29 November 2012
Head Games “No guts, No glory,” is a very popular saying when it comes to football; however, is permanent brain damage worth the glory accustomed to playing in the NFL? Concussions are one of the worst possible injuries to have to endure whether you play sports or not. Concussions are a significant type brain injury as a concussion is typically caused by a severe head trauma during which the brain moves violently within the skull. The brain cells all fire at once, much like a seizure. Some studies show that patients who suffer a concussion appear to have the brain activity of people in a coma. Concussions are one of the most common injures that occur out of the football field and it has begun to get the public talking about what is being done to save these athletes from serious head trauma. Team organizations say it is time for a change in the sport of football because it is not worth the lives of athletes simply to enjoy a game. The NFL has tried making the game safer for the players by implementing fines and suspensions for illegal hits to the head, yet the players seem to think it is making the game softer.
Even the Players Association was angry about what seemed to be an attempt to make the game safer. “The skirts need to be taken off the NFL offices,” said union president Kevin Mawae on ESPN radio (King 34-40). Naturally, in recent years, as the NFL has done its 180-degree turn and put player safety and protection from head injuries at the top of its priority list, reminders of its past words and deeds have been brought up to them from all corners. Right now, the NFL is focused on concussions though. Coaches, players, executives, owners, fans, league officials and the media are seeing them everywhere. More players are self-reporting concussions. More coaches and executives are enforcing return-to-play rules and not seeking to circumvent the issue. Owners are realizing that long-term investments are better than short-term ones. Fans are getting used to the fact that the focus on concussions isn't going anywhere. League officials are policing the game differently. The media is finally talking about it. The concussions are not, in any way, new. The focus on the concussions is new, and a welcome change from a culture that ignored them for generations. And while concussions are not, in any way, good, the focus on them could be a blessing for generations moving forward. To have the fame and fortune of playing in the NFL, you must have knowledge of the risk and the potential reward. According to the Harvard Health Letter, one 2007 study of 2,552 retired NFL players (average age, 53.8) found a strong correlation between concussions and depression (7). Although it should be pointed out that only recently have doctors begun to understand the long term effects these hits have. 30 to 40 years ago there was little, if any, evidence that could link repeated blows to the head and post football trauma, including, but not limited to, strokes and/or dementia. Many players who retired would see their medical costs skyrocket, even if they only played the game for three or four seasons. Even today there are many things still not understood about concussions. Like why Junior Seau, Hall of Fame linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots, would take his own life several weeks ago. Or that a lesser known NFL player, former Atlanta Falcon defensive back Ray Easterling, would take his life only a couple weeks prior to Seau’s suicide. The prevailing theory here is that both of these former athletes suffered from severe depression related to the head trauma they suffered as players in the NFL. Disturbingly, it appears that the NFL concussion problem extends further than the current media coverage. For example, though the recent suicides and current litigation have brought the issue to the forefront of national attention, the progressive nature of