By Tristen Zahreddine
“He could…go…all…the…way!” Sportscaster Chris Berman coined this iconic phrase, but where exactly is “he” going? To the end zone, sure but they could potentially be going all…the…way to the medical tent on the sideline with a concussion.
Concussion and CTE have been at the forefront of issue when it comes to playing football, causing many parents to worry for their kids as well as players worrying for themselves. A concussion is a brain injury caused by trauma to the head affecting one’s brain functions. It is self-diagnosable with symptoms being headache, loss of consciousness, dizziness and nausea. CTE stands for “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” and it’s a bigger issue that is caused by a history of brain trauma. Symptoms of CTE include aggression, memory loss, motor impairment and trouble swallowing. These symptoms can start to begin years after the occurrence of head trauma.
In 2015, Will Smith starred in a movie titled “Concussion” where Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, who was the doctor that found the first instance of CTE in a former football player. After his finding, he continues more research and travels to raise awareness of the dangers of football related head injuries. This movie brought a lot of people’s attention to an all-time high with this issue and made people do research and think about their long-term health.
This has been a huge topic in the world of football at all levels for the past couple years. Players such as Chris Borland, A.J Tarpley, Husain Abdullah and D’Brickashaw Ferguson have all retired due to concussions or fear of concussions and CTE.
Some famous cases of former football players that had CTE are Aaron Hernandez, Junior Seau, Ken Stabler and Jovan Belcher. Hernandez and Belcher both ended up being murderers who took their own lives and while Seau didn’t murder anyone, he did take his own life and left a big impact on the NFL.
In lower levels of football, such as high school and youth, officials have been implementing ways to help limit head injuries and prevent concussions. The idea of kids becoming hurt and having trauma in a body part that is so important are making parents take their kids out of the sport entirely due to the fear of their kids becoming injured and becoming a statistic.
“I don’t want to worry about what’s going to happen with my son in the future; I do not want my child to lose his health at such a young age. I allow him to play the sport he loves, but I can’t help but worry about him,” said one mother who wished to remain anonymous. “He watches college football and NFL games and he sees these grown men hitting each other at full speed. It gets him excited and he wants to play even though he just played a game a couple days prior. Watching these kids hit each other scares me because all it takes is one hit for a kid’s life to change completely. Every game I watch I worry about him, he plays running back quite a bit, but he just enjoys the game so much I can’t do that to him. CTE is a big issue that needs to be researched on more and athletes who had suffered multiple head injuries should get tested for signs of CTE before it’s too late.”
Participation in high school football in the nation has declined nationally, In 2016-2017 the National Federation of State High School Associations found that 25,901 fewer kids played football. With head injuries being at the forefront of issue when it comes to football there seems to be a correlation between the two.
David Wilder, an athlete who has been playing football for 12 years and played for COC during the 2015 and 2016 seasons had suffered a concussion during practice and couldn’t remember parts about that day. “I couldn’t remember how I got to practice,” he said
Wilder was participating in a drill where one player covers a receiver while they go out for a pass. Wilder laid out to swat the ball down and didn’t supports himself when he fell, causing him to hit his head on the turf, and he felt the effects immediately.
“When I hit the floor, I couldn’t remember the next 20 minutes after that. People kept telling me I was repeating things I had already said over and over again. I couldn’t remember how I got to practice,” he said.
Memory loss is a very intimidating thing to deal with and is something to take very seriously. “Concussions are extremely serious and they aren’t reported nearly as much as they should be because players, especially young ones, don’t want to come out of the game for any reason,” said Wilder. “It’s part of the macho-man culture that’s all to prevalent in sports and leads to people doing serious long-term damage to themselves all to save face and not look weak because they reported and injury. “I was scared and worried for my health after everything went back to normal and healthy I finished the season and called it quits there.”
Players who want to play through injuries such as concussions are putting themselves in harm’s way. Russell Wilson, an NFL quarterback was playing in a Thursday night game against the Arizona Cardinals and took a helmet-to-helmet hit and was sent to the sideline to be evaluated for a concussion. When Wilson went to the sideline he went into the medical tent and immediately came out. There are a couple different steps in the NFL’s concussion protocol, but Wilson seemingly didn’t participate in the evaluation and went in for the team’s next offensive play. This sets a bad example for the younger players who look up to these athletes. Young children and teens that play football will watch these players that they look up to and try and imitate them.
Another former COC football player, Anthony Tohill, has had to deal with many scary injuries, however the one that scared him most was a concussion he suffered in high school. “I have had to deal with a broken collarbone, a broken foot and other breaks, but the one that hurt and worried me the most was a bad concussion I got while at practice in high school that kept me out for two games,” Tohill said.
He was diagnosed with a concussion after practice and was not cleared until two weeks later. “I still played after that and continued to play when I entered college, but eventually I had to think about my long-term health so I did not pursue any football dreams after I was done playing at COC.”
Tohill does think enough is being done to educate players on head injuries, however.
“I understand things happen, I like the direction things are going with educating players and even coaches on the matter, sometimes things just happen though I guess,” he said.