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Are Head Injuries Receiving Proper Attention?

Boston Red Sox backup catcher, David Ross, has just been activated after being on the disabled list for two concussions, each suffered when he was struck by foul tips. It’s amazing to me that I have followed baseball for more than 50 years and this is the first time I recall any catcher being put on the disabled list for a foul tip causing a concussion. Sports is now very sensitive to head and brain injuries. You can’t read a sports page without seeing reference to that. Certainly, these injuries had to have occurred but team personnel was not paying attention.

We know that the NFL has begun to confront the concussion problem. Medical technology is advancing in response to the epidemic of concussions in the NFL. Some teams, such as the Buffalo Bills, have invested in concussion technology and gone so far as to travel with their own fully-functional x-ray machine in order to monitor player health. The league as a whole is attempting to express concern for the effects of concussions on their players.

The number of wrongful death suits and personal injury claims are growing against the NFL and helmet manufacturers. An 83-player lawsuit has recently been filed against the NFL on the grounds that, as players suffer concussions and subsequently are allowed to continue playing, the organization is promoting the adverse long-term effects of serious concussions for the sake of the game. These are passionate players who love the game, but feel that the organization, through its management of severe head injuries, has done them a disservice.

There is substantial evidence which causally relates concussions, especially multiple concussions, to depression and even suicide. Brain imaging is showing evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and, as I have blogged years ago, Boston University Medical School has been in the forefront of this research. Recently, Harvard Medical School received a hundred million dollar grant by the NFL Players Association to study players’ health, including the omnipresent concussion issue.

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