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Sports, Concussions, and Metal Illness

October 11, 2012

To me when I was growing up sports were apart of my life, whether I was competing or just watching. To this day I’m an avid sports follower, but there is an issue that I’ve been noticing lately and that is the issue of concussions. It seems like they are becoming more and more relevant. I’m not sure if it is because they are being diagnosed more frequently, possible new advancements in technology that helps detect if a player has received one, or if players are becoming more aware of the damaging consequences they may face in their life after sports. The article that I read was a review of the research that is being done and their findings that are linking multiple concussions to mental illness.

In the article the researchers studied 2500 retired football players brains. What they found was that player who they studied who had received numerous concussion throughout their playing days had 1.5 times greater chance of getting depression. In the article the authors were clear to state that the information published still need more research to confirm, but there’s a strong link between the two. They used an example in the writing about a former wrestler who had suffered multiple concussions during he competing days. The wrestler committed a murder suicide of his family. His brain was studied and effects of this trauma on his brain may have caused his behavior. The article suggests that concussions can lead to depression, cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease. Further research of deceased athletes brains revealed that player were suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This condition leads to depression, cognitive impairment, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and erratic behavior. The athletes that are playing out there are not only risking their physical well being, but may be facing a long fight against metal illness.

This article got me thinking about how children are playing sports at a more competitive rate than every these days. Kids are starting to play tackle football at the age of 5 or 6. It got me wondering about how many concussions children face when they are playing and don’t even know it. The athletes that were used in the article referred to the number of concussion they got playing at the professional level, but it doesn’t state about how many they may have received playing as a youth, high school, college, or just on Saturday with some friends. Kids are very active and they don’t have to be playing a sport to get concussions. They could crash on their bike or skateboard, there’s endless possibilities. I think its important to understand that concussions lead to mental illness and that you can get them even if your not a professional athlete.

In my conclusion, I know sports will never go away and I’m a strong believer that competition is good for people, but I do hope that there will be strong advancements and improvements in player safety. Thousands of kids and young adults play competitive sports growing up and very few of them will ever make it to a level where they can be treated for a concussion. My concern is not with the college and professional athletes who are given the proper diagnosis and treatment, but its for the middle school kid that takes a hit to the head and the coach isn’t qualified to decide if that player is well enough to play. With more time and research I’m optimistic that the safety of the game will improve and links to mental illness will decrease.

Cody Hahn


“Other Subjects.” Okanagan Clinical Trials. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2012. < Subjects>

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2012 12:51 am

    Concussions and player safety were one on the issues that almost cost NFL fans the start of the season last year. The players themselves are donating money to research for better protection and this long time issue has come into the public’s view. The link between depression and concussions sounds faint at best. There are several social factors that can not be accounted for that play big roles. I agree that children are at risk at earlier ages of receiving concussions and not getting proper treatment. Coaches and psychical education teachers should inform children of the dangers of concussions early. Explaining what a concussion is, what the warning signs are, what to do if they think they have one, all are important educational tools. Boys will be boys though and they will still horseplay, so educating parents as well would help.
    -Alexander J. Harmier

    • October 24, 2012 4:45 am

      I disagree with the above post when Alexander Harmier says “The link between depression and concussions sounds faint at best”. While I do agree that there are a number of social factors that play a role, there are plenty of studies that show repeated concussions in NFL players (getting up into the hundreds and even thousands of concussions) plays an enormous role is the mental state of athletes. In the case of Junior Seau, a former NFL linebacker who shot himself in the chest on May 2, 2012, one of his teammates and close friends estimated that he suffered from over 1,500 concussions in his career. As stated in the blog post, CTE is a brain disease caused by repeated head trauma that causes depression, poor judgement, memory loss, and dementia. A Google search instantly pops up page after page of reputable articles and websites confirming this. There is definitely a correlation between brain damage suffered in football and depression. I think in the case of Junior Seau the suicide came as a direct result of his deep depression because of his mental state. Can you imagine being a 12 time Pro-Bowl linebacker with all the success and money in the world but literally start losing your mind?

      Cody: I enjoyed your post and was particularly drawn to it because this is the topic of my final paper.

      Ryan Lehman

  2. October 19, 2012 3:33 pm

    I find the topic of concussions to be very interesting but also very scary at the same time. Growing up I was always an athlete and participated in many different sports. I experienced three concussions before I was fifteen years old, but I never knew just how damaging a series of concussions could be. I am a member of the women’s lacrosse team here at the University of Oregon and I have seen my fair share of concussions. I have watched two former team mates have their careers ended early by the medical staff due to concussions. It became a matter of do you want to be able to have a family, job, and a happy life or do you want to take a chance on having mental impairments just for a game that you love. I watched as my two team mates suffered during their concussions and after each one the symptoms increasingly became worse and lasted longer. I strongly believe that more awareness and safety surrounding concussions is becoming a highly talked about topic because science is getting better and doctors are realizing just how harmful concussions can be to the longevity of your life. In my opinion I believe that there should be more rules in sports such as football, lacrosse, hockey, soccer, and rugby that will protect the athletes from head injuries. I realize that there is no way to rid the game of concussions but there are ways to better protect the athletes. The work that the NFL is currently doing with concussions is the beginning framework for the protection of athletes and their brains.

    Brittany Hushion

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