Injured for Life: Long-Term Impacts of Sports Injuries

The long-term effects of sports injuries or frequent contact sports participation can result in serious health problems, including joint damage and bone damage, cognitive decline, and back problems. The extent of living with long-term injuries and health effects is varied. Professional, amateur, and casual athletes, including high school and college sports, run the risk of long-term health effects.

Long-Term Health Effects From Sports Injuries

The long-term health effects of sports injuries and frequent sports participation can result in physical and cognitive issues. In addition, athletes may face arthritis and bone deformities.


Arthritis is a general medical term that refers to inflammation in the joints. Arthritis is caused when the protective covering between joints that facilitates movement begins to breakdown causes the joints (i.e., bones) to rub against one another, leading to pain and inflammation. Over the long-term, arthritis reduces mobility and functionality.

Cognitive Decline

Cognitive decline is caused by damage to the brain – like a concussion. Concussions are commonplace in any contact sport – such as football, hockey, boxing, and rugby. Concussions result when a player is struck with a significant force that causes the brain to slam into the skull. The trauma to the brain causes swelling and, in serious cases, bleeding.

Cognitive decline is a new research area. Collegiate and professional players can suffer serious health consequences years after they stop playing. Researchers find that these injuries can result in mild to severe cognitive decline – from minor memory lapses to neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia.

Bone Deformity

Child and pre-teen athletes are still growing. Therefore, a serious injury – such as a bone break – can prevent bones from growing properly. Improperly healed injuries resulting in bone deformities affect the child’s appearance and could lead to long-term health effects such as breathing problems for a broken nose.

Sports Injury: Legal Liability

Assuming the Risk

In most situations, people who play sports assume the risk of injury. For example, boxers cannot sue one another or the organizing entity for injuries sustained during a match. However, boxers assume the risk of injury in the normal course of the competition. Therefore, if one boxer cheats, such as filling his or her gloves with mercury to increase the blow’s force, he or she could be liable for a personal injury claim.

Unknown Risks

Recently, professional and collegiate players have been suing organizations alleging that the risk was concealed from the players. New research into sports injuries finds that players suffer from the significant cognitive decline that can result in depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Several prominent professional and collegiate athletes have died due to these injuries. These claims are succeeding because the sports organizations downplayed the assumed risks of play.

Defective Equipment

Other potentially liable parties regarding sports injuries are the equipment manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Sports equipment is expected to perform under regular sports conditions. For example, football padding should cushion the concussive force as players crash into one another. However, if a player is injured on defective equipment, the injured player can recover damages in a product liability suit.