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Serious repercussions: A closer look at concussions and CTE

SOUTH BEND, Ind -- The long term health repercussions and risks of football have been documented for a few years now.

But new numbers from a recent study released from the Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System reveal an alarming connection between CTE and football.

Dr. Linda Mansfield, the Director of Sports Medicine for Beacon Medical Group, has studied concussions and football related injuries for nearly two decades and works closely with high schools in St. Joe County.

“Chronic means long term. Traumatic means head injuries. And encephalopathy means changes in the brain that changes in behavior or cognition,” said Dr. Mansfield.

According to the recent study, out of the 202 brains studied of former football players, 177 were diagnosed with CTE, a staggering 87 percent.

Out of that 177, 90 percent played on the college level and 21 percent were high school athletes.

“These kids have a lot of stress on them. They are playing football; they’re going to practice and trying to keep up with their school work. And to see these kids have a concussion and walk around in a fog, it’s a real problem for these kids,” said Dr. Mansfield.

So much so, that new rules are being implemented in Indiana by the IHSAA including a rule where essentially hitting a defenseless player with the body is illegal.

They’ve also prohibited full pad contact at practices to only twice per week after the first game.

Bob Kania is a Hall of Fame Official who has called games for over 50 years.

“It’s changed the way coach’s coach. It’s changed the way techniques in tackling are coached. One of the things I always tell officials. We have a responsibility to act if a kid is not right, is not acting right, if he’s a little disoriented, get him out of the game,” said Kania.

Mansfield says it’s not only up to officials, but coaches and parents, as well.

“There’s no set number of you have an x amount of concussions and you cannot play. But what I try to discuss with the players and parents if we start to see some symptoms, which seem to be permanent, it’s time to start protecting your brain by not going in to the game,” said Dr. Mansfield.

The repercussions of staying in the game can be deadly in the long-term.

Long-time NFL players like Junior Seau battled depression for years which some say is a result of years of head injuries leading to CTE.

Seau took his own life at the age of 43.

Former Notre Dame Wide Receiver and NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown, who knew Seau well, said he will not shy away from putting his son in football because of the new report.

“My son played football last year and I was the coach. We went over tackling and all that. Not one head problem the whole year.  I’m not gonna let him shy away because he’s a very aggressive kid,” said Brown.

‘Rocket’ Ismail is a Former Notre Dame kick returner and wide receiver.

“It’s a very demanding physical sport and emotional sport. And life is very demanding and you have to be able to handle yourself to navigate life. When you are young, football can be a great analogy. There great risk and there is great reward,” said Ismail.

If the study is a precursor of things to come, the risk far outweighs the reward especially for the families of those affected.

Mansfield says in the broad scope the research is still in its infancy but new technology like safer helmets and pads are a step in the right direction.

“They haven’t proven that those have been successful in preventing concussions, but what they have found successful is changing the training and changing the rules,” said Dr. Mansfield.

To see the full report, CLICK HERE.

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