Though common wisdom says you can recover from a concussion, brain damage never fully heals; in fact, repeated injuries may cause chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease. The NCAA’s alleged failure to disclose this risk to football players and take preventative measures is at the center of this case, brought by the victim’s family.
The Brain Is Especially Fragile
Brain damage is bad because it harms the organ that directs everything our body does—right? Yes and no. It’s true the brain is vital to our body’s survival, but so are most organs. The difference: Unlike other parts of the body, the brain cannot replace dead cells with living ones. When concussions and other, more serious, brain injuries occur, the victim loses abilities they may never regain.
There is proof the NCAA knew concussions should be taken seriously as far back as 1933 when their handbook started to layout treatment protocols. However, despite current requirements that student-athletes be taken out of the game if they show signs of concussion, many are worried the NCAA protocol is being misused or, worse, ignored on the football field. Some athletes have left the sport after suffering a concussion. However, others may be encouraged to play on even when doing so puts them in danger.
It Doesn’t Stop At Concussions
The hits football players take are forceful enough to cause brain injuries, but thankfully only mild ones. When concussions stack on top of each other, though, athletes may develop CTE. As a degenerative brain disease, CTE causes patients’ abilities to slowly decline. It might affect judgment and reasoning, impulse control, and hostility. Scientists don’t know how many times the brain can suffer mild injury before putting patients at risk of CTE, but they do believe repeated trauma is a key cause of the disease.
CTE cannot be diagnosed before death, and it may be difficult to spot as it shares symptoms with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s also typically slow to develop, taking years or even decades after the injuries to appear.
CTE may cause symptoms including:
- Memory loss
- Increased aggression
- Increased impulsiveness
- Depression and/or thoughts of suicide
- Impaired judgment
- Parkinsonism and progressive dementia
CTE tends to have a younger onset than Alzheimer’s or dementia—starting at an average age of 40. However, its victims experience a similar mental decline.
NCAA, It’s Time to Stop Allowing Coaches to Play Concussed Athletes
The football player we are filing this suit for was diagnosed with Stage IV CTE after his death. Because of the similarities between Alzheimer’s and CTE, the latter likely contributed to symptoms that led to the official diagnosis. Football, in turn, likely contributed to his development of the condition. In a recent study of 111 brains donated by former NFL players, only 1 did not show evidence of CTE. Though self-selection likely contributes to this overwhelming percentage—families concerned about the disease were much more likely to work with the study—it’s clear there are strong links between the injuries football players sustain and the eventual development of CTE.
The NCAA, as the governing organization of all collegiate sports, has done less to heed the latest advancements than they might. While NFL players have come together to request an independent doctor attend each game, the NCAA has not made a similar commitment to its players. We believe this is just one more in a long chain of organizational actions that downplay the risk of concussions.
Our team at Shrader & Associates, L.L.P. is proud to be helping this family pursue justice against the NCAA. Losing a loved one is always hard, and watching them suffer a degenerative brain disease during the last years of their life can cause prolonged pain to the victim’s family. When such a diagnosis can be prevented, there is no reason for these deaths to happen at all.
Do you think a loved one is showing signs of CTE? If repeated, preventable brain injuries have caused a loved one to suffer, you deserve help. Call our firm at (713) 787-3733 to discuss your case, absolutely free.