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Editorial: Concussions A Rising Problem In Sports

Posted by Christian on March 25, 2013 at 8:05 PM

The incremental rise of traumatic injuries in sports is becoming more and more prevalent as the talent and competition continues to rise. We must come to address the source of the issue and actions must be taken to ensure the safety and developmental growth that our youth is missing from the head traumas that are being endured. The brain is made of soft tissue. It's cushioned by spinal fluid and encased in the protective shell of the skull. When you sustain a concussion, the impact can jolt your brain. Sometimes, it literally causes it to move around in your head. Traumatic brain injuries can cause bruising, damage to the blood vessels, and injury to the nerves. As many as 3.8 million sports- and recreation-related concussions occur each year in the U.S, and you would think by now we would have realized how essential it is to start gaining better technology to advance the safety in our sports. All ages suffer from concussions and the prevention and protection we have now, clearly isn’t enough. Legislation within the sporting world has been focused on the rise and availability of events like bringing sports to those who aren’t fortunate enough to play, yet we are lacking the emergency of safety that we need. We need to make drastic increase in our protection to lower the risk of concussions in the sports that are taking part 365 days a year. Concussions are becoming the leading cause of brain related traumas that we are seeing from a day to day basis, and deaths/severe injuries are prevalent from the repeated blows to the head that are constantly taking place in every competitive environment. Action on making safer and more reliable equipment on the playing fields must take quick notice if we ever plan on reducing the risk of brain injuries and concussions our daily battles within the white paint.

One of the most dangerous sports in today’s world is full contact football. Virtually everybody has some kind of experience with one of America’s most favorite pastimes. In recent years there have been numerous former players that are being emitted for mental health issues and the diagnoses are followed back to the constant head on collisions in football. Jim McMahon, star quarterback for the Chicago Bears and Super Bowl MVP of Super Bowl XX, now is suffering from Dementia. In 2012 he began filing a lawsuit against the National Football League (NFL) for the lack of provided attention and physical protection. The minimal awareness of the seriousness to brain damage was given little thought back in 1986 when McMahon retired; yet, the awareness has risen very little over the last twenty six years. Jim McMahon’s condition is getting more and more serious as he ages, and we are finally realizing the dangerous effects that brain injuries create. McMahon notes, “its frustrating effects of memory loss, but he’s doing all he can to keep his brain active such as reading and attending charity events. Losing one’s memory sucks because it’s the sole trait, ideally, a person can take with them, as they get older. Physical appearance fades, health gets more complicated but memories are supposed to represent the flowers to the soul’s garden.” Or in the case of Junior Seau, hearing a player ended his own life because of brain trauma helps put everything in context. The issue reaches as far down to the pee wee level with parents and current players like Scott Bart and Steve Young even questioning whether letting their kids risk head injuries resulting from the sport is even worth the potential heartache. In any event, McMahon’s situation is one of thousands detailing a problem the league will never truly come to a suitable conclusion on. There are too many factors bubbling on the surface. And it’s one of those situations where we realize a group of men gave their body and mind to an art form, which in turn took damn near everything from them.

From my own personal experience, I took many blows in my pee-wee through high school football career and more than one time I can recall getting hit and getting up with a headache or blurry vision at times. Yet, of course, I never told any of my coaches and kept playing. Even when I would take a big hit, I was slowly make my way to the side line to get the next play call and the coaches would rarely ever ask about my physical awareness or ability to continue playing. There is very little thought about the actual health of the players and this raises a huge issue that is more prevalent than just a local quarterback that has the heart to keep playing, it’s a nationwide issue. Looking back, I probably should’ve stopped myself from going back into the danger zone numerous times, but we athletes lie about our current state of mind when we are on the field. Can we truly ever know how many athletes have had concussions but failed to be properly diagnosed? The answer is hell no. However, with my own two eyes I watched my own teammate collapse from a mild concussion and have to be rushed to the Emergency Room. Luckily he was treated and released a few days later, but was forced to sit out the next six weeks of the season waiting for his swollen brain to heal.

As a country we must put the health of our athletes and people first and start investing ways to make the games we play safer. After this past NFL football season, the board passed laws to admit fines to players that connect head to head contact while tackling. This is a first big step that we need towards the safety. Next step that we need to take is advancement in equipment. Or another alternative that could potentially work is requiring all teams to hire a team psychologist that is required to test all their players’ cognition and brain levels before every game. Small steps are beginning to start now, but it’s about thirty years late, but I guess better now than never. The advancement and safety of players in all sports must immediately become the main focus in our world to prevent fatal and serious consequences of our lack of attention to the brain

-Reece Weber 


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