The Football Mind: An Inside Look at Concussions in Football

Jack Reid, Staff

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It’s a late Friday night at the football field and you and a bunch of your friends are in the stands watching your high school team play against a team from your district. You’re having a good time watching the game and joking around with your buds, when suddenly you hear a “crack!” that could be heard by anyone all the way in the parking lot. You look down and see a player collapsed on the field, barely moving a muscle, before he gingerly gets up and is escorted as he staggers to the sideline. The next day, your thoughts are confirmed: he has a concussion.

 

Player safety in the event of a concussion is arguably the most polarizing debate in all levels of football today. Across the United States, millions of athletes ranging from middle schoolers to professional athletes lace up their cleats and go into a game knowing well that they risk an injury. Injuries are a part of the game and are mostly the result of a bad break, but almost all of them can be treated either with surgery or rehabilitation. However, concussions are very tricky injuries to diagnose and treat, as it’s almost impossible to tell whether a player has permanent damage. Oftentimes, concussions either go unnoticed or unreported by players who just want to keep playing, which is one of the main reasons why those same players end up dealing with horrible symptoms for the rest of their life.

 

A perfect example of the effects of concussions is the story of Junior Seau. Seau, was an All-American in college at USC and was a 12-time pro bowler in the NFL during his time with the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots. He was one of the more popular players in the league at the time because of his huge hits he would lay on other players. Little did he know, that he was hurting himself more than the players he was tackling. On May 12th, 2012, Seau was found dead in his apartment after he had shot himself in the chest. Seau’s brain was later examined and it was determined that he had developed CTE, which is a symptom caused by multiple concussions that induces depression among other symptoms. Seau is not the only one who has been affected by concussions though, as more than 30 NFL players have been diagnosed with CTE and thousands more have filed lawsuits against the league over its alleged failure to protect players from brain injuries.

 

One of the key factors in the cause of concussions is the lack of protection in the equipment that players wear. In the past when technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today, nobody knew about the potential catastrophic symptoms which led to the use of helmets that were not able to protect player’s heads as well. In recent years, the NFL and other equipment-making companies have been doing more to improve the quality of their helmets but improvement is still needed, as evidenced by players such as Chris Borland, who retired from the NFL after only one season. One person who is changing the game on helmets is Sam Browd; A pediatric neurosurgeon, co-founder of Vicis, and the creator of the ZERO1 helmet. Browd has used new, state of the art technology to create a helmet that not only significantly decreases the possibility of a concussion, but also makes the helmet more visually appealing, and comfortable for the athlete. Browd also shows why he cares so much about this particular topic in an interview when he says, “I have had the heart wrenching experience of having to tell youth athletes and their families that they must retire from a sport they love due to repeated concussions. Even though I deal with life and death decisions and conversations daily as a pediatric neurosurgeon, these discussions around sports can be some of the most difficult and life altering. It seemed obvious to me that if we could improve safety equipment maybe less of these types of conversations would have to happen.”

 

All in all, bringing more awareness and an infusion of new technology could be extremely beneficial to not just professional football players, but also to younger players in middle school or high school. One recommendation to help younger football players would be to have them spend a day or two before the season going through the proper ways to tackle someone, and the different symptoms of a concussion. Programs like these could one day make the difference in whether or not a football player is able to recognize a concussion and protect themselves from further harm. So overall, with organizations such as the NFL and helmet manufacturers focused more than ever before on player safety, it appears the future of football is in good hands.

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