Concussions and Sports

Posted: January 13, 2013 in Sports

Concussions are everywhere, and I feel they need to be discussed a little further. In this post I will be looking at the basics of concussions; as well as a Sports team responsibility to the players. Having had several concussions, this topic is very close to heart.
What is a concussion? A concussion is a minor traumatic brain injury (TBI) that may occur when the head hits an object, or a moving object strikes the head. It can affect how your brain works for a while. A concussion can lead to a bad headache, changes in alertness, or loss of loss of consciousness. There are three grade levels for concussions. Level one being the mildest form of a concussion, and level three being the most severe concussion. Like with most injuries there are symptoms that go along with the injury. Some of the symptoms with a concussion are. Acting confused, feeling spacey or not thinking straight, Being drowsy, hard to wake up, or similar changes Headache, Memory loss of events before the injury or right after Nausea and vomiting, seeing flashing lights.

These symptoms come in various degrees, they also do not all show up with every concussion. Just having one of these symptoms may mean you have suffered a concussion. Just like a leg injury there is recover time for a head injury. With a concussion the recovery time can range from a few days, to a month or months, and with the most sever it can take a year or more to completely clear up. While the long term effect on players is not yet completely know Concussions are cumulative throughout a player’s life time. Many players who take part in contact sports may have suffered multiple TBI’s some go unreported, or undiagnosed. There is still no way to know which players will develop long term damage; it is becoming clear that there is a greater chance of cognitive damage that can change a person’s life. (I.e.: Depression, mood swings, trouble socializing, becoming detached and withdrawn) The latest example is Junor Seau who tragically took his life in part due to brain damage from TBI’s during his football career.

A report by, Dr. Wijayasinghe stated; With this being a hot button issue in the news .The answer to this question is not a straightforward yes or no, as depression is a complicated process which involves a number of variables such as genetics, environmental influences, and other conditions. That being said, concussion or previous head injury does seem to be one of the risk factors correlated with an increased risk of development of depression. In 2003, the National Football League studied over 2,000 players with concussions and found a higher risk of depression in those who have not had head injury. Specifically, players who had 3-4 concussions had double the risk of depression compared to those who had no history. Those with 5 concussions had tripled the risk. This is just one DR’s findings, but it does seem to be the way many Dr.’s are feeling.

With that being said, what responsibility does a sports team have? Understanding that teams sole go is winning, and they along with the players are willing to do almost anything to win. I feel teams need to be more active in the health and safety of their players. The just win mentality is very 15-20 years ago. We are dealing with people. These people are paid very well for what they do. A player is a team’s employee, and there is something to be said about work place safety. That goes for in an office or in this case on a rink or field. There is no easy way to protect an athlete from themselves. However I think there are ways. One way is to implement an automatic sit out rule. Not to be confused with the base line testing that is done. This rule would simple state If a player gets a concussion (TBI) that player may not play or practice for 2 weeks. They then would need to pass the base line testing. A second suggestion is a TBI max. If a one player get more than two TBI/Concussions in a given season that player cannot play again that season, and may not take the base line test until the following pre season. I do understand why teams and players would not like this but at this point something major needs to be done.

Players are giving up everything, and as we have learned; I do mean everything. At some point the sport and teams need to do everything to insure the players do not need to give up everything. Something needs to be done and it needs to be done now! I love these sports, but having suffered a number of concussions I know the symptoms are real. The affects they have on a person’s life is real.

Leagues, owners and players need to start taking some responsibility for their actions. People are getting hurt and it’s not just a broken leg. It’s a person’s brain. A brain cannot be fixed; it cannot be put back together. With media being what it is today more and more fans are able to watch their favorite sports. That means more and more children and teens can see how the game they love is played. If the pros don’t fix their game and rules, how can we expect our children to be safe when they play?

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  1. martin hens says:

    The teams invest a lot of money in these players and as such, consider players “assets” not “employees”. The players know the risks they take(there is plenty of info available) , they want the money, they are accepting the risk. More could be done for player safety, but the fans want the “big hits”, just not on their players. I find it hard to generate much sympathy for overpaid athletes volunteering for this duty. Just sayin…

  2. Matthew McNinney says:

    So how much money do you need to pay someone to be able to morally justify thinking of him as an “asset” and not as a “person”? Sure, you can say that they’re overpaid based on relative value to society in most cases, but in terms of economics, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re actually underpaid as a whole, based on the income that they generate for the owners. On top of that, the vast majority of professional athletes in the sports where concussions are the hottest issue (football especially) have such a short playing career that they don’t become obscenely wealthy off their career, at least not to the point where they would have unlimited funds for medical bills. NFL owners and rule makers have a responsibility to keep the safety of the players as one of their primary goals, and a lot of this concussion research is relatively new.

    The biggest point here, to me at least, is the last paragraph. If you don’t want to feel sympathy for the professionals who get paid for their services, there are many people who will feel the same way with you. Remember, though, that the vast majority of participants in sports each year in this country are actually high school and middle school kids, plus college athletes, who will never see a dime of that professional money. Professional sports can serve as an influence to make sports safer for all age levels, not just at the professional level. If kids see that the biggest thing reported is the (now defunct) “Jacked Up!” segment on ESPN, that’s what they’ll want to emulate. Making safety standards more strict for professional sports will help lead to better safety standards for all levels of sport, and I’m sure that’s something that everyone can get behind.

  3. matt25 says:

    We all recognize that the name of the game in professional sports is “Big Money” and in acknowledging this as a starting point we can look for ways within the system to achieve the desired goal of decreasing the number of and severity go TBI’s. We can acknowledge that significant changes have been made over the years. I remember being fascinated by my uncle Jack’s football helmet as a kid, no face guard, no hard exterior, basically just a leather cap with some padding. Then as I played in the mid 70’s I was excited to get one of the first of a new type of helmet that could be custom fitted to my head with a series of air and water filled cells that could be inflated or deflated, this replaced a system of webbing that suspended the prior style helmet atop my hat rack. I’ll admit that I have no idea what technological improvements have been made since then but this is clearly a place where money can and should be spent. There have also been rule changes to help prevent injuries. These are the good things. Meanwhile, because of the level of money involved, there are mechanisms in place to scour the globe for new talent and channel and funnel athletes like ancient gladiators until only the elite remain. This has meant that the average size, speed, and strength of today’s players is far different than the players of the Vince Lombardi era. This is good for the game, but not for the health of the players.

    Maybe a foundation needs to be established by professional sports specifically designated to have as it’s goal the reducing the number and severity of injuries. It could be funded by a 0.5% surcharge on all proceeds recieved by anyone making money off professional sports. Players, owners, agents, mass media, merchandisers, you name it. The foundation could then fund studies, invest in new technology, propose rule changes, and more. In this way the system can fund the search for answers to the problems specific to industry it exists to serve.

    As far as the morality issue of treating people like financial assets, that is an abuse that capitalism by its very nature is prone to. It is an old struggle that belongs to all of us to combat in the best way we can. Even the Catholic Church is involved as there have been multiple papal encyclicals that have addressed this issue specifically since the landmark Rerum Novarum in 1891 . It is up to the fans and the press to bring the pressure to bear that will prevent the greed of owners and the ambition of players from running rampant and turning the players into mere cannon fodder in the war for profits.

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