The Concussion Problem in Football
Background: Before I begin, I would like to explain what a concussion is. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions can also occur from a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth.
A concussion is referred to as a “minor” brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening. The effects after a concussion can cause many long term traumatic issues on the brain such as: temporary loss of brain function leading to cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms, such as confusion, vomiting, headache, nausea, depression , disturbed sleep, moodiness, and amnesia.
Many studies by neuropsychologists have shown that even after the concussion the brain is still not %100 normal. As you see in this picture, the head jolts backward and the brain hits the skull. This is basically an extreme case of whiplash.
In recent news Tony Scheffler, an NFL veteran, was pushed out of the NFL by his doctors because he had gotten three concussions over four NFL seasons. The reason that Scheffler retired after multiple concussions is that doctors believe athletes who return to their sport too quickly following a concussion and suffer another one are at an extreme risk of serious brain damage. Recent studies have shown that former professional football players have experienced similar symptoms then a Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patient.
The Lawsuits and Deaths
Multiple lawsuits have been filed by former NFL players who feel like the NFL did not treat their concussion symptoms properly. Due to the fear that these lawsuits will have multiple players in on them and will cost them millions, the NFL has given threats to Hall of Fame (HoF) Players that if they join a lawsuit their HoF status may be taken from them. Junior Seau and Dave Duerson are two of the most popular examples of concussion taking the tole of NFL players. Both of these men committed suicide because they both received many concussions throughout their respected careers. Seau was never reported to have received a concussion, but he told his girlfriend that he had received multiple concussions throughout his career. Duerson also received many concussions but due to the era in which he played the traumas were not reported nor where they treated. Seau and Duerson both asked for their brains to be examined after death, and both of them had a disease called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a disease that only be definitively diagnosed post-mortem. Players who receive repetitive trauma to the brain and head can receive CTE. What Needs To Be Done
The picture above shows what the current football helmet looks like, as you can see it is very protective and offers maximum protection for the head of NFL players.
NFL teams nowadays have to fit every single helmets to players, to make sure that the helmet is not the reason a player receives multiple concussions. The NFL knows that the players players play hard and that concussions happen regularly but the information on the concussion or the concussion itself sometimes are not reported. Players know that when concussions are reported they might not be allowed to play for weeks, and therefore lose money so they don’t tell their coaches or medical staff. The NFL needs to make sure that the players are open to their injuries to protect the league’s integrity and the brains of the players. Although I’m not sure what the rule should be, the NFL should change the game a bit so that concussions are not as common. The most important is that the NFL needs to be more vigilant and make sure that hard hitters and players who lead with their heads are fined and/or suspended. Referees call penalties on hitting unprotected players on their heads such as quarterbacks, centers and long-snappers. The NFL is showing that they are trying to protect their players but they need to apologize and pay repartitions to the older players who were not watched out for.
What Has Been Done
The NFL has changed a very important rule of football by making running backs stop leading with their heads to minimize concussion to linebackers and running backs. The new change was passed last season with a large margin which meant that the NFL was moving toward protecting their players. The NFL does fine / suspend players who hurt other players but the NFL needs to take measures so that this does not happen in the first place. The NFL hands out multiple fines and suspensions to players for causing concussions or for leading with their heads going for a hit. New models of helmets have been designed to massively limit the amount of head injuries but the cost for mass production of these helmets if the NFL can make a cheaper model it can massively help the players and protect themselves from lawsuits.
College and High School Football
In college football the concussion situation is similar to the NFL. The players who play in college are working for a big NFL contract. So they are also working towards a pay check, even if it is farther down the road. Multiple reports have shown that big conference team such as SEC and Big Ten teams have played concussed players without knowledge because the player needed the stats.
For most college football players they take easy classes so the players can focus on football and not worry about education and grades. It is a very stereotypical jock image but in this case it happens to be true. Many teams hide the fact that “tutors” do their work for them.
In high school athletic directors and coaches need to make sure that the players are safe and can actually go to class. In high school the education aspect for athletes is much more important so the players can not receive multiple concussions. Currently there is a very important rule in high school football that is, if a player receives three concussions in one season, no matter how spread out the concussions are, the player will have to sit out the rest of season.
In high school, education is more important that in college for athletes because they can’t take easier classes designated specifically for athletes like in college so they need to make sure they can produce academically.
In my opinion as a football player I think the rule is very helpful for the players and should be adopted by the NFL and college football. I have multiple friends and teammates who have received concussions and they can not work that well in school for at least 2-3 months. Concussions are emerging as a huge problem that need to be dealt with.
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