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NFL violence could be linked to concussions, says neurosurgeon

09/20/2014 12:00 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:02 EDT
As the NFL faces controversy over the violent behaviour of some of its players, a B.C.-based concussion expert believes there could be a link between that violence, and brain injuries stemming from the game.

"The brain is an exquisite electrical-chemical organ, and can be very vulnerable," Dr. Brian Hunt, a retired neurosurgeon and a member of the BC Concussion Advisory Network, told Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.

Earlier this week, Adrian Peterson was been benched indefinitely by the Minnesota Vikings after he was charged with child abuse for allegedly beating his four-year-old son. The Baltimore Ravens suspended Ray Rice when a video surfaced of him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious in an elevator. And Greg Hardy was been removed from the roster of the Carolina Panthers after being accused of domestic violence.

Dr. Hunt says he doesn't know the circumstances of each of those players, but believes their behaviour could have been partly caused by hits to the head.

"It's evident to me, through experience, that when an individual is suffering from repetitive shaking and jarring of the brain, and they are vulnerable due to genetic reasons and others, that their behaviour is altered," he said.

While Hunt has seen it in his own patients, he says the link still hasn't been proven.

He wants to see more research done, saying it would offer another tool in preventing violence.

Meditation can help 'manage' a brain injury

Hunt often advises his patients who have suffered from a concussion to meditate.

"I know that sounds strange," he said.

"We should be taking these athletes who have to channel their aggression and focus on the field to be able to, when off the field, manage and monitor their brain."

Hunt said not every player that suffers from a concussion will start behaving violently. Concussions are cumulative, so it's repeated damage that he's most worried about.

He said other factors, like a genetic predisposition could also play a role.

"Even when the athlete follows the protocol carefully before they return to sport, there is still an additive effect, and in certain people, there is an added vulnerability," he said.

Hunt said awareness about concussions has come a long way in recent years, but he hopes that if a link is proven to behavioural changes, it could force sports organizations and leagues to review the way they play.

"I'm not opposed to contact sport, but what I am opposed to, and makes me very angry, is a sport where the sole purpose is to brain-damage the other person," he said.

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