diagnosed after a person has died. Therefore, to speed up the research in the field there needs to be a way that the researchers can diagnose CTE while patients are living.
The Drake Foundation, created by James Drake who is a philanthropist concerned about head injuries in players, has been operating for the past five years and looking into a range of sports at varying levels. The foundation is currently funding six studies for a range of different sports. The goal is to shed more light on head impacts, like the damage they cause and how they may cause neurodegenerative diseases.
Another study called HEADING, which stands for Health and Aging in the Game of football, is looking at the health of brains in former soccer players. The researchers are looking at a link between people who have suffered repetitive head impacts and the development of neurodegenerative diseases. They hope to have a large pool of players who are at least 50 years and older. They will be looking at a range of different factors to get a better overall picture of their lives, lifestyle and current cognitive abilities.
While the studies above focus on professional athletes, there is a risk for anyone who is involved in sports that have repeated head impacts. Whether they are young, play sports on the weekends, or participate in martial arts or boxing class where sparring is allowed, there are dangers to consider.
Anyone who plays or has children who want to play, should pay close attention to the studies in this field. These individuals and families should consider investing in protective headgear for certain sports if they haven’t already. Hopefully, with more research, there will be more answers and better ways for athletes to protect themselves.