Concussion Repercussions MAG

February 22, 2012
By Pavit Patel BRONZE, Sugar Land, Texas
Pavit Patel BRONZE, Sugar Land, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The roar of 80,000 fans suddenly hushed to pin-drop silence at Lincoln Financial Field. Players and coaches huddled on the turf with looks of serious concern as doctors tended to two motionless players lying like rag dolls on the 50-yard line. Everyone jumped from their seats, hoping and praying that the players would show signs of consciousness. As they replayed the horrifying collision, the solemn broadcasters called on the National Football League to do something to prevent these grave head injuries, which occur almost weekly.

Moments earlier, DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles and Dunta Robinson of the Atlanta Falcons collided violently, and both players were sent flying in opposite directions. They were taken to the hospital after evaluation by team doctors, who concluded that they had suffered concussions. Both men would be off the field for at least a month. After years of players, coaches, and fans witnessing dangerous collisions like this weekly, where players receive head injuries playing the high velocity, bone-crushing sport of football, the NFL is finally taking action.

In 2009, the NFL passed a policy stating that players must sit out for at least one game after a concussion, and must undergo various tests before returning to the field. In the past, players subjected themselves to great risk since doctors and coaches didn’t emphasize the dangers of concussions or take proper precautions. I’m glad the NFL finally did the right thing by passing this policy to protect players from the serious effects of concussions.

Though injuries have always been part of football, the number of concussions in the NFL since 2008 has increased by 35 percent, with an average of twelve a week. It’s possible that the true number of concussions in the past should have been higher since many injuries went unreported or were not diagnosed properly.

By forcing players to sit out until they are completely clear of symptoms, the NFL can make sure players don’t receive subsequent concussions by returning to the field prematurely. Studies have shown that players who have experienced previous concussions are more susceptible to future brain injury. Troy Aikman, the Hall of Fame quarterback, was forced to retire after having ten concussions in three years. Aikman recalls coaches allowing him to continue playing after he received a concussion. If the doctors and coaches had used better judgments, this star quarterback might have played for many more years.

Not only are doctors and coaches at fault for allowing players to return to games, but players too are responsible for making unwise decisions regarding their health. Many doctors and league officials are clamoring for a “culture” change among players. Players view playing through injuries and concussions with prestige, as if they should receive a badge of honor. Some players’ competitiveness makes it hard for them to take themselves out of a game, no matter how severe the injury. In one such situation, Jason Witten tried to re-enter a game after sustaining a minor concussion, but team doctors hid his helmet so he could not put himself at risk. Some players have such a strong drive to win and help their team that they don’t consider the long-term risks to their bodies. Thanks to this new policy, players will no longer be permitted to take risks with their health in order to be heroes.

In the past, the decisions made by doctors were treated more like recommendations. This new policy boosts their authority; now the doctors make the final decision about pulling a player from the game. They no longer have to succumb to the desires of the players to continue battling through an injury. If players don’t pass the tests administered by team doctors to check if their symptoms have cleared, they won’t be allowed to play. It’s as simple as that.

Concussions can have serious long-term effects on the brain. Former NFL players Tom McHale and Andre Waters both died prematurely at the age of 45. McHale suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease similar to Alzheimer’s, and Waters committed suicide after suffering from depression and dementia. Postmortem studies of the brains of both players indicate that they developed their mental illnesses from head trauma, and directly linked their deaths to their careers in the NFL. When these athletes played, no one was considering the long-term effects of the collisions they were involved in. Joe DeLamielleure, a famous offensive lineman who retired from the NFL in the 1985, recall suffering concussions but never taking any precautions due to a lack of knowledge. DeLamielleure says he probably experienced multiple concussions during his career, but simply felt he “just had his bell rung.” Now, this lack of safety oversight by the NFL is coming back to haunt players who have long-term brain damage. The passage of this new policy will ensure that pro football will become safer, and players who are currently participating will not endure these deadly brain injuries when they retire.

The NFL did the right thing in passing the new policy regarding concussions. Now players are protected from the dangerous short-term and long-term effects of the sport they love. The concussion problem has existed in the NFL since its founding in 1920, and many former players have suffered from head trauma as a result. Though concussions will never be completely eradicated from football, this new policy will help prevent the grave sight of a young athlete lying motionless and unconsciousness on the football field.

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