Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Aug 2011

The NFL Star And The Brain Injuries That Destroyed Him

Dave Duerson chose to give his brain to The Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, and the early results from their experiments on the brains of deceased football players are pretty hard to stomach.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 05 Aug 2011

80 comments, Last at 09 Aug 2011, 9:44pm by tuluse


by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 1:32pm

The problem is the complete lack of a control population. I haven't seen the CftSoTE report having received a brain from a "normal" person, or even from a football player who did not report a history of brain damage symptoms. At this point, all the data seems to be begging the question.

by dcaslin :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 1:40pm

Maybe I'm oversimplifying it, but don't they have both types of control populations that they want?
1) Every brain ever studied that wasn't a football player's offers a general control
2) The donated brains that don't have CTE (they have 75 and 50 were diagnosed with CTE, presumably some weren't) would also offer control in the football player population

by Theo :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:13pm

If you want to be accurate, you'd have to see the rest of the lifestyle of the person. Drugs and alcohol for example and the health of the brain before damage.
I think it's proven that many blows to the head are bad for your brain, but for a study you need more parameters over more time.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:11pm

The work of this Center is part of an ongoing long term study. Finding non-diseased brains is probably a lot easier than collecting the diseased ones like Duerson's. In addition, the study is retrospective--control autopsies don't have to be done in parallel.

by KJG520 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 12:54am

Your comment raises a good point. Nothing can be "proven" scientifically without a control population. However, there is a good reason why there is not such a group. Nobody who has a healthy brain has donated their brain for study because they are not thinking to for obvious reasons. The founder of the organization has asked for healthy brains for comparison. Hopefully they get some.

by akn :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 3:29pm

We had plenty of healthy brains to dissect in medical school.

We would probably have plenty of brains to study among healthy retired football players as well if we bothered to check up on them (i.e. give them health coverage) past 5 years as well.

And autopsied brains aren't the only source of good information. Plenty can be learned from physical exams, mental health evaluations, blood tests, and brain scans.

by Sage (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 1:42pm

W...what? Why do you need a control group for brain tissue degradation?

They already know what the standard level of degradation is for a non-football player, clearly. The baseline is already there, and these guys clearly exceed it. This is a Problem!

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:14pm

Because you need a control group for any differential study.

Keep in mind, we've tooled around with autopsied brains for centuries, but hadn't caught cellular-level CTE until recently in any population. (The old "punch-drunk" brain papers predate the concept of CTE, and were looking more at topological changes and tissue atrophy) There's no reason to believe that even a "normal" brain is pristine at death. I know plenty of people who never played football, and have brains ravaged by geriatric dementia, Alzheimer's, or MS.

But, in a larger context, football players as a class don't compare well to the general population. They are heavier, taller, poorer, blacker, and have a significantly different narcotic usage pattern than the 50th percentile American male -- all of which can affect brain development and eventual outcome. This study has been fantastically successful at showing that older football players with known brain damage have extremely high rates of CTE. That said, it started from the premise of collecting brains from old, brain-damaged football players, so that outcome isn't a surprise.

I'm not saying their suggestion of the potential dangers is wrong, merely that what they have actually demonstrated is less wide-sweeping than their data is being used to suggest.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:38pm

Of course due diligence requires that control groups be examined and confounding variables be accounted for, and I'm sure all of that work is ongoing. But from what I understand the effect size observed in these initial exams are so large that it is unlikely some alternative explanation will significantly blunt their findings.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:07pm

The one I'm curious about is chronic alcohol and painkiller abuse, mixed in with the steroid use floating in the pre-90s NFL.

That said, use of a biased sample can give misleading results. The collegiate concussion tolerance data is substantially different than the NFL tolerance data, and the difference is attributed to the collegiate data including tens of thousands of non-concussive impacts as well. As it turns out, the NFL data greatly underestimated tolerance, and results in predicted injury rates an order of magnitude larger than actual rates.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:19pm

Chronic alcohol, opiate, and steroid use, while associated with certain types of dementia, are nonetheless not associated with the excessive tau, amyloid, and other plaques identified in chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

by RichC (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:46pm

Are we sure of that? I'm not aware of any studies checking alchohol/drug abuse against tau levels.

