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Does playing sports = brain damage?

The narrative is spreading in North America: playing sports leads to concussion. In turn, concussions lead to depression, brain damage, and death. The high-profile suicides of famous athletes, such as NFL stars Dave Duerson and Junior Seau, along with pending ligation against leagues and equipment makers, put sports and concussion in a fear-filled focus.

But does sport - at any level - really equal brain damage? Two ends of the expert spectrum: 2006 Super Bowl champion TE Ben Utecht, and world-renowned sports neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, discuss the medically-known truths about happens to the brain during sports.

Utecht faces cognitive issues, at 33, from his elite football career. He seeks greater awareness and fights for his health. Kutcher is highly sought after from youth to pro/Olympic athletes to treat their concussions and post-concussive issues. Kutcher advocates balance, seeing the concussion discussion going from ignorance to unfounded fears.

Additional Supporting Materials

Questions

  1. What are the real risks of playing sports to the brain - does gender, age, sport, equipment, or level of expertise matter?
  2. Parents are starting to keep their kids out of contact sports, fearing concussions. Is there something out there with no risk, And what does no "risky" sports for kids mean for their childhoods?
  3. What brain damage risks are the athletes aware of - and what do they do to try to hide their concussions, and the issues stemming from them, from medical staff?
  4. There is a lot of misinformation out there about athletically-induced concussions, especially the narrative of a higher suicide risk. What are the biggest myths, and why are they so harmful?
  5. Can sports be made safer for athletes? What role can technology play in helping athletes protect themselves, and if concussed, recover?

Speakers

Organizer

Joanne Gerstner, professor/author, Michigan State University


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