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Concussions and Sports

Illustration by Kailey Whitman

How will our understanding of concussions change sports?

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a larger series of Q&As that originated in the future-focused UD Magazine. To see additional questions, please visit please visit the Envisioning the Future website.

Sports-related concussions are virtually inevitable. As long as we’re playing sports, people will hit each other and concussions will likely occur. And although concussions get all the attention, new research suggests that repetitive head impacts (literally hitting your head over and over again) might pose a greater threat.

As the dangers become more apparent, we’re probably going to see a change in the makeup of our athletes. Fewer kids will play collision sports and we’ll likely also see less participation from upper- and middle-income families. At the same time, we’re already noticing a decrease in the amount of contact allowed in youth sports, which, on the whole, is a good thing. If you can reduce the number of times a child gets hit in the head, that’s good. But by protecting our children, will they learn the necessary skills to eventually protect themselves? For instance, if we delay football tackling until a kid turns 14, could his injuries be worse because he never learned the proper way to tackle and be tackled?

These are questions for which we don’t yet have answers. But they’ll certainly affect our understanding of concussions, which will, in turn, affect how sports are played, and by whom.

Thomas Buckley is a University of Delaware associate professor of kinesiology and applied physiology whose research examines concussion recovery. He was involved in a landmark $23 million NCAA comprehensive study of head impact exposure on 25,000-plus student-athletes from 21 schools, including more than 600 at UD.

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