Science Agenda: ÿUnschooled in Hard Knocks; February 2012; Scientific American Magazine; by The Editors; 1 Page(s)
The dangers of life in the National Football League made headlines in 2009, when a study commissioned by the NFL found that retired players were 19 times more likely than other men of similar ages to develop severe memory problems. The obvious culprit: continued play after repeated head injuries. Indeed, head injury can imitate many types of neurodegenerative disease, including Parkinson’s disease and, as journalist Jeffrey Bartholet reports in “The Collision Syndrome,” on page 66, perhaps even amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The problem is not unique to professional sports. About 144,000 people aged 18 and younger are treated every year in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for concussions, according to a December 2010 analysis in the Journal of Pediatrics. Nearly a third of these injuries occur while kids are playing organized sports. Forty percent of pediatric concussions seen in emergency rooms involve high school students. The figure is slightly higher—42 percent—for younger children. Overall, concussions are most common in football and ice hockey, followed by soccer, wrestling and other sports, and slightly more boys than girls suffer concussions.