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What’s wrong with: Concussion protocol

Concussions are career killers, and life altering./Barbara Moore
Concussions are career killers, and life altering./Barbara Moore

Would you let your kid play a sport like football now?

Author: john loeppky – contributor

Sports injuries, by and large, have effects that are obvious. If an NBA player sustains a knee injury, one Paul Pierce wheelchair incident aside, it is generally accepted that the athlete affected will be out of action for a significant amount of time. The same cannot be said for concussions.

Even if you have given up on your first semester dream of going to the gym regularly — and, at this point, who hasn’t? — you will have seen the posters inside the kinesiology building that proclaim the dangers of concussions, declaring them as brain injuries, and yet athletes all too often, having come off the field of play unsure of what province they are in (let alone what the next play will be), are sent right back into battle.

Now, you would think with professional leagues being the pinnacle of their respective sports, that they would be mindful of their influence on thing such as concussion protocols. After all, if too many players are injuring themselves then the likelihood of more athletes joining that particular sport decreases. University of Regina Alumni (and current Seattle Seahawks Punter) Jon Ryan revealed in an interview that, while he would let his son play football, he does have some reservations.

“I started playing tackle football at the age of 7. It’s always been something I did. I had a number of concussions coming up. I think I’d steer him toward the punting thing as I did myself and kind of avoid those kinds of head injuries. But that’s definitely a tough call. But, if I did have more concussions, or if I do have problems when I’m 40, I might answer that question differently.”

US President Barack Obama has also publicly acknowledged that we have a long way to go when it comes to the prevention and treatment of concussions.

“The awareness is improved today, but not by much. So the total number of young people who are impacted by [concussions] early on is probably bigger than we know.”

I believe that the problems surrounding concussions, which are currently the subject of many a lawsuit (most notably one of the class action variety leveled against the NFL), stem from three central issues:

First, the warrior mentality that is so prevalent in sports, the feeling — perpetuated by staff and player alike, that it is somehow more valiant to solider through an injury than to recover in the time needed. Secondly, the long standing stance of all but a few organizations to ignore the problem for fear of having to deal with the consequences. Finally, there’s the fact that only recently have the long-term effects of concussions been heavily studied. Only in the last few years have medical conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (a condition that often affects those have sustained repetitive brain trauma) has been shown to adversely affect professional athletes.

Sadly, the number of athletes impacted negatively will continue to increase, even as the protocols surrounding brain injuries try to catch up.

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