December 9

Going Mental

Sunday’s Big Idea

Today's Big Idea: Mental Health

How severe does an incident of head trauma have to be to result in degenerative brain disease? We don't know for sure, but a recent study found disturbing evidence in the tissue of deceased football players, wrestlers, hockey players, boxers and military veterans. This evidence suggests less serious head trauma can cause degenerative injury.

This is a major wakeup call to the sport of football. 

The NFL, for its part, is considering rules changes such as eliminating kickoffs -- one of the most dangerous plays in the game. But is that enough? Can physics step in and design a new helmet that will better absorb the shock of a hit?

The new helmets certainly won't be pretty. But that will be a tradeoff players and fans will have to accept if they want a safer game, or if parents choose to allow their children to participate in the sport. 

  1. 1 Can Physics Save Football?
  2. 2 Football's Concussion Crisis
  3. 3 The Curious Case of Phineas Gage
  4. 4 Can Head Trauma Cause Alzheimer's?
  1. Can Physics Save Football?

    Can Physics Save Football?

    The football helmet was designed to protect players against harm (by skull fractures), but the new behavior created a new threat (of concussions and other brain injuries).

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  2. Football's Concussion Crisis

    Football's Concussion Crisis

    Evidence is mounting that football is even more damaging to the brain than it is to the body—with links to Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

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  3. The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

    The Curious Case of Phineas Gage

    The iconic abnormal psych case of Phineas Gage provided scientists with the first hints that different functions like decision-making and language acquisition were grouped into localized areas within the brain.

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  4. Can Head Trauma Cause Alzheimer's?

    Can Head Trauma Cause Alzheimer's?

    One of the most robust environmental risk factors identified for Alzheimer’s disease is traumatic brain injury. This is having repercussions for those returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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