There is one immutable fact with regard to contact sports.
The human brain is like an egg yolk, fits loosely inside the skull and does not appreciate being sloshed about and slammed into the bones of the head.
Progress is being made. More attention over the last few years to the potential long-term consequences of blows to the head have revealed that having one’s ‘bell rung’ is a temporary malady in the short term, but damage to the brain can come along years subsequent to the retirement of players involved in contact sports.
The syndrome has a fancy name, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CPE), which is easier to discuss using the word ‘concussion.’
A new initiative in New Zealand designed by the Centre for Brain Research (CBR) at the University of Auckland is looking for rugby players to undergo post-mortem brain autopsies in an attempt to better understand and prevent players from living out their days with any manner of cognitive difficulties.
CBR released a statement about the new research that said, in part, “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.”
Understanding the long-term impact of numerous knocks to the head is the goal for the CBR and they intend to work with other researchers in a collaborative effort to prevent athletes in contact sports codes from suffering decades after they have hung up the boots.
The Concussion Legacy Foundation Brain Bank in the U.S. is undertaking a similar task and the CBR can benefit and build on the work done in the NFL.
American gridiron players wear high tech protective headgear, yet give the fragile anatomy of the skull and the brain, those helmets have not eliminated concussions.
The biggest strides have been in various leagues in removing players at any indication of head trauma.
In the old days, a concussed player was given a snort of ammonium carbonate (smelling salts) and sent right back out on the ground.