Science of Football Concussions
Ambience: Football game
Ramirez: If we look at football underneath the microscope from a science point of view, Some fascinating things have happened. An injury to a player. His coach decides to put a face mask on him. The face mask gets instituted. People start feeling like they’re protected, and so, they start using their head, and now we have this concussion epidemic today.
Concussions are bad enough, but there’s strong evidence that these injuries can lead to a much more serious condition. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
Ramirez: A concussion is actually impeded brain function due to impact to the brain, usually when the brain hits the inside of the skull. And it can happen to a person if they get hit in the head or hit in the body hard enough so that the brain actually rattles and hits the inside of the skull.
Ainissa Ramirez is the co-author of the book, Newton’s Football the Science Behind America’s Game.
Ramirez: On a more granular level, what’s going on is the neuron is actually being pulled or broken. The neuron creates electrical signal, and when you pull on it, that electrical signal is erratic. And, depending on where that pulling happens, that’s why we have so many different symptoms for a concussion.
CTE is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. It is a degenerative condition of the brain, and it occurs from having multiple impacts to the brain. We spoke to several doctors from Boston University about CTE. And they have brain bank, which is a donation of brains that NFL players have willed to them. At the time they had 35 brains of NFL players. And out of the 35, 34 had CTE. So, they believe that there’s some linkage between hitting the brain, concussions and this degenerative disease.
There are other sports, most notably boxing, which also point to the connection between concussions and CTE. We’ll hear more in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.