(Almost) everyone loves football. So much so, that we encourage our kids to start playing from a very early age. Why? It’s a team sport! It’s exercise! They learn so many valuable skills by being pummeled and ordered around! But is football really that good for overall health?
According to the Sports Concussion Institute, there is a 75% that a male football player will get a concussion. That makes it seem like everyone gets concussions, so it’s not really that big of a deal. But what actually happens to the brain during a traumatic injury?
First of all, a huge influx of ions disrupts the brain. This can lead to a migraine. The brain then goes in to energy (ATP) generation overdrive in order to put the ions back where they belong. With so much ATP being used, there is a high concentration of the degraded ATP—ADP. But, there is usually a limited blood supply to the brain right after a traumatic injury, so enough ATP can’t be generated to go around. Meanwhile, the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell!!) do their part by taking in extra calcium ions. It can house them for a while, but after too long the calcium ions begin poisoning the mitochondria, which can cause damage all over the body.
Luckily, all of this can often be repaired given enough time and rest. But if someone with a concussion goes out and keeps playing football, there is a much higher risk for a second concussion. The body is not supplied with enough energy to keep functioning normally, so mistakes happen more easily. Bad news is, the recovery time skyrockets and the recovery amount decreases significantly if a second blow to the head occurs.
So maybe like most people you will continue playing football or allowing your children to play football. But just make sure that you are aware of the risks, and pay attention to hits to the head—it’s better to sit out the rest of the game than to permanently damage your brain.