When you only look at the players who die from brain damage symptoms, you're going to find lots of brain damage.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 4:03pm

Here's one from 2009, it shows no association:
Heavy alcohol consumption and neuropathological lesions: a post-mortem human study.


Pathophysiologically, the mechanism for drug-related damage and degenerative disease-related damage to the brain are quite different.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 4:16pm

That same article shows that amyloid accumulation doesn't correlate to CTE.

I've seen a couple of studies showing that while Alzheimers and CTE exhibit similar immunochemistry, they seem to exhibit it differently in location. I've also seem a couple of studies which show that Parkinsons seems to have a similar immunochemistry to CTE as well, and may confound with some of the donated brains that also had frank Parkinsons. That said, I am not a molecular biologist.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 4:35pm

That article said nothing about CTE, so I don't see where you're drawing that negative conclusion.

I never claimed that AD/Parkinson's was the same as CTE, but those degenerative processes have a lot more in common with CTE than drug-abuse related brain disease.

by Lance :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 6:32pm

Off-topic: I love that on FO, we get these sorts of discussions. Does anyone thing that on ESPN's website (to say nothing of, for instance, USA Today) discourse even CLOSE to this would be found?

Thanks for making interesting reading, guys.

by jebmak :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 11:25pm

LOL brians suck noob! ESPn comments rulz!!!

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 6:57pm

You're right. I conflated that article with one linked on the CTE center's site.

by RichC (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:42pm

Do they have a study of athletes who aren't football players? Maybe being an elite athlete is bad for the brain? Maybe we'd see the same thing looking at basketball players. Who knows.

You can't do a study without a control, and the general population isn't a particularly good control group for professional football players.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 1:51pm

The story of Duerson's decline is tragic, especially reading about how his mental faculties seemed to be increasingly impaired.

by Temo :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 1:51pm

Clearly what we need is a control group of brains from people who repeatedly bash their heads into stuff but don't play football, so we can completely control for all variables.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:29pm

We actually have that, in boxing and hockey. Rugby players somewhat to, although the head exposure difference between rugby and football are arguable.

by Temo :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:34pm

True, but it was more sarcasm on my part.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 1:30pm

Soccer centre halves might also work.

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 2:55pm

I have a nervous disorder that sometimes makes me whack myself in the head. It really sucks. I'm only 36, though, so I'm hoping y'all will have to wait awhile before you get my brain.

by Theo :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:10pm

This interests me very much for some reasons.
I've played myself and after my first slant-route-into-a-waiting-linebacker I was just thinking 'don't give me the ball' for 3 plays. You don't get off the field. You only go out when you can't run.
Part of why brain damage isn't taken seriously is because it isn't visible. There's no blood, there's no bone sticking out. Often after a hit on the head you can still play.
A running back asked me after the clubhouse "did we just play or do we still got to go." He played very well that game.

I must also say that more often than not you walk off the field perfectly fine.

Later I looked at CT scans as a job (nothing much, don't get excited) and sometimes when a bad one came by we'd look automatically at the age.
For a brain to be damaged, you expect someone to have a disease and to be 65.

by Temo :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:35pm

Aye, I've had someone bang heads with me playing basketball. He played out the rest of the game, but couldn't play again for weeks because of persisting headaches (I, somehow, was ok).

by jebmak :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 11:28pm

Thick skull?

(Unrelated: Teemo is currently my favorite character in LOL.)

