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How Does Playing Football Effect Our Brain?

Steve Shoup

The salaries of football players are a hot topic, one that you might find in a persuasive paper from a site like MyHomeWorkDone. Something that people who argue against the high salaries of football players fail to account for is the risk that football players take when they get out on the field. There is a high risk of injury and countless studies now show that playing football results in changes to the brain—even without the player experiencing a concussion or other head injury.

Study on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy by Boston University’s CTE Center

The most conclusive evidence about the way that playing football changes the brain comes from a study that was conducted after analyzing the brains of over 200 football players, studied after their deaths. The study was carried out by Boston University’s CTE center. Shockingly, 90% of these players were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Most commonly, CTE is caused by repeatedly taking hits to the head. Over time, the condition worsens and symptoms develop, including difficulty learning, depression, and memory loss.

The Effects of Football on Youth

It is not only football players at the college and professional levels that are at risk for injury during impact sports. Further studies evaluated the change of a child’s brain through the football season—the participants wore special headgear that tracked changes through their brain as they played. Certain college papers online have discussed these changes—even children who do not show an outward sign of injury like a concussion experience the same changes that would be experienced during a traumatic brain injury.

Seasonal Changes

The major change that indicated injury was monitored at the beginning and end of the season using diffusion tensor imaging, a type of MRI that monitors changes of white matter structures like the brain. The imaging measures the fractional anisotropy (FA), which is how water molecules move along the white matter’s axons. If the white matter is healthy, the water molecules move uniformly. As the FA decreases in value, the moment is less orderly and uniform. This indicates the presence of head trauma.

There was a positive relationship between the number of times that the boys’ head was struck and the decreased level of FA. This proves that the football injuries progressively decrease the health of white matter in the brain.

Heightened Risk of Brain Injury in Youth That Play Football

The previous study uncovered information for children as young as 8. Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston did follow-up studies, which compared the ages of NFL players and when they started playing against the damage caused. The study determined that those who started playing football earlier than 12 were at the highest risk for traumatic brain injury. The study would make a great source when writing a research paper.

This reinforces a statement released by Ann McKee, the woman who is the director at the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. The Center recommends that kids younger than age 14 should avoid playing football because of the risk of contact injuries. This is due to the size of kids’ heads, which are ‘a larger part of their body, and their necks are not as strong as adults’ necks.” This is the reason that kids have a heightened risk of brain injuries when compared to adults.

What is CTE?

CTE is the term used to describe a physical change of the brain. The changes are most common in athletes and others who have experienced a repeated concussion or head injury, particularly football players. Though CTE is not usually diagnosed until after death, those who have struggled with CTE often experience symptoms while they are still living. In addition to those mentioned above, other symptoms include confusion, headaches, difficulty controlling emotion, and trouble concentrating.

The reason it is so difficult to diagnose CTE during life is that many of the symptoms are signs of other illnesses as well, including substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, dementia, and depression. Strong college papers might use the findings to determine the differences in the illnesses and why it is so easy for the two to be confused.

Future Research

As with many studies, the current information that has been uncovered leaves the potential for conducting additional research in the future. The sample size, for example, may not have been sufficient to prove the occurrence of CTE in football players. This is because many of those selected for the study were those who were suspected by family members to be struggling with the symptoms of CTE before passing. Additional research may also include information about better tests for CTE so that one day, people might be diagnosed and treated for it while alive.

Effects of Health Recommendations for Football

Many coaches hold their players’ health above all, but others have their sights set on winning. It is now common for youth football coaches to limit the amount of contact that their players have during practice. This minimizes the amount of impact to the brain. Wearing proper gear during practice may also help. Other youth coaches have reduced the number of hours that players spend on the field, reducing the number of impacts that they feel.

Another example of how this has changed the rules for some football teams is the ‘shake it off’ rule. This rule dictates that players who have suffered a suspected concussion be medically evaluated before returning to the field. This is intended to keep players safe, especially after they have already taken a hit.

In Conclusion: How Does Football Effect the Brain?

People who play football leave themselves at a high risk of losing the healthy white matter of their brain, as well as developing CTE. It seems that football players are deserving of their large salaries, considering the tremendous risk that they take to the future health of their brain when they step out on the field.



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