Coaches and medical experts have known for a while that the severe hits that football players take on the field can lead to concussions, blacking…

Coaches and medical experts have known for a while that the severe hits that football players take on the field can lead to concussions, blacking out, and even permanent damage. More recently, however, there has been increasing concern that the effects of repeated hits to the head may not manifest themselves until decades later. Early studies suggest that former NFL players suffer high rates of memory and other cognitive problems years after retiring, and that they may develop these problems earlier than non-football players do. NFL players may also be vulnerable to higher rates of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

To investigate this problem, groups like the Sports Legacy Institute have begun to encourage former NFL players to donate their brains to science when they die. Already, the brains of a handful of players have been examined, with shocking results. Almost all of the brains show high levels of a protein called tau, which is suspected of being involved in several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. The presence of high levels of tau may explain why football players have a tendency to develop cognitive impairments long after their playing days are over. More disturbing still, high levels of tau have also been found in the brain of an 18-year-old high school football player who died.

Discuss in at least two pages the following questions:

Should football playing be stopped?

Should the rules of the game be changed to eliminate hard hitting?

Everyone knows football is dangerous, but does the fact that these cognitive impairments may take decades to develop make them somehow different? Is the risk of permanent cognitive disability somehow different than the risk of permanent physical disability?

Wrestlers, soccer players, boxers, and other types of athletes are also at risk for long-term brain damage. Should these sports be changed or banned?

Also, describe a longitudinal study and then a cross-sectional study that could be used to determine if professional football players show higher than normal rates of cognitive impairment. Explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of the two designs.

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