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 08/09/2011 - 7:14pm

Over RaiderJoe? Blasphemy!

by Lance :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 8:02pm

This was the reason (well, a reason) I got out of football in high school. I wasn't particularly great, but good enough to always play the scout team's top receiver. Every week, I'd line up wherever-- SE, TE, F, Slot-- and do those routes that got me killed by the starting LB corps. I began to dread practices, and since I was basically the practice team, I rarely saw playing time.

I didn't mind not seeing playing time-- if I wasn't good enough, I wasn't good enough. But the violent tackling was nuts-- and that was on top of weeks of preseason two-a-days tacking drills. After that first year year, I decided to stick with XC and Track where I got to compete without getting just killed daily. Granted, I couldn't parlay that into incredible NFL money and fame. But it got me through college, and all without massive head trauma.

by bingo762 :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:19pm

I understand people are upset with the NFL for not alerting them to possible brain damage back in the day. But did the NFL even know the dangers?

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 4:53pm

I think that's a fair point. Since science is just now discovering these things, I don't think you could expect the NFL to have known. Now, if someone were to a find a study the NFL had kept hidden on the dangers of concussions, it'd be a totally different story. But, while that happened with the tobacco companies, I kind of doubt you'll see that here.

And if players were ever to file a lawsuit over this, it'd be interesting to see who would be held responsible. I'm sure the league would argue they'd never told a player to get back into the game with a concussion, but that coaches had been doing that for years to win games and protect their own jobs.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 08/09/2011 - 12:46pm

Some players did file a lawsuit some weeks ago. It was detailed on this site. They said the NFL had known about this stuff since 1920 ... which I seriously question.

Here you go ... http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2011/report-75-ex-players-...

by BaronFoobarstein :: Tue, 08/09/2011 - 1:04pm

In the 1920s they thought cognition was done in the bowels, you could tell a person's character by measuring bumps on his head, and that oily rags left in the corner would turn into rats while nobody was looking.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:28pm

Until the recent CBA, health coverage ended 5 years after retirement, often well before symptoms of chronic encephalopathy manifest. Many of the early signs of degenerative brain disease can be identified by a simple physical exam, independent of brain imaging. All it takes is getting these guys to see a doctor every now and then.

I'm a physician and a researcher who works in brain imaging. Even though we don't know everything, there's plenty of things in the neurologist's toolbox to intervene with if disease is identified early on. I'd rather have our research begin with living players, not just the ones who died. When they eventually do, we can confirm the diagnosis with autopsy, but that doesn't mean we have to wait.

by Sergio :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:32pm

How much of this can be mitigated with better helmets, proper tackling techniques, and other measures - and how much is just inherent to football?

I mean, you can teach a safety to go for the hip instead of the body, and wrap up instead of launching. But how can you stop hits in the line?

-- Go Phins!

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:08pm

Banning the Deacon Jones headslap was a good start.

by Arkaein :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:45pm

The last TMQ (from a few weeks ago) was completely about brain injury.

Besides better helmets (the article discussed a VT university project that created a star rating system for helmets), and better fitting helmets, TMQ has also advocated for better mouthguards.

With respect to hits at the line, there was a suggestion that three- and four-point stances be eliminated. I imagine there would be a lot of resistance to this suggestion, but it seems it would at least be an equitable change that doesn't really favor offenses or defenses (at elast if offensive tackles were required to line up closer to the LOS in obvious passing situations, where they normally start by backing away from the defender).

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 4:18pm

I think a stance change might have some effect on neck injury, but with linemen, it's frequency of head impact, not magnitude. You'd have more luck banning the swim move.

by Maude Lebowski (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:44pm

@Aaron Brooks, do you have any knowledge that no controls are being used for this study, or are you just making the (rather insulting) assumption that the trained scientists and researchers doing this work aren't doing so just because it's not being explicitly stated?

