Many think participating in football is a death sentence. Think about it: players run full speed on a field trying to knock each other’s brains out of orbit.

While it is a dangerous game that can cause concussions, research has shown that this game benefits youth in today’s society.

Sandra Bond Chapman founded the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, where she is a professor of behavioral and brain sciences. Chapman has been involved in brain research for more than 30 years and knows a thing or two about traumatic brain injuries.

Chapman stressed at the 2014 American Football Coaches Association convention this past January that “the benefits of football to health and well-being far, far exceed the risk of permanent brain damage.”

According to Chapman, football enhances many aspects of life.

It inspires optimization for emerging potential, prevents and mitigates risks of developing lifelong addictions, supersedes need for negative risk-seeking with positive thrills of camaraderie and purpose, strengthens commitment to school work, provides regular exercise to stay physically and mentally fit while elevating mood and improves sleep habits.

In short, football provides one of the strongest protections against unhealthy risk-seeking behaviors, like experimenting with drugs or alcohol.

On the other hand, football has its setbacks. Concussions are a risk in football. When a player goes back into a game after suffering a concussion, he is three times more likely to get another concussion. But concussion prevention and care has improved.

Chapman works with more than 130 scientists at the Center for Brain Health, which is releasing new medical statements nearly every year.

The group of specialized scientists is working on increasing the connectivity between the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe in the brain in order to increase the brain’s productivity. The temporal lobe is the learning and memory center of the brain, while the frontal lobe transforms and applies content in the brain.

University of Washington Associate Professor Eric H. Chudler, executive director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, said the main goal of the Center for Brain Health is to focus on brain plasticity and performance.

Brain plasticity describes how experiences reorganize neural pathways in the brain. Long lasting functional changes in the brain occur when we learn new things or memorize new information.

“The brain is so much more amazing than we ever dreamed possible, so our mission at the Center for Brain Health is truly to maximize human cognitive performance,” Chapman said.

Craig McCord, the defensive coordinator for Pacific Lutheran University’s football team, sent the link to Chapman’s video to the entire football team. He wanted to enhance everyone’s understanding of concussions.

Having been on the football team at PLU for nearly two years, I have witnessed multiple teammates experience concussions. I’ve only gotten one concussion in my nine-year athletic career, and it was quite minor.

Still, understanding concussions and their severity is important if you want to lead a fruitful life. Too many athletes get too focused on getting back into the game because they want to help their team win, but they need to realize that if they get a concussion, they’d be doing themselves a favor if they stood on the sidelines. ◼︎

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