An Insight into Understanding CTE and its Role in NFL Concussion Litigation

As another NFL season wrapped up over the weekend with the Denver Broncos defeating the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, fans might be wondering just how they are going to fill their football-less void for the next six months. Well, the NFL might actually be in the news more heavily this offseason compared to years past — although not necessarily for a good reason. Concussions, head trauma, CTE — these are words being tossed around on almost a daily basis from every news outlet covering the NFL recently. And as a litany of ex-players continue to seek redress from the League that gave them the opportunity to play professional football without protecting them from long-term injury, it’s important to take a step back to try to understand why the NFL is currently in the most vulnerable position it has ever been.

First thing’s first — people love watching football. This past Super Bowl was one of the most watched television events in history. Quite frankly, the sport is not going anywhere any time soon. But as more and more light is shown into the dangers that concussions and other head-related injuries might cause on a person (particularly after his playing career is over), it seems only a matter of time until the sport is pushed to the point of either evolution or extinction, as player safety becomes an increasing topic of concern.

Concussions, it seems, are the sports world’s newest skeleton in the closet — while facets of the media and the public love to talk about them, the various sport-governing bodies want nothing more than to keep discussion quiet and concussions out of the spotlight. And we’re not talking about just the NFL — the NHL, NCAA, and WWE are all facing lawsuits by retired athletes. But what exactly are the true dangers concussions and similar injuries pose that has caused this once taboo topic to shift to the forefront of our attention?

In a recent article published on The Expert Institute’s website, it is pointed out that a staggering number of former football players have been diagnosed with CTE (chronic trauma encephalopathy) over the last few years. CTE, which currently can only be diagnosed through a post-mortem examination of the brain, is a neurodegenerative disease caused from the onset of repetitive head trauma over an individual’s lifetime. In what should come as a surprise to no one, CTE manifests most frequently in athletes engaged in high-impact sports, as these players expose their bodies to severe risk of pain and distress over relatively short periods of time. And head injuries, it seems, don’t always have similar recovery patterns, at least compared to other parts of the body — a broken arm, for example, is expected to fully mend in six to eight weeks, but a concussion could have anywhere from a short or long recovery time frame.

Understanding CTE is important for not only protecting current and future players from injury, but also to learn how repetitive head trauma as a whole cripples the human body’s longevity. CTE has been directly linked to cognitive disabilities such as memory loss, depression, anger, suicidal thoughts, and isolation — symptoms of degenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and Parkinson’s. You may recognize these neurological disorders as something mostly elderly persons develop late in life, but as studies show, these diseases are becoming prevalent in retired athletes at alarmingly early ages; it is not uncommon for such men to be diagnosed in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

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