ST. LOUIS, MO. (WGEM) — As the number of high school athletes and football players around the country treated for concussions continue to rise, the science and research behind it become even more crucial.
Dr. David Brody, a neurologist at Barnes Jewish Hospital and his team from Washington University have worked closely with the NFL studying the effects that concussions have on the human brain.
“It causes disruption of the function of the brain, it causes damage to the brain, that disrupts its functioning,” Brody told WGEM Sports.
“Not every injury to the head causes a brain injury, not every hit in the head causes a brain injury, but the ones that do often cause concussions.”
While not every concussion results in permanent damage to the brain, suffering multiple concussions can be a much bigger concern.
“Each concussion makes the next one more severe, and it makes you more likely to have another concussion and it does look like the effects are more than adequate,” Brody expressed.
“You know, one plus one makes five in terms of long term effects. So while most people recover well from a first concussion, the chances from making a full recovery from a second concussion, or third concussion, or fourth concussion just get lower and lower.”
In a sport like football, head collisions are an unavoidable and a frequent caution that comes with the game, and even the most technologically advanced helmets only offer strong protection against external damage.
“But they don’t prevent very well against the rotational injury,” said Brody.
“So when the head rotates it tares the little fibers inside the brain wires inside the brain, and those wires are called axons, and the helmets don’t provide much protection against that, at all.”
There is no simple solution when it comes to safety.
Football is by nature a dangerous game, but the hope for breakthroughs in future research from neurologists like Dr. Brody aims for even more clarity in a game that is now looked at under a microscope.
“The sorts of things that we hope we’ll be able to know in the next ten years for example are after each concussion, exactly how much damage has there been,” Brody expressed.
“Right now we have no way to say. We can tell in autopsies, so when someone dies we can look at the pieces of their brain under a microscope for example and we can see exactly how much damage there has been, but in living people we can’t tell right now.”
“In the next five to ten years we hope that we’ll be able to have scans that will be able to tell us that.”