Super Bowl Sunday: protecting all brains including retired and current NFL players

02 Feb

The NFL is the most powerful sports league and richest in America.  It’s an American past time and most prefer watching football on television over attending the games.  What is finally known is head banging and injuries are leading to a cascade of neurological symptoms.  These neurological symptoms have permanent brain changes and lasting declining symptoms.  Our brains matter, whether it’s injury from contact sports or other types of brain dysfunction and brain injuries.  What matters most is our brains!

Will it be the involvement of retired NFL players with brain injuries that will open the door to better treatment and diagnosis with traumatic brain injuries and ongoing symptoms? Are they really getting the treatment they should receive?  Are they getting any different treatment then anyone else with brain injuries?  Will this involvement help with education and support in the years to come?

The NFL did not embrace scientific data with brain injuries, rather they rejected the idea of players receiving injuries due to the sport.   They were underwriting scientific data and created their own scientific research and trying to silence anyone who might contradict their findings.  Retired NFL players are pushing for better diagnosis, treatment and care for long-term effects from brain trauma.

In 2013 the NFL settled litigation brought by about 6,000 retired players because they falsified research and tried to hide the link between brain damage and football.  It’s a fact that playing contact sports, specifically football can lead to brain injury.  Every one is different and this doesn’t mean everyone will have brain injury and neither does it suggest everyone with concussions have permanent injury.  For those that do end up with injury, they need to be treated.

CTE known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy occurs with repeated head injuries or concussions and diagnosed upon autopsy.  This happens in the general population with many who have accumulative injuries.  Research is in process in Boston. Former football players that struggled with multiple neurological symptoms and behavioral changes have committed suicide.  Their brains have been autopsied with diagnosis of CTE.

Suicide and traumatic brain injuries is frequently overlooked.  The level of confusion is underestimated.  To walk around aimlessly in a daze; to be overwhelmed by stimuli daily and every where you go; to have sleepless nights, night after night; to be so fatigued (fatigoexhaustion)and others believe you are “lazy” or you are simply “depressed” or you “aren’t trying” or you “don’t want to be better”;  to feel lost in a world that once was familiar;  trying to make sense of the senseless; living in a body that is unpredictable; this is just a few things but it’s all incomprehensible.  Nearly everyone with a brain injury understands this … you can only truly understand this if you deal with it daily. TBI needs the healthcare professionals to listen and help solve these problems.

How does an employer deal with TBI and worker’s compensation claims?  How do most  people deal with TBI? How does the NFL deal with this.  They don’t, they deny it, and our NFL players are struggling for treatment and benefits as everyone living with brain changes and injury. Most would believe the NFL would be supportive of these players, but like most worker’s compensation claims they too are turned away without treatment.  They struggle to get the proper treatment, and it usually is not covered under the worker’s compensation claims in their state.

The NFL minimizes the dangers of concussions.  By this more people are put in harms way of brain injuries.  It’s time for preventive care, education and safety first. Providing proper education regarding brain injuries is a priority to health and safety.  Everyone deserves an opportunity to make educated choices.  The NFL does not like to connect football with brain injury, even though they have paid out disability for those with dementia related problems.  This happens with others that have job-related brain injuries.

Players are leaving their brains for autopsy after committing suicide in hopes their brains will shed light on devastating consequences of repeated concussion and brain injuries.  They leave this world in a state of confusion, fog, desperation, hopelessness, loneliness, and depression.  This level of helplessness leaves them in a state that they are feeling that death will help other NFL players, ultimately they leave this world with “hope” to help fellow players.  These are very intelligent people trying to solve a very old problem.

NFL is looking for history of mental illness or steroid use among other things that would be mitigating factors.  Placing blame on the survivors and digging up personal histories that are unrelated to current symptoms.  Obviously, if anyone tries hard enough to place blame they will find cause-and-effect whether it is true or not.

Believe me, survivors have enough to deal with let alone the false allegations that are in writing and follow one for a lifetime.  Large companies and corporations protect themselves and they should try to help these people recover and live their optimal level of functioning.

Isn’t it time to help with adjusting and adapting to life after TBI? Life is hard, complex, and you feel lost in a world that once had a very different perspective.  Now you must find your place again.  In a world you once understood, and now it seems so foreign.

Nothing seems right.  Nothing is predictable.  It’s a world you were familiar with, but now nothing seems right.  You can’t make sense of anything, let alone make sense of yourself.  The demands are the same, but the person is different.  Where do you turn? Is this really rare?

Will football ever be a safe sport?  It’s a contact sport that many love.  They are making small changes but will it ensure that brains are protected?  With scientific proof of CTE would parents encourage their children to play football or contact sports?  Should parents be given educational material with scientific proof of long term problems with football or contact sports that involve repeated concussions and brain injuries.

Prevalence has not yet been established.  It should be a parent’s decision whether to have their children involved.  Some parents will make the decision immediately.  Others will consider the love for the sport and prevalence of injury.  These parents also point out that everything in life is a risk.  With education, parents will make the best educated decision for their children and family.  Without education of brain injury, good decisions can not be made to protect children and others.

Most don’t want children to live in fear based upon a small percentage of injuries.  Children don’t need to live in fear, but they need to learn about prevention and safety protecting themselves.  They do this with educated and supportive parents.

It’s assumed that all football players are healthy when they begin football training.  When does football training really begin anyway?  Is it at the age of 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25?  It depends upon the onset of contact sports which begins when the child shows interest.  How many injuries occur before the child becomes an NFL player?

It’s practically impossible to have brain imaging of a “virgin brain” (uninjured) before becoming an NFL player.  Few children would have an MRI unless there is a serious neurological problem.  The variation of ages when a child begins training for football makes it even more difficult.

If a child has brain imaging at age 15, he/she may have already been playing contact sports for 2-10 years, more or less.  Will the brain imaging identify earlier brain injuries?  Possibly as imagining becomes more precise over the years.  Brain imaging doesn’t usually show microscopic changes, but those changes over decades may become visible.

It’s time to rehabilitate, educate, and accept that these survivors need help; need proper diagnosis; need treatment; need education; need support and others to hear what they are saying.  Problems cannot be solved, when “blaming the victim” or “blaming the survivor” becomes the focus.  The focus needs to be on treatment and prevention, and helping those live their optimal level.

**********All material presented on Brain Injury Self Rehabilitation (BISR) is copyright and cannot be, copied, reproduced, or distributed in any way without the express, written consent of Edith E. Flickinger, BSN RN. 


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