• Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Brain damage in soccer players is always a big story, and head trauma for surfers is becoming one too | Patrick Malone & Associates PC | DC Damages Lawyers

What do big wave surfing, the National Football League playoffs and the upcoming Super Bowl have in common? They share the challenges of coping with the significant health damage that can occur with traumatic brain injury, especially repeated impacts and concussions.

The wealthy, powerful, and influential NFL can also exemplify how preventable harm to athletes, their lives, and their loved ones can be turned into resignation and acceptance. As commentator Jay Caspian Kang observed in a New York Times column:

“Of all the stories that disappear in American consciousness, none have faded from the public eye quite like football concussions. It’s hard to remember now, but less than a decade ago President Barack Obama said that if he had a son he should think “long and hard” before letting him play football. Stories have been published of parents pulling their children out of youth and high school football; obituaries were written for the future of the sport.

“In 2015, Will Smith, one of the world’s biggest movie stars, starred as Dr Bennet Omalu, the medical examiner whose research first linked football to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) , a brain disease that causes memory loss, erratic behavior and depression. A study found CTE in 110 of 111 deceased NFL players. That alarm seems to have been replaced by some kind of theater around concussions… Player is knocked out, TV presenters say, “Well, you hate to see this”; player is taken or staggers to designated blue medical tent; sideline reporter tells audience player won’t be coming back All of this is done in dark tones with the implicit understanding that the player will likely be back in a week or two.

But, as Kang reported, the challenges of football related to traumatic brain injury don’t diminish so easily:

“The concussion news hasn’t improved, of course. Last year Phillip Adams, a former NFL cornerback, shot and killed six people and himself. Doctors later reported that Adams had “an extraordinary amount of CTE”. Vincent Jackson, a former wide receiver, was found dead in a hotel room last February. His widow said he suffered from memory loss and depression. Dr. Ann McKee, one of the leading CTE experts, examined Jackson’s brain (he had never been diagnosed with a concussion during his playing career) and found that he had CTE. These stories have been reported, but they haven’t pierced the broader sports conversation the way they might have just seven or eight years ago.

“A season of empty stadiums and the toll of the pandemic has hurt sport across the board. But the NFL emerged relatively unscathed. TV and digital viewership highest since 2015; 91 of the 100 most-watched TV shows of the year were NFL games. Football – which has suffered domestic violence reckoning and the fallout of Colin Kaepernick’s blackball, in addition to ongoing concussions – is stronger than it’s ever been.

Kang, a former sportswriter, scours NFL data to show that despite the league’s insistence that changes to equipment, rules and play have helped, devastating head injuries to the health persist in the routine of the game, not to mention the damage, repeated lower level of blows to the head.

He stresses that he doesn’t want to be a mere rebuke or see the nation give up on what is apparently a beloved game or a big point might be missed:

“The way we look at football today feels like a surrender which is interesting because of how often this kind of abandonment has become common in modern life. We the concerned public can let our outrage flare for a short time dealing with an obvious problem – from school shootings to Covid politics – but there’s no sense we can do anything about these issues that are driving us crazy. doesn’t mean we’re oblivious or even particularly apathetic.Again, nine out of 10 sports fans think concussions are a problem in football;it’s more that we have no faith that we can change our institutions and, with ample evidence and good reason, we have given up the belief that we should even have a say in how they choose to do business.

Derek Dunfee, 39, might disagree. The La Jolla, Calif. native (pictured above, right) was an award-winning ocean champion, a magazine cover type for his prowess in a risky sport – surfing the biggest waves imaginable find. He told the Los Angeles Times that he loves the adventure, the thrills, the money and the success that surfing brings him.

This led him, for a time, to ignore the repeated and cumulative damage to his health caused by head trauma, described by the newspaper as follows: “Nausea. Headache. Painful shots of bright lights. Memory loss. Mood swings. Outbursts of rage or sadness.

Surfers and their fans – as has happened in a growing spectrum of athletics – have only slowly recognized that banging their heads against high-speed objects, whether it’s a wall of towering water or a flying and uncontrolled surfboard, is bad for thinking and more brain activity. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

“On December 22, 2012, Dunfee was at Cortes Bank, a barely submerged seamount about 100 miles west of Point Loma. It’s Mount Everest for surfers, capable of generating waves that approach 100 feet. Dunfee took off on a beast that fell back and buried him. While tumbling underwater, 10 seconds passed. Then more. “Keep fighting,” he remembered thinking. “Stay aware and you will get there.” He surfaced in time to be sent over the falls on a 20ft. Hold on, he told himself, a mantra that had seen him through other failures.

“This one was different. His chest was burning from the lack of oxygen. His voice of encouragement trailed off. Her body became limp. Ten minutes later, a jet ski rescuer found him half a mile from the whitewater line, floating on his side along a reef. He was barely conscious. He spent the rest of the day on a boat in a daze. Outwardly he ignored it as just another bad spill. Inwardly, he felt the opposite. “My brain”, he said, “was worked”.

The incident caused him to end his professional career and, as the newspaper reported, to write “a book, Waking up in the sea about the ups and downs of his career. He has appeared on surf podcasts, talking about the cumulative effects of what he estimates to be dozens of concussions large and small. He took to Instagram to post updates about his health and his decision to stop riding big waves.

His candor has allowed others in the sport to speak openly about the risks of brain injury and to point out that their hobby has significant issues, including these data points reported by the newspaper on a sport in which participation has almost tripled, going from 13 million runners to 37 million between 2010 and 2020:

“Most studies [on its health harms] were based on surveys. In one, 91% of surfers said they had suffered an injury at some point in their life, with head injuries being the most common. A 2020 study in the Journal of Orthopedics went beyond self-report and examined 15 years of US ER activity. It found 34,337 head injuries related to surfing. Lacerations were the most common wounds, followed by blunt head trauma and concussion. Overall, the number of head injuries over the 15 years has remained stable, but the incidence of concussions has “significantly increased”.

“The study authors noted that since approximately 50% of concussions are never reported, the true numbers are likely much higher. Part of the increase was due to better diagnostics by clinicians, but another factor was design changes that made the boards faster and more maneuverable – and also easier to fall. Few surfers wear a helmet – in a 2015 survey, only two of 50 participants did – although that could change too. Many big wave surfers wear them, and if young surfers see them as their heroes, usage could increase.

Yet, as the newspaper reported, even with protective measures in place, the pressure will always be to push the limits, to gain some attention or notoriety with extreme driving – and that particularly, not only in surfing but also in too many sports. . Isn’t that what the fans are asking for and paying for?

Hmm. In my practice, I see not only the harm that patients experience when seeking medical services, but also the damage that can be inflicted upon them through spinal cord and brain injury, including from concussions and other head injuries. Brain damage forever changes the lives of patients and their families. These injuries cannot be taken lightly or ignored, especially as growing evidence shows that serious damage can occur not only from severe head and neck impacts, but also from blows. repeated less important.

Progress has been made in the fight against preventable head injuries, particularly in professional and amateur athletics – from football to diving to equestrian events. Better equipment, more sensible rules and play and other more positive measures make a difference. It also helped those injured seek justice in the civilian system, including with a settlement of a billion-dollar lawsuit the NFL concluded with former players.

But society is changing slowly. The brutality of boxing and the poor treatment of its athletes, especially African-American champions, has led to diminished public interest in the pastime. The NFL should take notice, and, come on, at some point, excesses like the now-popular cage fights on cable TV will see their day. We have a lot of work to do to minimize the risk of head trauma and other injuries in what should be the fun, exciting and healthy sports that are so much a part of our lives.