The New England Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX last week, beating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. However, the Super Bowl also highlighted the continuing problem of concussion and head injuries in the NFL. Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril had to leave play after suffering a concussion, while the Patriots’ wide receiver Julian Edelman may have played on despite a concussion. Head injuries are common in high impact sports, with the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM) estimating in a 2013 statement that 3.8 million concussions are experienced in sports every year.
Concussion can lead to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), as well as spine damage and neurological conditions such as dementia. In the long-term, sports head injuries can result in depression, motor skills problems and a loss of attention span. Neurologists identify damage as being caused by shock waves following impact, which move from the front to the back of the brain; this can cause cell damage and affect blood vessels. Solutions for reducing head injuries from concussion are mainly focussed on designing better helmets that can absorb shock and reduce stress amplification.