Football Concussion Prevention: A Growing Concern

R. Robert Franks, DO, FAOASM September 7th, 2017

If you would like to learn more about the risks that football players face from concussions and associated conditions, this information from the experts at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute can help to shine some light on your questions and concerns.

Football has been in the news a lot lately, and not necessarily for the typical reasons. Though headlines regarding Sunday games and noteworthy plays are still making as many headlines as ever, there is another more unfortunate reason why football has been grabbing headlines.

Concussions. They've always been a serious concern for athletes, but new research findings have opened up a massive national conversation about the safety and long-term health of football players.

Consequently, football concussion prevention has likewise become a major concern; players and fans do not want to enable a dangerous cycle of serious injuries, but conversely, many don’t want to see this popular pastime abruptly abandoned. Like the findings surrounding the concussions themselves, studies determining the effectiveness of various football concussion prevention methods and new concussion prevention technology have only recently been picking up momentum. As this subject becomes a more thoroughly studied subject and less breaking news, more informed prevention methods and concussion prevention equipment will ideally follow.

The experts at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute recognize the importance of concussion prevention in sports and the serious nature of these injuries; that's why we've compiled this overview of football concussions and what you can do to prevent them.

Football Concussions: What We Know

Concussions are common brain injuries that result from traumatic impact. When blunt force jars the head or snaps the neck of an athlete, it can cause the brain to impact the skull; this causes the bruising of the brain known medically as a concussion.

Concussions themselves are serious conditions, causing symptoms of memory loss, head pain, blurred vision, and dizziness. In some cases, symptoms are more severe. But one of the greatest risks associated with concussions is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that can result from repeated traumatic brain injuries. First noted in boxers, observant medical professionals have recently shone a critical light on football and the NFL as a dangerously regular source of concussions and, consequently CTE.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease, meaning it causes physical atrophy of brain mass. Caused by forceful impacts to the cranium, CTE is a chronic condition, causing gradual deterioration of the brain over the course of years or decades. Other areas of the brain might become swollen and enlarged. In certain areas, tau protein (a cell structure stabilizer) may accumulate as a symptom of CTE, interfering with healthy neural functioning.

Symptoms in patients of CTE include:

  • Memory loss

  • Loss of behavioral control; loss of impulse control

  • Impaired judgement

  • Aggression

  • Depression

  • Impaired balance and motor skills

  • Increased risk of cognitive disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer's

These symptoms of CTE are so devastating that, when further light was shed upon the reality of this condition and its association with football, some 4,500 retired NFL players introduced a federal lawsuit against the NFL, demanding compensation for their traumatic, potentially chronic health damages. In fact, with the risk of developing cognitive disorders 35 times more likely in football players than non-players, the NFL expects approximately a third of all retired players to develop some form of cognitive disorder.

Football Concussion Prevention: What You Can Do

For concussion prevention, NFL players have utilized improved helmets as well as mouthguards; in terms of concussion prevention products and safety gear, football players generally utilize considerably more equipment than concussion prevention in soccer, where concussions are likewise a serious concern.

But is protective equipment effective enough to protect players from concussions and the risk of CTE?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. While helmets and other protective equipment can prevent more traumatic head injuries, such as skull fractures, they cannot reliably protect against concussions. Studies have shown that football helmets on average only reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury by approximately 20%. Utilizing a concussion prevention headband may likewise reduce risk, but not significantly enough to be considered a sufficient means of football concussion prevention. Research determining the relative effectiveness of various football safety equipment has been largely inconclusive.

The best means of football concussion prevention, then, is education and awareness. Some helpful, basic tips for preventing concussions while at play include:

  • Wear proper equipment at all times, including practice

  • Examine playing field for uneven spots

  • Incorporate neck-strengthening exercises into training

  • Pad side posts for impact

  • Discourage aggression in practice and on the field

  • Learn and use proper technique

The experts at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute have a wide scope of knowledge and expertise. They understand the serious nature of sports injuries and the importance of football concussion prevention. If you'd like to speak with a doctor or specialist or schedule a consultation, contact Rothman Orthopaedic Institute today.

Related Physicians

Filter Physicians



Please select your region to view available physicians.

Select Your Region

Related Conditions

Related Treatments

Related Services

Related Programs

  • Sports Concussion Program

    Concussion care is a special focus of Rothman's sports medicine program. We've developed the most advanced multi-disciplinary evaluation and treatment techniques based on research done by the concussion specialists here at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute.
    Read More
1 of 1
You are using an unsupported version of Internet Explorer. To ensure security, performance, and full functionality, please upgrade to an up-to-date browser.