All posts by Jessica Willard

If I Played Football or Other Contact Sports, Can I Develop Dementia?

 

                This is one of the more common questions I receive regularly.  To better comprehend the answer to this question, we have to start by breaking down the medicine and history of trauma/concussion injury in sports.

 

                Whether one calls it greed or inconsideration, the National Football League has never been forthcoming when providing care to the ex-players who no longer increase the ratings or capital of the League. As more and more ex-players were diagnosed with dementia, Plan 88 was established. Plan 88 is a monetary resource for those who have subsequently been diagnosed with dementia after their glory years in the NFL. Even though there was “no connection” between football and dementia, the NFL provided $88,000 per year to former players with dementia who were in nursing homes and up to $50,000 a year for those diagnosed, but who lived in their own home. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, after years of their ex-employees suffering from dementia, the now 13 billion dollar industry decided they could spare some pocket change…. Without making any acknowledgment that they were the cause of their present condition.

Why after so many years would the NFL offer help to their former players?

The goodness of their hearts?

The appreciation of the player’s hard work?

To spread awareness of the growing concern among this population?

No, to cover up the growing number of former players who ending up in nursing homes due to dementia. The NFL had consistently tried to cover up any and all links to playing football and dementia. Fortunately, their cover-up was exposed in more than a decade ago by Dr. Bennet Omalu.

                Dr. Omalu performed an autopsy on the one and only Mike Webster. Mike Webster is a former NFL player who suffered from dementia, and his brain was the key to unraveling what the NFL had been trying to hide for years. Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE, in Mike Webster’s brain and connected the diagnosis to repeated blows to the head while playing in the NFL.

 

What is CTE?

                To put it simply, CTE is a condition that occurs to the brain when a person suffers repeated blows to their head. A diagnosis of CTE can only be definitive after an autopsy of the brain is performed.  The only way to avoid CTE, is to avoid repeated head injuries. Repeated bodily contact, especially to the head, is a major part of the beloved American sport. This injury would not only make people aware of the danger, but the NFL would be responsible to the players and their families who suffered. The NFL fought, and they fought hard to break the scientific link between the two, and discredit Dr. Omalu and his findings, however they have lost the battle. The truth has come out, between Dr. Omalu’s discovery and the NFL Concussion Litigation, and the NFL has no other choice but to accept the science and warn players of the high risk of CTE. CTE symptoms vary. Every person’s experience may not be the same. Some of the symptoms can include impulsive behavior, depression or apathy, short-term memory loss, emotional instability, and suicidal thought and behavior.

 

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not as specific as CTE, it is a general term for a wide range of symptoms and can be diagnosed during one’s lifetime. Dementia is also described as damage to brain cells but, the damage, however, can be caused in many different ways, not limited to blows to the head. Unlike CTE, dementia is more of a cognitive illness, a decline in mental ability that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. 

It should be known that contact sports are not the root of all evil, and not every person who plays contact sports will develop dementia or CTE. However, it is important to understand the risks and try to prevent injuries to the best of one’s ability. It is also important to note, that those who have suffered, deserve to be compensated.

 

Regardless of the highest level of sports you played, if you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury due to a contact sport, please call us to find out your legal rights. We can help.