Traumatic participating in contact sports or head injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries are a type of trauma that occurs when the brain’s function is disrupted. This disruption can be caused by many different things, such as a blow to the head. There are several different ways to classify TBI’s, some include closed head injury, open head injury, contusion and penetrating trauma. A closed head injury is when the skull is still intact and there is no penetration of the skull. An open head injury is the opposite, it’s when penetration of the skull is present, causing direct injury to the head. Contusion is the bruising to a part of the brain, this results in bleeding in the tissue. Penetrating trauma occurs when an object enters the brain, this causes direct injury and pushes fragments of the skull into the brain. All of these types of trauma can cause injury to one part of the brain or multiple.  Athletes have a substantial risk of sustaining a head injury while participating in their contact sport.  The long-term effects of these head injuries have caused much concern and controversy throughout the years. Some former NFL are suffering from a neurodegenerative condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. The earliest reports of CTE go all the way back to the 1920s. CTE is an extremely debilitating condition with several cognitive, emotional and physical symptoms that worsen over time. Symptoms of this condition usually don’t occur until about ten years after the initial trauma. The only way to officially diagnose CTE is after death by examining brain tissue. If CTE is present, there will be buildups of protein throughout the brain.  Researchers at Boston University examined the brains of 165 former football players and evidence of CTE was found in 97% of the players. It was also discovered that 79% of athletes who participated in sports other than football, such as ice hockey and baseball, were also officially  diagnosed with CTE after death. A study performed by the Mayo Clinic found no evidence of CTE in 198 individuals with no history of participating in contact sports or head injuries.  George Visgar, a former defensive lineman for the 49ers, is a prime example of what head trauma due to contact sports can lead to. As a result of multiple concussions sustained during his career with the NFL, Visgar had to undergo emergency brain surgery after experiencing debilitating headaches. Visgar was suffering from hydrocephalus, which is excessive water accumulation in the brain. Now going through life with a shunt in his brain, Visgar was not the same person he was before his headaches started to occur. George described himself as an irritable man. “All of a sudden I became very short tempered. I don’t handle stressors well like I used to. My threshold for irritation is almost nonexistent” says Visagr. Ultimately, his aggression cost him his family when his wife filed for divorce. Visgar’s wife described living with George as constantly having to walk on eggshells and that his anger and stature were horribly intimidating. She states he would often explode on her and their kids for simple things like leaving a room messy.  Traumatic brain injuries can cause changes in memory, emotions, reasoning and increase aggression and impulsivity. There is an undeniable connection between head injuries in athletes and violent behavior. Jovan Belcher, of the Kansas City Chiefs, killed his girlfriend then drove to the Chiefs practice stadium and shot himself, putting a bullet through his temple. Chris Benoit, a professional wrestler, murdered his wife and son before hanging himself. Both Belcher and Benoit’s brains showed evidence of CTE. Aaron Hernandez, of the New England Patriots, is another example of the tragedies CTE can cause. Hernandez shot and killed his friend and was later accused of murdering two other individuals. Aaron was convicted and sentenced to prison where he hung himself. His brain scan came back with evidence of severe CTE. Adrien Peterson and Ray Rice, both accused of domestic violence, also show signs of CTE. Although, they cannot be officially diagnosed with such condition until after death.   There are several studies supporting the correlation between brain injuries among athletes and violent behavior. Researchers and scientists are attempting to find a way to diagnose CTE in athletes while they are still living. Sooner detection of this condition can result in a decrease in violent behavior among athletes and could save lives. Early detection can lead to athletes’ getting help for their condition, such as attending anger management classes. If it is not known that an individual has a condition, they cannot seek out the proper help they need. Early detection and diagnosis is the key to fighting the violence and puts society in a much better position to stop a violent act before it can occur. The more knowledge society has of these neurodegenerative conditions, especially among athletes, the better equipped it will be to handle such situations. Learning the signs of CTE and addressing the issue early on, even though it cannot be officially diagnosed until after death, can save lives and help athletes get the help they need.