Millions of football fans watched on Monday night as Bret Favre took a devastating hit that resulted in a concussion, taking the 41 year-old quarterback out of the game, possibly even ending his career. Favre’s concussion is just one of many head injuries suffered in the National Football League this year. Current figures show that the number of concussions sustained so far this season is up more than 20 percent from the total number reported in all of 2009, and more than 30 percent from 2008.
Those are troubling statistics, but the NFL is determined to do something about it. Starting late last year the league set up new rules for checking players on the sidelines during a game to determine whether they have a concussion or can get back on the field, and has been working closely with the player’s union to increase awareness about the dangers and lasting repercussions of head injuries. It’s a good move for protecting the long term health of the athletes, and one that’s likely to be replicated by college and high school sports programs as well.
In addition to raising awareness about the subject, NFL Charities, the charitable foundation of the NFL owners, has awarded Children’s Hospital Boston a grant to support sports-related medical research on concussions, specifically examining how genetics may influence a person’s health after repeated concussions.
William Meehan, MD, director of the Sports Concussion Clinic in the Division of Sports Medicine at Children’s, is excited to receive the grant, which will help his program further research and treat these injuries.
“The NFL grant will help us develop an accurate model of concussive brain injuries in mice,” he says “The model will be used to test the effects of age and genetics on recovery, as well as potential therapies for the treatment of concussive brain injury.”
Mark Proctor, MD of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Department of Neurosurgery contributed to the wording of a bill that passed this summer, which does more to protect young athletes from returning to games after concussions.