Injuries are the last thing one thinks of on game day but they’re an inevitable part of professional sports and they’re shaping what athletics will look like in the future.
Concussions are one of the biggest threats to professional athletes today. Repeated concussions can lead to memory loss, personality changes, depression and anxiety. After suffering one concussion a person is more likely to suffer a second one, and the effects become more severe. Multiple concussions can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CTE.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a brain disorder that occurs after repeated head injuries. Symptoms include memory loss, impaired judgement, aggression, depression and suicidal thoughts. In one famous case, Aaron Hernandez, a young professional football player, committed suicide in prison without knowing he had the disease.
A number of sports have changed their rules to prevent head injuries. The NFL, for instance, has moved kickoffs from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line to reduce the speed players reach before colliding with each other. The NFL will also now penalize a player who lowers his head to make contact with his helmet against an opponent.
Professional boxing and MMA (mixed martial arts) have outlawed strikes to the back of the head, or ‘rabbit punches’. The weight of fighters’ gloves has also changed over the years to control the damage of punches and protect the hands. Larger boxers generally wear heavier gloves, but it is still unclear how much the weight of gloves mitigates the impact of punches.
As rules and regulations change, the future of contact sports remains unclear. For now, anyone participating in contact sports should wear proper safety gear and maintain industry standards.
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