How Head Hits In Football Hurt Brains
A sports science roundup
As many Americans settled down to watch some football after dinner last weekend, a flurry of fresh news about sports-related brain injuries came to light.
A former high school quarterback sued the Illinois High School Association for not protecting young players from head injuries. An Ohio State University football player committed suicide after sending a text saying concussions he sustained while playing “f-ed up” his head. At a radiology conference, researchers presented the results of a study that found 16- to 18-year-olds who played football showed changes in the white matter of their brain after one season. It’s not yet known whether or how those changes affect the kids’ health, nor whether the changes are reversible.
Over the past few years, Popular Science has covered a lot of the emerging science about brain injuries and sports such as football and hockey. We thought this would be a good time to take a dip back into archives for some of our favorite, still-relevant stories:
13 Things You Need To Know About Concussions. Includes descriptions of what happens at a molecular level when people suffer head hits
The Helmet That Can Save Football. Learn how to protect your brain against impact
Helmets And Mouthguards Don’t Prevent Concussions, Doctors Agree. Except for perhaps the most high-tech models, helmets protect against many injuries, but not concussions in particular.
Engineering The Ideal Olympian: The Games Of Risk. This story talks about injury rates and the latest protective gear in some other high-impact sports, including hockey, skiing, and snowboarding.
The science of repeated brain injuries is still ongoing. There’s certainly enough data to warrant stricter policies about when players who suffer concussions can go back on the field again. But important questions remain, such as how to best diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy—CTE, the long-term condition some NFL players are known to suffer after a career of head hits—and how to prevent it.