Recently, in the news, it was revealed that the mercurial and violent King Henry VIII may have become the person he was known for due to numerous head injuries throughout his life. Henry VIII, infamously known for having two of his six wives executed and by being a tyrannical leader with sociopathic tendencies had at least three traumatic brain injuries, one in a jousting accident. While Henry VIII was not known to be a man of “good health”, he also was known to suffer from memory issues and other behaviors that are often directly linked to head injuries.
Linking traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) to violent behaviors does not make violence towards others a passable excuse nor should it necessarily be used in the line of defense, but it helps researchers better understand the potential effects of TBIs and how to strive to prevent them.
Football & Violence
In recent years, professional football players have become the faces behind traumatic brain injuries. Not only have TBIs and reoccurring concussions been attributed to memory loss issues in retired football players well before their “golden years”, but similar head injuries have been suggested to have a correlation between football players and domestic violence.
According to a report from USA Today, there were 38 arrests of NFL players in 2015. Of the arrests, there were 15 arrests made because of violent behavior including animal cruelty, sexual battery, assault, and domestic violence. Domestic violence resulted in 6 arrests or about 15% of all NFL arrests in 2015.
Does it mean that all of the football players, who were arrested on violent charges, had suffered from recurrent head injuries? No, but given the statistics surrounding former football players and head injuries (96% of football players studied had signs of a brain injury), a head injury could very well contribute to violent behavior.
Here’s another thing to consider: According to Dr. Allison Brooks, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, football players are also prone to high risk behavior (playing football is risky) and may choose to partake in alcohol, drug use, and other high-risk factors that could contribute to violent behavior.
Do All Brain Injuries Lead to Violent Behavior?
The answer to this question is simply, “No”. If all brain injuries lead to violent behavior, there would be an even more staggering amount of violence. The behavioral changes that take place after a brain injury greatly depend on where, within the brain, the injury occurred. For instance, if the cerebellum (or base of skull) is injured, the individual may experience loss of coordination or the ability to walk or grab.
When the frontal lobe (the area behind the forehead) is injured, the changes of behavior may include intolerance for frustration and easily provoked aggressive behavior.
It’s important to remember that although an individual may have sustained a TBI to the frontal lobe, it cannot be assumed that every individual will exhibit aggressive behavior and/or act out on those tendencies.