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Violence in Sport

About - Violence in Sport

Violence in Sport

The human brain is so complex that we still have a long way to go in understanding brain injury. Through most of the 20th century it was believed that if there was no period of unconsciousness then there would be no lasting effects from a traumatic brain injury. Research then revealed that there can be lifelong effects from a mild brain injury even if the person remained conscious. Even more recent research is now confirming that brain injuries can occur with repeated impacts to the brain, even when they don't result in a concussion (generally seen as the mildest form of injury to the brain). Increasingly we are aware that our brains are more fragile than previously thought.

It has taken years to establish how fragile the brain is as it is very difficult to diagnose brain injury from repeated impacts not resulting in concussion (sub-concussive impacts). Many of the findings come from autopsies conducted on military personnel, footballers, boxers and other athletes. Studies on living subjects are confirming these findings (such as a report in the June 2012 issue of American Academy of Neurology) that sub-concussive impacts in contact sports is affecting the learning ability of US college students. New brain imaging techniques are revealing how the brain is injured from repeated mild traumas to the head.

This is a major cause for concern when many young Australians grow up playing contact sports, especially when there are no requirements to wear head protection for sports like football (unlike our American cousins).

So what about actual concussion? The dangers of ongoing minor trauma to the head have been known for years in sports like boxing. The symptoms of Dementia pugilistica typically emerge over years, and include the typical symptoms of a brain injury and also the risk of Parkinsonism, tremors and unsteady gait. Sports such as football have come under increasing scrutiny.

A Neurosurgeon in a recent Four Corners report is so concerned by the growing evidence for permanent brain injury from repeated concussions that he believes a "three strikes and you're out" rule should apply to concussions. Currently there is no ruling on repeated concussions, but the three major football codes in Australia wisely insist that a player with concussion cannot finish the game.



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