Brain Injuries in Sports

By: Skyler, Chris, and Samantha

What is a brain injury?

A brain injury is a brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head.

Top 3 Sports with Brain Injuries

  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Soccer

Brain Injuries in Football - Skyler

Concussions and other types of repetitive play-related head blows in football have been shown to be the cause of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has led to player suicides and other debilitating symptoms after retirement, including memory loss, depression and dementia.

  • One of the greatest causes of death among football players.

  • On September 30, 2014, researchers with Boston University announced that in autopsies of 79 brains of former NFL players, 76 were tested positive for CTE

  • National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported a statistically significant increase in the risk of neurological disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in retired football players, which furthered public risks of long-term neurocognitive disease related to repeated head impacts

  • On February 3, 2013, the NFL and General Electric partnered on a five-year, $50 million project to develop technology to predict brain injuries, show injury severity and the rate of recovery, and to create more protective material

  • The National Football League has made numerous rule changes to reduce the number of concussions suffered by players while making the game safer



CTE: a form of tauopathy, a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have had a severe blow to the head.

  • Generally begin 8-10 years after experiencing repetitive mild traumatic brain injury.

  • First Stage Symptoms: deterioration in attention as well as disorientation, dizziness, and headaches

  • Further disabilities appear with progressive deterioration; including memory loss, social instability, erratic behavior, and poor judgment

  • Third and Fourth stages include progressive dementia, slowing of muscular movements, hypomimia, impeded speech, tremors, vertigo, deafness, and suicidal.



College Football

  • The NCAA, like the NFL, has been criticized for its handling of concussions, with numerous players having retired from football due to concussions, or have filed lawsuits against the association for failing to protect student-athletes from concussions.

High School Football

  • Concussions are frequent in high school football.

  • Football has the highest rate of concussions among high school sports

  • About 50 high school or younger football players across the country were killed or sustained serious head injuries on the field since 1997

The NFL's concussion crisis, explained

Brain Injuries in Ice Hockey


Fighting and body-checking are as much a part of ice hockey as skates and pucks, but are they necessary? Ice hockey has come under fire for having a high chance of brain injuries for its players, often in the form of concussions. In an effort to curb these traumatic brain injuries, the NHL banned blindside checks to the head before the 2010-11 season. That next season, that rule was expanded to ban all hits to the head.


However, the year the change started, concussions in the NHL jumped from 44 to 65, a significant increase. The number then went up again in Year 3, to 85. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most concussions were linked to legal hits or non penalized plays. “In only 28% of the concussive events was there a penalty issued,” Dr. Michael Cusimano, a neurosurgeon at the University of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, said.

Brain Injuries in Soccer

Players With Brain Injuries (Chris, Sam, Skyler)

Jovan Belcher

  • One of the most shocking cases of a murder-suicide perpetrated by a professional athlete diagnosed with CTE

  • 25 year old Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher’s career had barely even started when he shocked the world by murdering his 22 year old girlfriend before turning the gun on himself

  • It wasn’t just the murder-suicide that was shocking; it was the manner in which he went about it. After a night out, Belcher returned to the home he shared with his girlfriend, their infant daughter, and his mother, and shot his girlfriend 9 times before fleeing in his car to the Chiefs’ practice facility. Upon arrival, Belcher confronted the Chiefs General Manager and asked the team to take care of his child. Once the sound of police sirens began approaching the practice facility, Belcher told his GM, coach and a team mate that he “can’t be here,” knelt beside his car, and after making the sign of the cross, and shot himself in the head.

  • Belcher’s blood alcohol level was found to be over the legal limit after his body was exhumed and his brain further examined, it was proven that Belcher suffered from CTE, something that family members say led to his increasingly erratic behavior before the murder-suicide.



Junior Seau

  • Was one of the greatest linebackers of his time, with 12 Pro Bowl selections, and an AFC Player of the Year Award, predominantly with the San Diego Chargers

  • After a stint with the Miami Dolphins, Seau briefly retired, before signing with the New England Patriots where he played a large role in maintaining the Patriots’ supremacy atop the AFC

  • Beyond football, Seau also founded a foundation in his name that aimed to keep young children away from drugs and help empower them

  • In what most media outlets compared to former NFL player Dave Duerson’s suicide a year previous, Seau took his own life in eerily similar circumstances, a gunshot to the chest

  • His suicide shocked the sports world. He was not abusing drugs, and was said to not have shown the hallmark signs of CTE, which has been blamed as the cause of his suicide


Dave Duerson

  • Safety Dave Duerson had an illustrious career in the NFL, being selected to the Pro Bowl four times, winning the NFL Man of the Year Award in 19876 and, most importantly, winning two Super Bowls, first with the Chicago Bears in 1986, and then the New York Giants in 1991.

  • He also set a single-season sack record, that after 19 years was finally broken

  • After football, Duerson was also a successful businessman for a period

  • Shot himself to death in 2011 and his brain was donated to science where it was discovered that he suffered from CTE



Terry Long

  • Played eight seasons in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers as an offensive tackle

  • He didn’t necessarily have an illustrious career as a player, he was productive

  • It was after his shocking suicide, by drinking antifreeze in 2005, where Terry Long made his biggest impact on football.

  • After an autopsy was conducted, and severe CTE was found to be present in Long’s brain


Bob Probert


  • Played 16 seasons as a forward for the Chicago Blackhawks
  • Won 246 fights in the NHL
  • Was shown to have CTE



Derek Boogaard


  • Played left wing for the Minnesota Wild
  • Also had CTE
  • Known for initiating severe fights
  • played for 7 years


Ryan Freel

  • Played Baseball from 2001 to 2009
  • Played 1st, 2nd, and 3rd baseman.
  • Collided with Norris Hopper which resulted in a major concussion
  • Diagnosed with CTE postmortem