The great danger of hitting your head during sports

Former NFL player Phillip Adams killed six people in April – and himself. Now it was revealed that he suffered from the degenerative brain disease CTE, like many former football players. An underestimated disadvantage of football: There are frequent violent clashes. Not always without consequences. Concussions can sometimes cause serious long-term damage. CTE is one of them – and sometimes changes the patient’s nature.

Repeated shocks to the head can threaten the health of the brain – and can also trigger mental illness. The more severe the impact, the more likely depression is to develop. U.S. researchers gained this insight in a study that includes contact athletes and military service personnel, FITBOOK reported. With the story of ex-footballer Phillip Adams, a particularly serious brain disease, CTE, comes back into focus.

It is no coincidence that many ex-football players suffer from mental health issues. They are sometimes so pronounced that those affected take their own lives, as experts from Boston University’s CTE Center explain on their website. In addition to depression and outbursts of anger, there have also been documented cases of memory loss and dementia.

Former NFL player Phillip Adams apparently also underwent a particularly dramatic character change as a late consequence of several blows to the head. He had stage 2 chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he allegedly shot and killed six people before taking his own life, authorities said Tuesday.

Dr Ann McKee of Boston University, who conducted the study of Phillip Adams ‘brain tissue, said at a news conference that Adams’ CTE was “unusually severe in both frontal lobes” and may have contributed to his “behavioral abnormalities”.

Adams, 32, suffered several injuries during his six-year NFL career, and his father, Alonzo Adams, told the WCNC after the Rock Hill incident on April 7, 2021: “I think football has put him together . “

Phillip Adams in a photo from 2011Photo: Getty Images

What is CTE?

CTE is a serious degenerative brain disease. It occurs in people who have had many concussions or blows to the head. It was therefore for a long time primarily known as “Boxer’s encephalopathy”. It is now known that other contact sports, such as American football in particular, are also affected.

In detail, CTE means that parts of the frontal lobe, which are important for decisions and impulse control, are covered by deposited so-called tau proteins. Cerebral ventricles (cavities filled with cerebrospinal fluid) have dilated and the hippocampus, which is important for memory, has shrunk. The corpus amygdaloideum, also known as the amygdala, is severely affected. It is the part of the brain that regulates emotions such as fear.

CTE patients are often impulsive, aggressive, and emotionally unstable

According to Ann McKee, director of the McKee CTE Center, impulse control difficulties, aggression, and emotional lability are commonly seen in people with CTE. Her comments on this can be read in the Washington Post.

McKee is particularly concerned about one thing: “We are seeing an acceleration of the disease in young athletes. We do not know if it is because they are playing more aggressively or because they are starting younger.” It is believed that adolescents’ brains are particularly sensitive to physical shock.

Phillip Adams is not the first fatal CTE case

Another famous and shocking example of this is the story of Aaron Hernandez († 27). The football player (position: tight end) had received many blows to the head during his sports career. In April 2019, his suicide went through the media. He had hanged himself in the prison cell, where he was to serve a life sentence for murder.

During the autopsy, doctors found severe damage and perforations in his brain. Hernandez had suffered from third-degree chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Such a severe form was previously known only to significantly older people.

Even small dents are dangerous – especially for children

A study from McMaster University (Ontario) shows that not only concussion but even milder effects on the head temporarily impair memory performance measurably.

Researcher Melissa McCradden led a study on this. She got football, soccer and rugby players to complete three computer memory tests. It turned out that all players during the season could remember worse than before the season or in the recovery phase afterwards. McCradden concludes that the results are related to the brain’s current ability to form new neurons.

Heads of girls and women more sensitive

Female players are said to suffer even more neuronal damage after headers than their male counterparts. Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (Bronx) examined the brains of 49 players each using an imaging method.

The result: Several headers worsened the conductivity of nerve processes (axons) in both sexes. In men, however, the damage affected “only” three brain regions, in women eight – and mostly more persistently. The reasons for this are still unclear.

How dangerous are headers in childhood?

Associations are already responding – albeit with varying consistency. In the United States, since 2015, the American Football Association has banned children under the age of 10 from traveling at all. Between the ages of 11 and 13, this is allowed in the game, but prohibited during training. The German Football Association has not yet made any specifications. However, he does not recommend that you start training with a head ball before you are 13 or 14 years old, where the neck and head muscles are stronger.

Leave a Comment