Mile High – Better for the Football Brain?

MileHighOn the periphery of the National Football League playoff frenzy, there has been plenty of media attention this week surrounding the brutality on the brain of NFL football.  Not my kids’ favorite topic as our family is both Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos fans. But here is an interesting medical tidbit to contemplate while watching the Broncos play Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High where the elevation above sea-level is reportedly 5,683 feet.

Mile High air traditionally known for helping kickers make long field goals (and now being used as the nickname for the pot-legal state) may actually be better for a brain getting tackled. A recent New York Times article shares a study done at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center – it found that high school football players who played at higher altitudes sustained a 30% reduction in total concussion incidence. Writes Gregory D. Meyer, the director of research in sports medicine:

We hypothesized that higher altitude increased the volume in the cerebral venous system, a natural Bubble Wrap that surrounds the brain, and that this created a snugger fit inside the skull that protected the athletes from sustaining concussion.

Meyer writes his researchers are analyzing NFL concussion data to see if the same holds true amongst the pros.  Whether or not this research will ever translate into technology that minimizes concussion risk remains to be seen.  Fans, meantime, can only hope there is less carnage on the Mile High field than during the Kansas City Chiefs-Indianopolis Colts playoff match-up, a “discomfiting” game to watch as described by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni.


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