How Common Are Concussions in Football?

man suffering from a concussion

A concussion is a common ailment that is frequently brought to the attention of our physical therapists here at MOTION. A concussion is a traumatic head injury that often leaves the victim feeling disoriented and woozy. Typically, the injury occurs as a result of a head-on collision that may have even resulted in a loss of consciousness. In the majority of cases, concussions tend to occur because of athletic competition, and no sport has received more scrutiny in the past 10 years for their constant struggle with concussions than football. If you’re a football player, and you’re worried that your symptoms may indicate a concussion, MOTION can help.

What are Concussions?

Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries that are predominantly caused by a direct blow to the head. This forcible action acts as a stimulant, causing the brain to rock back and forth inside the victim’s skull. In more severe cases, concussions can alter the brain’s capability to function. Unfortunately, research indicates that concussions produce harmful long-term effects. In most cases, these effects are not felt unless the patient has suffered many concussions, which is unfortunately common for most football players who play for a long period. Examples of these long-term damages can include:

  • Memory loss
  • Frequent depression
  • Random spurts of anger
  • Feeling “unlike” your usual self
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Personality changes
  • Irritability
  • Heightened sensitivity to both light and noise
  • Restlessness at night and difficulty sleeping
  • Disorders relating to sense of smell and sense of taste
  • Other psychological problems

Symptoms of a concussion are usually noticeable immediately, but it is possible that they can linger and only be recognized a few days later. If you’re a patient who has shown signs of any of the above symptoms, please consult with a skilled healthcare professional, such as a physical therapy specialist.

The Correlation Between Football and Suffering a Concussion

According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, an estimated 1.6-3.8 million sports-related concussions occur each year in the United States. Most sports-related concussions can be attributed to football, with an estimate of 60% of cases accounting for this type of injury each year. Concussions have become a polarizing topic in the world of football, and increasingly, football players are opting to retire early or refrain from participating at all. In the NFL, the topic has become a regular discussion, and many options are being explored to help prevent and treat traumatic brain injury. It has become customary for players that exhibit signs of a potential concussion to be removed from the game and evaluated by an independent neurologist. Traditionally, football was known as a sport in which most players opted to play through pain. It wasn’t until this decade that concussion symptoms started to draw more attention.

One of the most famous cases of concussions and retirement centers on former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. Borland was a former standout linebacker at the University of Wisconsin, a program known for producing tough, hard-nosed football players. After his collegiate career was over, he was drafted in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft by San Francisco. He was eventually inserted into the starting lineup midway through the season. Despite not starting for the entire season, Borland had over 100 tackles and solidified himself as one of the upcoming defensive stars in the NFL. But upon the conclusion of the season, Borland made the startling decision to retire from professional football, just one year into his playing career.

Borland cited concerns about brain injuries as the primary reason he retired at such an early age. Borland was diagnosed with two concussions throughout his entire football career. In the first instance, he was merely an 8th-grade student. Symptoms of blacking out are often the clearest indicator of a concussion, and Borland was knocked unconscious as a result of the hit he took. His second traumatic injury came just a few years later when he was a sophomore in high school. In this case, Borland was not knocked unconscious, and he got to his feet, but he had difficulty walking and standing up straight. Borland claims these incidents were only two of many concussions he suffered. He claims to have gotten approximately 13 concussions throughout his career that he elected not to report. Although there can be pressure in football to play through an injury, one of the most dangerous things the victim of a concussion can do is to fail to report their symptoms to a medical professional. At MOTION, our staff strongly advise you to immediately report any symptoms or injury, no matter how insignificant they may seem. If something doesn’t feel right, please contact your nearest athletic trainer, coach, or healthcare practitioner.

What Causes a Concussion to Develop for Football Players?

Most football players develop concussions as a result of collisions, particularly helmet-to-helmet collisions. In college football, the NCAA has an instituted rule known as “targeting” that subjects a player to ejection from the game if they intentionally use the crown of their helmet to collide with another player’s helmet. The good news is that most football organizations, such as the NCAA in this case, recognize the problem and are taking action to prevent athletic brain injuries. Helmet-to-helmet collisions are considered the number one action that leads to concussions in football players, but any direct blow to the head, such as from the shoulder or knees, can also cause a concussion.

Physical Therapy Specializing in Concussion Treatment

MOTION uses sports medicine practices to help patients and athletes understand concussion-related issues and their prevention. Our therapists can monitor your symptoms and determine a plan for rest and recovery so that you can return to sports fully healed. Physical therapy can be used to help treat a variety of other injuries. This includes symptoms of pain relating to the shoulders, knees, and arms. These areas are frequently injured as a result of playing football, due to the violent nature of the sport. If you’re a current or former football player, physical therapy can be a great tool to help you stay healthy and in shape.

For more information on how MOTION can help, visit our website and schedule your appointment today.