New studies are showing that some activities that were thought of as merely games have hazards that are far more serious, along with long-lasting consequences. The hard physical hits to the head involved in playing in football and other high-impact games like it can cause significant damage to the brain in many of the people who play them. As the game of football is also a job for many men, emerging information about the damage to the brain associated with playing could potentially lead to a change in workers' compensation in Massachusetts and nationwide.
Extremely erratic behavior on the part of several players as well as subsequent deaths led researchers to conduct more studies on the brains of football players. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a disease of the brain that is degenerative. Evidence of the disease is showing up in many men who have played professional football and who died young, such as Junior Seau. Mr. Seau played football for decades with different sports teams, including New England.
Mr. Seau shot himself in the chest and died as a result of the injury. Mr. Seau's family requested that his remains be examined for evidence of mental illness. They were surprised to find evidence consistent with CTE in his brain. During the years prior to his suicide he showed symptoms such as depression, mood swings and some forms of memory loss, as well as insomnia, which are consistent with CTE. The type of damage that researchers found when they analyzed his brain is consistent with being hit very hard in the head multiple times.
If it is determined that playing football causes brain damage, the activity may be considered a hazard of the job of football. This could strengthen the claims for workers' compensation claims that might be made by any players who suffer this type of brain injury while playing the sport. As understanding, and potentially the law change in response to increased awareness about the possible dangers of the game, those who play should be aware of any shift in policies and laws in Massachusetts and throughout the nation.
Source: Boston.com, "Researchers: NFL's Seau had brain disease," Barry Wilner , Jan. 10, 2013