The summer before my freshman year in high school, I was about 250lbs., a perfect size for playing football. Everyone I knew then loved the sport and was joining the football team, and I definitely didn’t want to miss out on the action. However, the football team wasn’t the fun outing I was expecting. For ten summer weeks, we suffered through boot camp. Every day, the coaches would have us wake up at six in the morning and go to hell and back several times. They would push each one of us to the absolute limit. Even though those days were sweaty and horrible, almost everyone made it through it.
When practices finally started a week before school, everyone who had made the team had a new mentality. Every player was willing to do whatever it took to make the starting lineup. It wasn’t until the second week of the season, however, that I was finally given my chance to go out and play. I was an offensive lineman, meaning my main job was to block any defenders trying to hit the quarterback. I hurried out onto the field and lined up next to a couple of my teammates. There were no words being said besides the constant chatter in the crowd from both sides of the field. A couple of seconds went by as the quarterback set up behind the center, got down low, and shouted, “Blue 42, set, set, HIKE!”
The ball was snapped, and I dropped back to a defender, rushing into me as fast as he could. He juked to the right. Then he quickly stopped and cut back and lowered his helmet and slammed it right into my jaw.
Everything went black. I woke up and the play was over, and I realized that I had only been out for a couple of seconds. Luckily, the quarterback did not get hit. I knew I should probably get off the field, but I was caught up in the moment, just like everyone else. I didn’t want all that conditioning over the summer to go to waste, and the last thing I was going to do was take myself out of the game because that might be my only opportunity to play.
Looking back, the smart thing was to take myself out of the game. Yet that was the last thing any of us on the team wanted to do. The whole football mentality was to play through anything, and if you didn’t, then the coaches just saw you as weak, and nobody wants a weak player on their team. Concussions in football are extremely common. Everyone I knew thought mild concussions were fine and would not leave any permanent damage, but that is not the case. After a couple of concussions, your brain starts to get affected, and later in life, there tend to be many disastrous effects.
Concussions in football are a serious issue. However, they are not treated as such. Everyone gets so caught up in the moment in their chance for stardom and they don’t realize how disastrous playing with a concussion can be. This can even be seen in the NFL. In October 2017, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson, was rolling out to his right, when he was blindsided by a 250-pound linebacker. It was extremely clear that Russell Wilson needed to step off the field and get checked for a concussion due to the shear impact of the hit, but with only two minutes left in the game and over a hundred thousand screaming fans, he threw himself back out onto the field to try to win the game. Everyone sees winning and the success of it, in general, as the most important thing and will do anything, especially playing through serious injuries, to win.
Now, some may believe that people shouldn’t give up if they aren’t willing to, and I’d completely agree, but sometimes people don’t know what they want. When placed in the moment of stardom, people tend to go off track from what is important. This desire for success can sometimes cause extremely poor decision making like playing a full contact sport with a concussion. Another reason why people don’t know what they want is the influence of society. For instance, in football, concussions are viewed as normal and harmless. Therefore, the football society instills the idea that if you get a concussion, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Furthermore, if a player takes himself out of the game, they are viewed as weak. This whole mindset is extremely dangerous and should be flipped around. Instead of being looked down on, players who take themselves out of the game should be praised for making the smart decision. This is what should be encouraged, not this fight-to-the-last-straw mentality and do-whatever-it-takes to get a win. Some things are more important in life. Would you rather win your championship for your high school football team by pushing through head injuries or have a great last twenty years of life with a non-damaged brain? Where you can actually remember who your family is or when it’s your grandchild’s birthday?
Overall, the smartest decision may not be the one you want to do. Every day, people are given the opportunity to make decisions, and those people’s judgement may be clouded, especially when they are still teenagers. People get blinded by the haze of their own society and self-interest. Some days, the fog is dense and impossible to see through, and other days the view becomes clear. There’ll be times when you are so focused on your goals and dreams that you become blinded by the immense fog surrounding you. There’ll be times when people’s judgement of you will make the fog denser than ever, to the point where you can’t find your way out of the fog, and where you can only hear what others tell you. Yet the days when you stop worrying about what others think and the days when you stop focusing on what you wish your life was, the fog finally clears. Light begins to shine through, and in that light is what really matters, and what matters should be up to only you.