You may or may not intend it, but that type of comment comes across as an argument for maintaining the status quo because "more study is needed," despite obvious visual, ancdotal, and research-based evidence to the contrary. I understand this site specializes in statistical analysis to uncover non-intuitive truths, but this isn't a more accurate QB rating model - it's people's lives. Especially when the corrective action does not cause a significant negative impact to the game. Better helmets and a less dismissive approach to concussions by coaching staffs do not constitute an unreasonable burden or a fundamental alteration of the game.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:24pm

I cannot prove a negative. (It's a difficult thing to do.)

My comment is based on two things: 1) The researchers are frequently in the press talking about the damaged brains they've collected, and how they are trying to get many more from symptomatic people who happened to be in organized football. 2) There seems to be a lot of publishing in the press, as opposed to in peer-reviewed literature.

At the moment, I just have concerns. I see press-hungry researchers who go to ESPN before they go to Journal of Biomechanics, and I discussion of significance with no comment regarding investigations of the "normal" data set. That might be a reflection of the sad state of journalism (I've been interviewed by AP and ESPN before. It's as much fiction as it is non-fiction.) as much as it is on what the researchers actually said. That said, I haven't seen any discussion in any forum regarding what the researchers are comparing against, how they are controlling for confounding factors, how they tease out correlation versus causation, etc.

Remember all those reports that NFL players die young? Go try to track down the source for that. There isn't one -- it all goes back to an unsupported claim made in a newspaper article. There's no study showing it.

Don't read into my argument that I think concussions aren't an important issue or that I'm being dismissive. (If it weren't important, I would be unemployed.) I think helmets have gotten better and coaching staffs and trainers are much more aware of concussions than they used to be. It's worth remembering that since Duerson's career ended, we've changed the definition of what a concussion is a couple of times, and there have been two generations of new helmet designs. The situation on the field now is starkly different from the late 1980s.

by akn :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 4:26pm

Follow the money (or lack thereof).

I can tell you there isn't a whole lot of research money flowing from the NIH for sports-related brain injury, as the number of people affected by that research is nowhere near the people affected by something like Alzheimer's. Only recently has the NFL starting putting money into it, and that's mostly a public relations move.

From what I understand, a few early, isolated studies suggested the initial connection. Then the media grabbed on to it, and the issue blew up. The researches continue to try and perform slow, deliberate research, but it's difficult to do so when someone in the sports press is constantly contacting you for your latest preliminary findings to misrepresent. I'm not aware of many press-hungry concussion researchers trying to grab headlines--their money comes from grants, not page-hits. The peer-reviewed process takes time, and continues to slog on, so the news is necessarily slow. The ESPN process moves at the speed of Twitter, so the news is necessarily sensational.

As far as the evolving situation since the 1980s, while I think things have improved, there's no real way to confirm the assumption until the research is done, right? And while the grading of concussions has changed, the fundamental definition is largely the same.

That said, I have no skin in this particular game. I do brain research and I'm a football fan, but I work in a completely different field.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 7:03pm

The fundamental definition of concussion hasn't changed since Hippocrates' Aphorisms (~415 B.C.) The acknowledgement that you don't actually have to lose consciousness is substantially newer, though, and became accepted only after Duerson's playing career.

My point about the general change is that we won't know the effect of current helmets, or even one generation old, for another 10-20 years, until today's players age and begin to die. And that wait can be a long one. There are retired NFL players in their 100s.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 7:04pm

general = generational.

by Roch Bear :: Sun, 08/07/2011 - 5:02pm

I would hope that all first time players are given high resolution anatomical MRIs in their first training camp nowdays. Each player would then serve as their own 'control' in subsequent examinations for trauma.

by Bearjew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 8:27am

Do you think that will be the only change to the game?

The examiner in the article states this is something which is inevitable to being a pro football player. The corrective action will be to outlaw the offensive line and the running game.

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 2:51pm

I think most reasonable people agree brain damage is bad, and football as it is constituted causes brain damage. So, the question is what do we do about it? How far do measures have to be taken? Is there a level of brain damage people would be comfortable with? Would just instituting mandatory rests when concussions are suffered (and correctly diagnosing them) be enough? Rests and new helmets? Or does the game have to change?

by Temo :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:24pm

Is there a level of brain damage people would be comfortable with?

