Football, Violence, and Brain Injury: Is There an Association?
the MPR take:
Does participating in a sport such as football increase the risk of violent behavior? The recent indefinite suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice due to domestic violence against his now-wife that was captured on video has raised questions about football-related concussions and violence. While the overall arrest rates for NFL players are much lower than national averages, domestic violence accounts for 48% of arrests for violent crimes among players vs. 21% nationally. A prior study found that men who had been arrested for domestic abuse had neural abnormalities such as a hyperactive amygdala, visible in brain scans; these abnormalities increased the risk of the men acting violently due to simple stimuli because the prefrontal cortex was not functioning properly. The cause of this brain malfunction may be congenital, but it is also possible that it could be due to environmental events such as concussions and other head injuries sustained during football. It is difficult to assess whether the high rates of violent crimes among NFL players are due to repeated head injuries and brain damage, but it may be a contributing factor that merits attention and research.
Ray Rice beat his wife-to-be. NFL players suffer repeated blows to the head every Sunday. And there is evidence to suggest that all those hits to the brain may increase the propensity to commit domestic violence. But there's increasing evidence that the NFL's domestic violence arrest rate — which is “downright extraordinary,” Benjamin Morris writes at FiveThirtyEight — could be associated with more than the culture of football.
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