(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt of a article written by L. Syd M Johnson, PhD. Professor of Philosophy & Bioethics of Michigan Technological University, which appeared in Concussion Litigation Reporter. To subscribe, visit https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/concussion-litigation-reporter/)
There are an estimated 173,000 annual emergency room visits for sport-related traumatic brain injuries in children and adolescents in the US, but many more — an estimated 50-75 percent of concussions — are believed to go unreported. Because of its popularity, football accounts for the vast majority of these brain injuries, but nearly half a million youths play ice hockey in the US and thousands sustain concussions each year.
Concussions occur when the brain moves inside the skull as a result of the application of kinetic force. Concussions can result from a direct blow to the head, whether or not a helmet is worn, but body contact of the kind experienced in contact or collision sports like hockey and football also causes concussions. It is suspected that the sub-clinical blows routine in these sports also cause unseen and undiagnosed neurological damage, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), which may not result in detectable symptoms for many years. CTE has been found on autopsy in several former NHL and NFL players, but it has also been seen in athletes as young as 18 with only a history of youth sports participation, as well as in athletes in their twenties who had no history of concussion. The threshold of injury severity and frequency that might lead to CTE is still unknown, but the age of some victims indicates that participation in youth sports is a likely risk factor. Youth athletes are known to be at heightened risk of concussion, and may be more susceptible to all minor traumatic brain injuries resulting from sports participation.
Traumatic injuries spike significantly when young hockey players are introduced to body checking. The leading cause of hockey-related concussions is body checking, and the most effective way to limit concussions is to avoid body checking.
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