I think the resounding answer from the football audience is: A lot of brain damage, as long as it's not me.

by RichC (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 3:50pm

Thats a bit better than the average football player's opinion, which is : " A lot of brain damage, as long as I get paid"

by Sander :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 4:09pm

But is that really better? Shouldn't a football player be allowed to make that decision, fully informed, for himself?

That's not to say that I don't care about this brain damage, I do. I'm all in favor of any measure that protects players and find all the 'flag football' arguments ludicrous. There needs to be more research into better helmets, there should be rule changes and emphasis in the rules on eliminating hits to the head and spearing. But there's a point at which we have to simply say: these players chose a career that's bad for their bodies in exchange for lots of money. That's their choice, and we shouldn't legislate that away.

After all, players already know that their bodies will be shot after their careers, and have known that for decades. Is living with chronic pain, needing an hour to get out of bed, walking like a gingerly old man at age 40 and dying an average of 20 or so years earlier than the rest of the population not a significant hit on a person's quality of life? And while I think we're all in favor of comprehensive lifetime medical coverage for these players (when provided by the NFL at least), the fact that playing football is bad for you in the long and short term is hardly something new. Why should we okay one form of body damage but disallow another?

by Noah Arkadia :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 8:15pm

My first reaction is "no way!", but I see your point. Just because I think it would be stupid or even downright retarded to take money in exchange for brain damage, do I really have the right to make the decision for someone else?

That being said, modern society has pretty much answered "hell yes!" to that one by banning freedoms that it considers harmful to the individual, like partaking of certain substances, taking your own life under any circumstances, not wearing a seat belt, etc.

by Sander :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 9:07pm

Absolutely, but society has also said that it's okay to ruin your own body for money to a point. Obviously, professional sports are a great example, but working in the mining industry or construction are great ways to make sure your body breaks down early as well.

So the question becomes where do we draw the line? And why should we draw the line at brain damage but not at debilitating physical injuries?

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 3:00pm

Football players are kids. As HS or college players, or even as NFL rookies, they're not mentally equipped to make decisions like these.

by akn :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 3:25pm

But they are "mentally equipped" to drink, to drive, to vote, and/or serve in the military?

One cannot arbitrarily decide when someone is "mentally equipped" based solely on age. Legally competent on the other hand--that has already been decided.

by Theo :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 10:38pm

45.600 in iraq and 103.700 in afghanistan.

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 8:07pm

Maybe. Once upon a time the practices in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle were accepted too.

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 11:03am

Upton Sinclair really wanted to give us socialism. Instead, he got the FDA. As it turned out, no one cared about the workers, but they cared greatly about the sausage.

by Bearjew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 8:30am

I would have no problem being inflicted with brain damage in my 50s for a year of playing pro football and $800,000 right now.

by BJR :: Sun, 08/07/2011 - 9:21am


by Threadbare (not verified) :: Sun, 08/07/2011 - 9:35am

LOL you've obviously never had a brain injury.

Or maybe you have...

by Threadbare (not verified) :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 10:59pm

I notice that Aaron's evil twin has backed well off his original assertion: "The problem is the complete lack of a control population." Now it's: "I see press-hungry researchers who go to ESPN before they go to Journal of Biomechanics, and I discussion of significance with no comment regarding investigations of the "normal" data set."

Which is where the discussion should have started. Once info like this hits the media, it becomes more political than scientific.

Be nice if somebody could come up with a way to fix that.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 08/05/2011 - 11:25pm

Is there a distinction between "normal data set" and "control population?"

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 11:12am

Where did I do that? The question regarded why I made the original post.

