A new study by JAMA Psychiatry sheds light on the potential dangers that sports stars, especially in the NFL, face. The study looks at 1155 patients that have suffered from mild traumatic brain injuries and found that these individuals suffer from major depression or PTSD 3 – 6 months following the injury.
The largest contributor to head injuries in the United States is sports with activities, such as baseball, basketball, cycling and football among the most dangerous sports in terms of head injury.
Mental health problems from patients that suffer from chronic brain damage, like repeated hits to the head in sports, were linked to higher risks of mental health problems.
Concussions are a leading cause for concern in all major sports with the NFL the focus of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. The degenerative brain condition is believed to occur after repeated hits to the head. The first NFL player to be diagnosed with CTE had his diagnosis in the early 2000s.
Youth football has since been linked to CTE and over 100 former NFL players have received a diagnosis of CTE postmortem.
Concussions fell in 2018 to 214, down from 281 in 2017 during practice and gameplay in the United States. Studies show that the repeated hits to the head, not causing concussion, are also damaging the brain. These hits, while not as severe as a concussion, continue to cause minor brain damage and are not properly covered within the NFL’s data.
Preseason and regular season concussions hit their lowest level since 2012 in 2014 when only 206 concussions were reported. The next year, there were 275 concussions indicating that the most recent drop in 2018 may not be due to higher safety levels or precautions. Almost every other year since 2012 concussions have dropped and then spiked.
CTE, caused even through repeated small impacts to the brain, can cause a variety of symptoms, including forgetting and violet behavior. Mental health issues, for the rest of the person’s life, are a possibility. Worsening of the condition can occur over a span of decades, and in severe cases, depression, paranoia, aggression all tend to increase. Even explosiveness will increase, causing some former players to lash out at their friends and family.
The number of CTE cases in the NFL remains unclear as the only positive method of determining the condition is done through an autopsy.
The new study shows that measures need to be taken to lower the risk of mental health issues rising among former professional sports players.