Exploring the science, sad reality behind sports-related concussions

Trainers check Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) after a hard tackle during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Landover, Md., Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Lipski)
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wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 1:53 pm

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Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Washington Redskins fans took a collective gasp when quarterback Robert Griffin III was shaken up, his head thrown between two defenders, in the home game against the Falcons Sunday.

After he was knocked out, he didn’t know the quarter or the score of the game, his coaches say. Griffin III was diagnosed with a mild concussion but is expected to play Sunday.

He’s not the first quarterback or the last to suffer a brain injury with plans to return to the game.

The increasing incidents of sports concussions and rate of suicide among athletes with a history of concussions have escalated a national debate on the topic.

Author Steve James, producer and director of the documentary “Hoop Dreams,” is releasing a new documentary called “Head Games” which explores the science, stories and sad reality behind sports-related concussions. On WTOP, he characterized the safety debate as an inescapable issue.

“We’re really at the starting line of understanding this disease. It seems that with a substantial number of athletes that they are suffering from CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” James says.

“It’s a disease in the brain which … can ultimately lead to early death or impulsive enough behavior that we’re reading about athletes who are committing suicide,” he says.

Watch a preview of “Head Games” below:

The world of professional sports was rocked by the news Junior Seau took his life in early May 2012 at the age of 43. He died less than 2 1/2 years after the end of his Pro Bowl career as a linebacker.

Signs of CET include impulsive behavior, dementia, and Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, James says. It is still unknown if Seau was suffering from any of these symptoms before his death.

In his documentary “Head Games,” James speaks to experts, families, doctors and players as well as explaining with animation what happens to the brain during and after a concussion.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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