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Does the media put athletes more at risk for brain injuries?

San Diego sports fans know that sometimes intensity during a game can lead to an injury for one of the players. From junior football leagues to afterschool hockey games all the way up to college and professional sports, a close game can be exciting and fun to watch as players work hard to win. For players, cheering fan, excited commentators, and praise from the media are a big part of the reward for doing well.

In college and professional sports, fans expect and accept a certain amount of violence as a part of the game. In fact, many fans have expressed concern about potential new rules in the NFL to help curb brain injury risks, saying that less contact will lessen the entertainment value of the sport. Researchers recently began to question this concept, looking at local reporting on hockey games to see if media portrayals of contact sports injuries could be a contributing factor to this attitude.

The results found that in newspapers in the United States, awareness of the risk of traumatic brain injuries in sports has increased significantly. Where reporters used to comment only on TBIs for star players, there is now a wider discussion on concussions for players at all levels and a concern for children who participate in contact sports.

A traumatic brain injury can be an impact like a concussion from taking a hard hit to the head when a car accident occurs, or it could be from an object, like a bullet or a piece of metal entering the brain.

Suffering from a traumatic brain injury such as serious concussion can lead to day-to-day complications like memory problems and difficulty processing sensory inputs like sound and smell. Brain injuries can also cause depression, aggressive behavior, or personality changes. People who have suffered from a concussion often do not realize that the effects could be long lasting and that problems like depression or anger difficulties could arise after other symptoms like memory loss have dissipated.

In the context of sports like football and hockey which involve heavy physical contact, a traumatic brain injury can occur when a player falls down, gets slammed against the wall, or has a collusion with another player.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Is the media to blame for the brain injuries of hockey players?," Karen Kaplan, April 17, 2013.

Information about the rights of accident victims who have brain injuries can be found on our website.

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