Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Lawyers
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NFL Concussions and Depressions
The National Football League (NFL) has asserted over much of its history that concussions have no long-term effects on its players. Evidence in the last few years, however, has challenged this assertion to the point where the NFL has not only acknowledged a problem, but also begun taking measures to address concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI).
The issue of concussions in the NFL drew attention after a neurologist studied the brain tissue of former Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Waters, who committed suicide in November 2006 at age 44. Dr. Omalu, the neurologist, concluded that Waters had brain damage resulting from multiple concussions he suffered during his twelve years as a safety in the NFL.
Then, in February 2007, Ted Johnson, another NFL player who played ten years as a linebacker with the New England Patriots, announced that a neurologist had linked his depression and cognitive decline to on-field concussions. He'd had two successive concussions in 2002, the first one in an exhibition game against the New York Giants, and four days later when he claims coach Bill Belichick pressured him to participate in a full-contact practice against the advice of team doctors.
The University of North Carolina's Center for the Study of Retired Athletes (CSRA) has since unveiled a study that found that of 595 players who in a survey recalled having sustained three or more concussions on the field, 20.2 percent responded that they'd been found to be suffering from depression. That rate is three times that of players who have not sustained concussions.
Several members of the NFL's MTBI committee criticized the study for relying solely on the survey respondent's memories of on-field concussions. Dr. Ira Casson, a co-chairman of the committee, argued that "survey studies are the weakest type of research study", and that the study lacked objective evaluations to confirm the validity of the responses.
But many experts disagree with the committee's criticisms by pointing out that the survey's response rate was high, and that while the study does not prove a correlation beyond doubt, it does contribute significantly to the growing literature supporting a link between concussions and depression.
In 2004, the NFL had commissioned its own studies, hoping that the findings will lead to improvements in helmets and head protection gear in general. More recently, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has acknowledged that there are problems with players who return to practice or want to re-enter games before doctors clear them.
In April 2007 Goodell announced initiatives ranging from mandatory neuropsychological testing for all players to a "whistle-blower system" where doctors and players can anonymously report any coach's attempt to counter the wishes of medical personnel or concussed players.
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