Brain injuries could mark ‘the end of sport’

Risky business: Brain injuries among NFL players are “significantly more common” than average.

A study into American football players may have found a way to spot brain injuries. More sports are coming under fire because they could damage participants’ health. Will people stop playing?

What’s happening

American football involves running, head down, as fast as you can, and ramming your helmeted head into the other team player. It is not surprising the sport has become associated with brain injuries.

Last year, a study found that “more than 40% of retired NFL players had signs of brain injury”. Recent research suggests the problem may be more serious.

Find out more

The injury many American footballers develop is called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. It is very hard to detect, and can only be proved at autopsy. But now, researchers think they have an answer; a simple test to check for changes in the way a person speaks.

If the test is successful, it could help scientists work out how well treatments to prevent brain damage are really working.

With new evidence drawing a link between American football and brain damage, some are now calling for the sport to be banned. Other contact sport games are also under fire, rugby, and boxing for example.

Writing in The Guardian about American football, Dave Bry said: “We, as a society, should end its existence.”

Does this spell the end of contact sport?

Some say…

“Of course not!” say serious NFL fans. People will always have the urge — and the freedom — to do things that might be dangerous. Riding a motorbike or climbing a tree is dangerous, but lots of people do it. What is more, the NFL has become a hugely powerful, popular game in America. It is not going anywhere if we have anything to do with it.

Others think…

“Don’t be so sure,” reply others. Check your history. Bare-knuckle boxing used to be popular in America. People used to think it was ok to play cricket without helmets. When scientists found health risks, these sports changed or became less popular. The same will happen with the NFL. It is right that sport stops being so dangerous and aggressive.

You Decide

  1. Are we too worried about health and safety in sports?

Activities

  1. Design a poster for a new kind of sport that is good for your health and is not dangerous.

Some People Say...

“American football, rugby and boxing should all be banned.”

What do you think?

Word Watch

A study
Researchers at the American Academy of Neurology scanned the brains of NFL players and found evidence of a kind of brain damage known as CTE.
NFL
The National Football League plays American-style football.
CTE
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy causes memory loss, slurred speech and confusion.
Autopsy
An examination which takes place after someone has died to work out what caused their death.

Subjects

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