The University of Texas football fans got some bad news last week. During a press conference, Coach Strong revealed that quarterback David Ash had made the decision to retire from football. The reason? Multiple concussions.
Ash has repeatedly suffered head injuries. The most recent was during the season opening game against North Texas. But his problems with head injuries began long before that. In fact, concussion kept him out of play for most of last year’s games. According to Coach Strong, Ash had recently consulted with the UT medical staff, and all concurred that retirement from football would be the best option.
Did you know that last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), emergency rooms around the country treated more than 170,000 sports-related brain injuries, including concussions involving young players? And that number doesn’t count the ones who didn’t go to an emergency room.
Concussions are far too common. They are a serious brain injury. We’re learning more all the time about the consequences of ignoring them. Just last week it was reported that one in three retired NFL players is expected to develop long-term cognitive problems earlier than the general population. They’re talking about problems like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In a great article published last month in Forbes, Chris Smith took an in-depth look at the concussion helmet backstory. Specifically, Smith posed a question about whether better head protection could help solve the NFL’s concussion problem.
As all football fans are aware, head injuries in the NFL have prompted concern and criticism; also a law suit that ended up in a $765 million settlement on behalf of thousands of NFL players. The concussion crisis, as it’s now being called, has prompted a great deal of interest in the development, testing and manufacturing of football helmets designed to provide better protection for players.
Looking at a recap of the numbers for the NFL’s preseason football games, it’s not the touchdowns or the rushing yards that grab my attention. It’s the number of concussions. So far this PRESEASON – the number of concussions among NFL players stands at 61.
That number was reached Sunday during the Houston/Denver game, when Wes Welker suffered a concussion – his third concussion in 10 months. By this time last year, the number of concussions stood at 40.
It’s pretty clear after watching the World Cup, soccer may not be the game many people have perceived. It’s not all about the kicks and the legwork. There’s also a great deal of play involving the head.
Despite the fact that there is a concussion protocol within the World Cup organization, polices were ignored in some cases. Players suffering head injuries were not seen by doctors and not removed from play. One athlete who suffered a head injury continued to stay in the game until he had to be assisted off the field. Later, he admitted he didn’t remember much after being hit. Memory loss is a telling symptom of concussion.
So why would a practicing physician who does not play pro football care about the latest news regarding concussions and the NFL?
First the headlines. This week, a federal judge approved compensation for thousands of former NFL players for concussion-related claims. In her ruling, the judge stated that while the lawsuit dragged on for years, “retired players’ physical and mental conditions continue to deteriorate.”
In just a few short weeks, hundreds of thousands of young athletes across the country will be gearing up for summer practice. But while they prepare for the gridiron and learn to work together as a team for the upcoming football season, this year, they’ll be learning something new; a safer way to play that may mean fewer concussions.
There was a time when bumps to the head got little attention, particularly when they involved young athletes. Parents and coaches alike often considered them par for the course; a temporary condition in which seeing stars would pass with a few sips of water and a brief break from the game. After all, young athletes are incredibly resilient. No blood, no broken bones, no worries. Few understood the drama going on inside the young athlete’s brain or the danger it presented.
That’s changing. Concussion awareness is going global.
Looking at some of the high profile sporting events recently, there has been the usual array of ankle injuries, muscle cramps, bumps, bruises, and concussions. Concussions? In the case of head injuries to high profile athletes, concussions have increasingly become newsworthy injuries, largely because they have the potential to affect a player’s availability in the playoffs, both in the NBA and the NFL, just to name a few.