While most of the major team sports codes across the world continue to struggle to find good officiating, consistent officiating, or at the very least, officiating that does not supply routine embarrassment and the various video replay systems create more harm than good, one thing that has provided a bright spot is that more care is being taken with the long-term brain health of athletes who participate in contact sports.
New Zealand is actively seeking former rugby players to donate their brains when they die in order to facilitate a long-term study aimed at providing better understanding of the consequences of concussions.
The new initiative is the brainchild of the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. They are looking for donations from those who have played rugby, soccer, or participated in boxing, even if, in some cases, a player went an entire career without concussion issues.
In many instances, autopsies have shown that athletes suffered impaired brain function long past their playing days, but in the case of New Zealand, as many as 9,000 athletes aged 19 and under were concussion victims.
“Adding a sports injury aspect to its existing research platform is a significant step for the CBR and promises to deepen our understanding of the impact sports injuries have on the brain,” the centre said in a statement published by Reuters.
The study is trying to gain a better understanding of, amongst other conditions, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CPE).
CTE is a degenerative disease that increases in severity with age that has been conclusively linked to repeated blows to the head.
Rugby and boxing are easy enough to understand. While contact in soccer is limited, players often scramble their brains on high velocity crosses when they attempt to head the ball toward the goal.
CTE cannot be determined without an autopsy.
The New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank has shared the intention to share and collaborate with the Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Bank from the U.S.
The NFL is being sued routinely by former players and more than one death has been definitively linked to CPE, even in the NFL code where players wear high-tech helmets.