Football season now comes with new worries for players

Football season has always brought a lot of joy to American fans every fall. That joy may be somewhat tempered these days with the growing public knowledge of the dangers of the sport.

However, nobody is sure -- even now -- exactly how dangerous the sport really is. All that anybody can say for certain is that players often get hurt -- badly. Many of them get hurt while they're still very young, on their high school and college fields.

The increased awareness is taking a toll on the game as a whole. Parents are increasingly reluctant to let their children play. That's something that was virtually unimaginable decades ago. Fewer young people are participating in youth leagues, and more professional football players are getting out of the game early.

What accounts for the mass exodus? A series of lawsuits and medical studies have exposed the ugly reality of football. Those tackles don't just cause bruises and broken bones. They also cause brain damage. That happens more easily than people once realized. Minor brain injuries that don't involve concussions pile up with each successive blow that a player takes on the field. The damage can be cumulative and broad.

One of the diseases caused by football is chronic traumatic encephalopathy -- which can't even be diagnosed with certainty until after death. Victims suffer from a variety of complaints, including violent mood swings, intellectual impairments and anxiety.

Former players also suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease at a disproportionate rate. They are more likely to suffer from depression than other people. There's more evidence of cognitive changes in players, although exactly how those are defined isn't yet clear.

It's important to understand that these injuries can occur at any age. Proper coaching methods and good protective gear can reduce a young person's risk of serious brain damage -- but even that is no guarantee. If you're the parent or loved one of a football player who was seriously injured in a game, a personal injury attorney can help you determine if there was negligence involved.

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