Recurring head injuries in contact sports may prove costly for players’ mental health

Recurring head injuries in contact sports may prove costly for players’ mental health

The ardent football fans are waiting with bated breath for the commencement of the National Football League (NFL) in Mar. 2018 and wish earnestly for their favourite team to win the tournament. On the other hand, some  people are anxious to see their favourites players play safe and make it to the end of the season unharmed. These include the player’s parents, spouses, children and all dear ones. Despite being a source of entertainment and livelihood, sports can turn into a game of life and death. As a result, the relatives and loved ones of the football players keep biting their nails every time they go out to play due to the constant danger of taking another deadly hit to their head.

The repetitive blows that the players take to their heads has led several professional football players to retire prematurely. The repeated head concussions suffered while playing often alter brain functions and lead to a range of symptoms, such as cognitive dysfunction, memory disturbance, change in personality, headaches, dizziness, etc. These symptoms are related to the complex brain disorder known as post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The patients suffering from PCS run the risk of developing paranoia and suicidal tendencies.

The above issue was highlighted by Emily Kelly’s article published in The New York Times on her husband Rob Kelly, the former NFL player. Reportedly, Rob was forced into early retirement in 2002 due to nerve damage between his neck and his shoulder. Despite no concrete evidence of brain injury, he saw dramatic changes in his thoughts and personality.  He has rapidly transformed from being a doting father and family man into a paranoid man. She has described the changes witnessed by Rob—rapid weight loss, erratic sleeping pattern, negative thinking, etc.—to establish the link between football and neurodegenerative diseases. One of the clinicians highlighted that Rob suffered from neuropsychological  dysfunction due to the repeated hits to his head. It further came to light that the problem is more widespread than believed.

What actually happens?

Besides the football players, the problem of progressive neurological deterioration, also termed as dementia pugilistica or punch-drunk syndrome, is more prevalent among a fifth of professional boxers. Another brain disorder widely witnessed among the players contact sports due to repeated blows to head is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In fact, Emily has specifically highlighted that the loved ones of approximately 2,400 former players have described witnessing the above-mentioned cognitive decline in them.

While playing these collision sports, the players may suffer numerous hits on their head that may lead to concussions in a single game. The recurrence of such head injuries increases the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases in players later in life. The players tend to experience dramatic mood swings, rage, depression and memory loss. They steadily pushed lose touch with the reality. After the publication of the eye-opening article, a number of women have confirmed of experiencing similar problems.

As such, there are three stages of clinical deterioration. The first stage is characterized by psychotic symptoms, such as social instability, erratic behaviour, memory loss, etc., and the initial symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear during the second stage. The third stage consists of general cognitive dysfunction progressing to dementia and is often accompanied by full-blown parkinsonism, as well as speech and gait abnormalities. Other symptoms include dysarthria, dysphagia, and ocular abnormalities, such as ptosis.

The post-mortem neuropathologic examination conducted on the brains of players has shown the evidence of CTE. Although a more comprehensive approach, both clinically and forensically, needs to be followed to further understand the hazards posed by such sports so that necessary precautions can be taken.

Recovery road map

The repetitive brain injuries can leave people physiologically and psychologically broken. Moreover, they experience massive loss in both career and personal life due to the disruptive family and professional life. Besides inflicting behavioural changes, it can sometimes turn fatal. Therefore, it becomes imperative to conduct an extensive study on the relationship between head injuries and contact sports. Therefore, it is essential to consult an expert on experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

If you or your loved one is witnessing cognitive decline and depression due to contact sports, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to access information pertaining to appropriate mental health centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with our experts to know about the finest residential mental health facilities in California.