In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NCAA, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, is undertaking a 3 year $30 million dollar study pertaining to head injuries and concussions. Of note, the NCAA has already agreed to pay $75 million to settle a class action lawsuit over concussion related claims.
NFL Linebacker Chris Borland’s recent decision was a brave one; he walked away from a $3 million contract over the issue of concussions.
Last August, the 24-year old Borland was just starting out as a rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers. During his first training camp he suffered a concussion. But he continued to play through the day and through the rookie season. Even so, the issue of concussion kept bothering him and he began researching the data. He found plenty, enough to change his mind about a career in football.
By now, most sports-minded Americans know a lot more about concussions than they did even five years ago. This awareness has led to policy and protocol changes throughout athletic organizations, from youth to professional sports. Concussion awareness has also made its way to the sports-retail market, where new football helmet add-ons claim to reduce head injuries. But do they work?
A recent study of young football players ages five to 15 years old found that proper blocking and tackling techniques along with properly fitted equipment can reduce injuries by 76 percent. It can also reduce by 57 percent, those injuries that keep players out for at least 24 hours.
This week, some sobering news out of Boston University: Former NFL players who played tackle football before the age of 12 show more decreases in memory and cognitive functions than those who started playing tackle later, as teens.
With Super Bowl madness winding down, the issue of concussion is coming up. And once again, we’re talking about the NFL.
I’m a great fan of football, and Sunday found me like it did 111.5 million other viewers – sitting in front of the TV watching the match-up between Seattle and New England. There were great plays and it was a great game. But as a physician certified in concussion management, I watched closely as the Patriot’s receiver, Julian Edelman, took a hard hit helmet-to-helmet in the fourth quarter. It was clear he was slow getting back on his feet. My concussion alarm went off. And then, despite the NFL’s big focus on reducing brain injuries, we saw Edelman go back into the game, finishing with the winning touchdown that gave the Patriot’s players a Super Bowl ring.
It’s pretty much their nature – team sports and injuries go together. But the rise in concussion awareness is making us all more vigilant about the broader issue of sports safety.
Over the last few years, there have been numerous studies and research on sports-related head injuries in young athletes. The findings have led to big changes in schools and local sports initiatives. Safety is increasingly becoming a priority – and a popular one at that.