As I poked deeper, and in response to other posters, I have seen some studies that compare the biochemistry of the trauma population (and don't get me started on medical syndrome definitions that pre-suppose the mechanism -- the literature around "shaken baby syndrome" is fraught with that problem) to the Alzheimers population (different) and the Parkinson's population (more similar, but not fully explored). But I still haven't seen any studies comparing the backgrounds, lifestyles, and confounding variables of the 'trauma population' with the 'atrauma population', and only very preliminary work looking at the actual epidemiological incidence rate. There's a little starting on aPoE and its effect on CTE rate. So still unresolved is whether CTE is an endemic issue or something that effects those who in retrospect should have avoided anything resembling an impact sport, and whether it's higher than background noise in either population. It's interesting research, and may result in something very important, but as it stands, it's somewhat premature to use what we have now to indict an entire family of sport (The rugbys and all football codes have the same issue) -- which is how the press is using the research.

by CaptAnonymous (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 8:12am

I'm pissed about this. There seems to be an agenda attached to this research beyond the health of players.

In my family I have a family member who loathes the sport and has used this kind of research to get on the proverbial soapbox. All we know right now is that we have a few kamikazes who play football for 20+ years at very high levels that suffer brain damage in some correlative fashion.

by Bearjew (not verified) :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 8:33am

Why do you care?

by Sander :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 8:59am

The fact that people try to use this for their own agendas doesn't mean the research isn't valid.

by akn :: Sat, 08/06/2011 - 3:36pm

The agenda belongs to non-researchers pushing non-research agendas to non-research press.

And we know much more than what happened to "a few kamikazes." A phrase like that suggests an alternative agenda.

by andrew :: Sun, 08/07/2011 - 9:11pm

I wonder if we have data from players in the era of leather helmets...

by Aaron Brooks' Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 11:13am

What kind of data are you looking for?

Remember, though, the leather helmet era pre-dates CTs and MRIs.

by alljack (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 1:55am

The libertarian perspective put forth by Sander would be valid if every 8th grader who put on a helmet knew what he was risking, and consciously decided to accept the risk. Otherwise, you're frigging like an 8th grader.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 1:47pm

But - correct me if I'm wrong here - isn't what we have evidence that a career in pro football may well cause long term brain damage? It's a real leap from there to concluding that the considerably less frequent and lower impact hits in high school football have the same effect.

by tuluse :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 2:29pm

On the other hand, 14-18 year-olds probably have a lower tolerance for brain trauma.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 3:31pm

Do you mean that they are probably more likely to be averse to the trauma from a risk/reward perspective, or do you mean that their brains are less resilient or more susceptible to trauma?

by tuluse :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 6:12pm

I meant less resilient, so fewer weaker traumas can cause more damage.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 7:13pm

typically neurological recovery from injury is more complete in the young. A newborn without an entire cerebral hemisphere might appear normal after development.

by tuluse :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 8:17pm

Sure, but drop a baby on it's from a couple feet and you're in big trouble. Drop a 20 year old on his head from a couple feet and he'll have a bump.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 08/09/2011 - 7:19pm

But we're talking about cumulative stuff here, right, not sudden death? Surely capacity for regeneration is more at issue than susceptibility to impact?

by tuluse :: Tue, 08/09/2011 - 9:44pm

I think both are issues. If you take less damage in the first place then you don't have to recover in the first place.

by akn :: Tue, 08/09/2011 - 12:40am

That newborn might look normal, but the whole seizures and mental retardation thing might give it away.

by Aaron Brook's Good Twin (not verified) :: Mon, 08/08/2011 - 9:26pm

Depends on the kind of trauma. As an acceleration criteria, small size is protective. As a transfer of momentum criteria, it's a mixed bag. What you gain from increased acceleration tolerance, you lose in reduced inertia.

The testing data indicate that head acceleration levels in college are pretty similar to the NFL, and high school isn't much different from college. (Delta-Vs go up substantially from high school to college to the NFL)

But kids are more resilient than you'd think. In many ways, they're more resilient than the goliaths that populate the NFL.