Brooks Schuelke, a brain injury lawyer of Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP in Austin, wants the world to know that researchers “are finding out that even a very slight blow is all that is needed to begin the cascade of faulty brain signals being sent through the brain’s white matter.”
The studies indicate that there are differences in the white matter of the brain in contact sport athletes versus non-contact sport athletes, according to the attorney. The study group results raise the question as to what factors may account for the changes in memory and learning ability and whether those changes are short-term or long-term.
“The study involves 80 college footballers and hockey players that had no history of concussions. Each athlete had a brain scan and took several memory and learning tests. Subsequently, group members received a high-tech helmet that recorded the acceleration rate of the head after an impact,” he said, adding the data from the concussion-free players was compared to athletes who played in non-contact sports.
The whole group was broken out into subgroups that identified players scoring lower than what was expected on their tests, according to Schuelke. Roughly 20 percent of contact sport players and 11 percent of non-contact sport players showed a change in the nerve networks on the right side of their brains. In summary, the changes in white matter in athletes playing contact sports were higher in the poorly performing group, which indicated a likely link to how hard and how often a player had been hit in the head.
The fact that low level concussions may also cause serious brain issues later in life for younger players is something parents, schools and other educational institutions need to take into consideration when designing sports programs, according to Schuelke. The latest revelations that a concussion has the capacity to double an individual’s risk of developing epilepsy within five years is yet another reason to closely examine the risks of sports that typically involve head injuries.
“There are approximately 173,285 brain injuries every year, sustained as a result of playing sports. Most of the victims are boys who play football and girls who participate in cheerleading. Of the 173,285 head injuries, at least 70.5 percent of the patients are between the ages of 10 and 19-years-old. These figures are food for thought about the safety of our younger generation,” he added. “If your child is playing a contact sport and they have not been properly warned about the risks involved or have not been provided with the right type of protective equipment, and they get hurt, we need to discuss compensation for those injuries.”