by Lindsay Baslock
It is mid-tryout week for high school soccer. It is cold, it is wet…basically it is March in Michigan. Coach has instructed you to pair up and kick long balls back and forth with one another. After a faulty kick, you go and retrieve the ball. Shortly after your first touch—BOOM—another stray soccer ball comes flying at your head. The next thing you know you are on your knees in the mud trying to shake off the blackness that has filled your vision.
Although this was never medically diagnosed as a concussion, it does fit the description and it did happen to me.
Definition of a Concussion
CDC.gov describes a concussion as a “type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth."
Your brain is a 3-pound organ that basically floats inside your skull. When the brain moves rapidly inside the skull, a concussion has technically occurred.
Concussions in the NFL
The topic of concussions is all over sports news. Any contact sport has a higher risk of them happening. However, these stories target professional football.
PBS.org says the 2012 and 2013 NFL seasons had a combined 323 concussions, according to team injury reports. But they also claim that one-third of all concussions are left off of the injury reports. So how many of them are actually going undetected?
The game of professional football has developed into more of a passing league in current years. This has resulted in wide receivers and cornerbacks getting more hard hits and suffering from more concussions. Once again, in the 2012 and 2013 seasons, wide receivers went down more than any other position on the field with a total of 49 reported concussions.
Dr. Omalu Discovers CTE
The film Concussion hit the box office last Christmas and tells the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and his findings of the brain disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Omalu, a forensic pathologist, linked his findings of CTE to the growing rate and long-term effects of concussions in the NFL after examining the body of ex-Pittsburg Steeler, Mike Webster.
Webster played 17 seasons in the NFL and the after-effects were what tormented him to his death. He lost every aspect of control of his Hall of Fame body, which resorted to him living in his truck in physical and emotional pain, amped up on at least six types of drugs to help the pain and it ultimately led to him stunning himself to death with a Taser.
Antwaan Randle El's Concussion Experience
Another iconic ex-Steeler who has suffered from head injuries is Antwaan Randle El. He played nine seasons in the NFL and during that time he suffered from two known concussions.
Randle El explains to SB Nation, “When you get dinged, so to speak, or you feel like your body is just telling you something’s not right, you’ve got to be able to pull yourself out of the game."
Many players these days find their values lie more with finishing the game and not coping with their head injury
Randle El also says, “Having knowledge and understanding now the repercussions of brain injures and concussions, I would’ve done it differently when it comes to playing the game of football and understanding, ‘I took a hit, I’m not feeling right, I need to come out.’ ”
Concussions Lead to Football's Disappearance
What may be impossible for some football fans to fathom is the disappearance of the sport in the next 20-30 years. Because of so many negative reports coming out about the long-term effects from brain injuries, parents and children are stepping away from the game.
As an avid football fan myself, I dread the thought of the game disappearing. I hope that in the next 20-30 years, my children and grandchildren will get to experience this captivating sport.
An Effective Concussion Protocol is Needed
We as a society should not question the game’s integrity just because of health-related issues that we are not taking care of ourselves. With every sport, there are risks that we take as athletes and consequences from them if not treated correctly.
I hope that it does not take 20-30 years for us as athletes, parents and coaches to figure out an effective protocol for brain-related injuries. It should be common sense. If you do experience a concussion injury, please use your good judgment and take the necessary steps to get it treated right away.