Dimentia Pugilistica (DP) is a neurodgenerative dementia that affects those who have experienced brain injury; athletes include Jack Demsey, Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Graziano, Owen Thomas, Muhammad Ali, and Junior Seau to name just a few; similar injuries occur in the military.
Technology and medicine have advanced to the point where identifying Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and other sports injuries are laying bare sobering facts that make every sports franchise owner, athlete, and fan think more deeply about the purpose and meaning of sports. Can we really live with and feel good about sports in which our “heroes” are seriously permanently injured?
A Look at the Bullfight and Sports Psychology
If we look at the psychology of sports through the eye of the bullfight in which the bull was traditionally killed the event is like a classic tragedy where adversaries are matched and skill, awareness and strength determine the victor. We know that the Matador has an advantage because of his sword but Matadors have been injured and killed; the bull has a chance. Usually though, the bull is sacrificed at the end of the bullfight so that there is resolution to the conflict; humans would be unsatisfied were this not the case. It would be like the story of Romeo and Juliet ending before the suicide. Sports psychologists believe fan psychology is rooted in our primitive experience when we lived in small tribes and our best warriors helped protect us for other tribes.
The NFL’s Response to Concerns Over Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)
The NFL and General Electric have just announced a $60 million research project into brain injuries with a purpose of developing new technologies to help protect brains from traumatic injury in sports, the military and the general public. According to GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt the program will bring together the best minds in the world to improve identification, prevention and management of brain injuries.
The NFL is facing a lawsuit by 4,000 former professional football players and their families many of whom have been living with life-altering brain injuries. According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 173,000 brain injuries related to sports or recreation are treated in US emergency rooms each year.In the Army there have been 250,000 brain injuries among members since 2000.
Research will seek to answer the question of why some athletes experience brain injury while others don’t. One example is Mohammed Ali whose Parkinson’s disease is said to be related to his being “punchdrunk”; George Foreman on the other hand has aged more normally. This brings up the possibility that some people may have genetic markers that make them more susceptible to brain injuries.
Future Articles on Sports Injuries and Brain Trauma
In future IndustryTap articles we will delve more deeply into technologies being considered to make sports equipment safer, check up on medical and treatment programs and progress for people with TBIs, and breakdown the worldwide sports industry with a focus on new engineering and technology advances from equipment changes to stadium design and architecture.