The NFL has announced that it is donating $30 million to the Bethesda-based Foundation for National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to study the effects of traumatic brain injuries and other medical issues associated with head injury. Although the NFL has taken measures to cut down the high rate of players suffering from concussions, the Washington Post reports that this is merely a start to addressing the invisible epidemic of football players’ brain injuries.
The NFL’s partnership with NIH has been discussed for six months, but they have declared that the first focus for the research will be on mild traumatic brain injuries.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell explained how their “goal is to aggressively partner with the best scientists to understand more about the brain and brain injuries, to make things safer for our athletes and for others.” Although the NFL and NFL Players Association completed their 10-year labor deal last year, Goodell proceeded with the donation.
Last year, 270 players suffered concussions, and this year, that number dropped to 266. Officials say research will focus on several aspects on concussions and their relationships with other diseases, such as the potential for developing neuro-degenerative disorders.
CTE: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, has also been prevalent among NFL players and is a progressive, degenerative disease that has been found in people with a history of brain trauma.
In May of this year, Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau shot himself in chest so his brain could be studied. Studies found that he had suffered from CTE, although he had never been diagnosed with a concussion once in his 20-year career. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a friend and teammate of Seau’s noted that players don’t always suffer from a “lights-out hit.” The constant contact during daily play, called sub-concussive hits, has been linked to CTE.
Due to the high rate of concussions and brain injuries occurring in football players and military troops, the invisible epidemic has become more public. Nearly 3,400 former players have sued the league over concussions. New research will hopefully be beneficial to current players and those who will play in the future. But Michael Hausfeld, an attorney who represents some retired players who have sued the league over concussion, points out that past players won’t really be able to benefit from the research. As he explains, “The gesture by the league of donating $30 million is a good beginning. But it has come late” for former players.