Football is entertaining to watch, but it’s a violent collision sport that causes the majority of traumatic brain injuries in athletes. During a high-school season, one study finds, nearly 1 in 5 players on any given team will suffer a concussion. Many will suffer more than one. The football establishment needs to address this issue emphatically—and it can do so without changing the essence of the game that millions of Americans love.
Concussions occur when the brain moves suddenly and forcefully within the skull, back and forth or rotationally, like a lump of Jell-O in a box. The brain may require weeks to recover; what effects ultimately linger, doctors cannot fully predict. They diminish brain function, including cognition, memory, attention span, learning ability, emotional and behavioral stability and other features of “executive function.” A repeat concussion that occurs before the first one has healed can cause second-impact syndrome, which is far more severe.