12 Sports with Dangerous Connections to Brain Injury

Competitive sports are an important part of youth development and can offer kids the chance to hone a number of skills including their self-confidence and their physical abilities. However, some of our favorite pastimes might not be as safe as you might think. Here are 12 sports that have been linked to serious brain injuries that can have life-long negative effects on both amateur and professional athletes.

Wrestling

People often scoff about professional wrestling and dismiss it as “fake”; but there’s nothing fake about the brain injuries that have been sustained by former WWE wrestlers over the years. In 2016, more than 50 former wrestlers filed a class action suit against World Wrestling Entertainment alleging that many of suffer from brain damage and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition similar to Alzheimer’s.

One famous case that many remember is that of Canadian wrestler Chris Benoit who tragically killed his family and himself in 2007. Benoit’s brain was later examined and his behaviour was found to have been greatly impacted by the severe brain injuries that he sustained in the ring. Benoit’s parents have since dedicated themselves to warning athletes about the dangers of chronic concussions.

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Football

America’s national pastime also happens to be a pretty dangerous one and its effects are being felt in both the amateur and the professional world. The National Football League was called to task in 2013 when more than 4000 former players brought a lawsuit against them alleging that the league purposefully ignored the risks of brain damage while profiting off the players. The NFL denied any wrongdoing, but settled the case for $765 million and vowed to take a more serious approach to the issue.

What’s really scary though is that for every NFL player, there are about 2,000 children or teenaged football players in the U.S. who are also at risk for serious brain injuries. Many NFL players say they will discourage their children from pursuing football because the risk is too great.

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Hockey

It might be Canada’s national pastime, but there’s nothing polite about the sport of ice hockey. Known for its hard hits and excessive fist fights, hockey is about as violent as a sport can get and has the concussion stats to show for it. One study found that hockey accounts for nearly half of all traumatic brain injuries sustained by Canadian youths who played team sports.

In the professional world, it’s thought that hundreds of National Hockey League players have suffered serious head injuries and some are even bringing lawsuits against the league. Former New Jersey Devils player Mike Peluso, who is permanently disabled due to his injuries, filed a suit against three of his former teams and even alleged that the Devils “wrongfully withheld” his medical records in an attempt to deflect blame.

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