Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy – CTE – has become the biggest issue facing the NFL. After doctors examined the brain of ex-Patriot and NFL star Aaron Hernandez, they discovered he suffered from CTE. Hernandez hung himself in his prison cell while awaiting an appeal of his murder conviction.
CTE has affected many other former players as well. Who is to blame for concussions? Where do they begin? The NFL faces an issue that they never created. The NFL has adopted protocols to prevent reoccurring concussions to current players. They have a physician with no team affiliation who puts players in “concussion protocol.” If he or she sees something they don’t like, the effected player heads to the lockers. They sit for as long as it takes for the doctors to declare the player healthy. A step in the right direction.
I grew up in the 80s, when safety wasn’t in the forefront. At the time when a child’s body is developing, so is their brain. But still, we rough housed, had rock fights, recklessly sledded, had brutal pillow fights, and rode bicycles without helmets. Have you ever slipped and banged your head on concrete or ice? Head butted with a kid or fallen off a jungle gym? All these things factor into your development physically and mentally – minor concussions are not diagnosed. The other problem that plagues our youth is the age at with they begin contact and collision sports. Children as young as eight engage in full contact. These leagues haven’t the finances or resources to diagnose concussions or other brain injuries. Some parents have suggested switching to flag football to reduce head-to-head hits. Again, stepping in the right direction.
HIGH SCHOOL TRAUMA
High school first introduced me to the term, “you just got your bell rung.” When this happened, people were expected to simply sit out for a bit and get back out there. After all, football is a “gladiator” sport and players the “cool kids” or “jocks.” Incredible that these labels are put on teenagers just for running around a field having fun. But, competition can easily turn into insanity, as nobody ever wants to be perceived as weak. Health gets tossed off like roadkill. Rub some dirt on it and get back in there. Crazy, right? High schools don’t have the funds to pay a physician to roam the sidelines policing concussions. It is a tough business allocating money, especially in public schools.
Education has been and will continue to be the top priority. Some schools are now asking the players’ parents to get involved. They suggest that the parents stay close to the bench to interact with their children. Coaches hope that a parent can notice any abnormality in their child. Maybe a little slurred speech, odd gait or unnatural behavior that would cause concern. Stepping forward in a great direction here. Get parents involved in helping the development their children and their safety.
COLLEGE AND THE GOLDEN RULE
The next place to help prevent CTE is college football. CFB is a booming business to say the least. Top teams make tens of millions of dollars per year. Some elite programs can hit a hundred million. This money helps these universities fuel other athletic programs. Smaller schools with less earning power (no TV money) need to play so called “body bag” games. An inferior team that doesn’t make the money it needs to function gets paid to travel to a top program’s home field. The visiting team gains money, experience and a beating of sizable proportions. Finance and health collide again. And it’s sad that that former seems more important than the latter. The NCAA has now taken the same measures as the NFL exercising caution, but I feel it just protects their bottom lines.
THE PRO LEVEL
Now on to the NFL, where over the past decade or so they have started to improve safety across the board. They now use technology to redesign the helmets to absorb more force. In addition they take on-the-field actions by fining/suspending players that lead with their helmets. I mentioned before that they now have unaffiliated physicians monitoring hits on the field and reactions to the hits. As this game evolves, it is important to keep evolving with it. Players are getting bigger, stronger, faster and more aggressive, so it is imperative to keep exploring ways to keep our young athletes safe across the board. The tragedy and burden has fallen to the NFL to correct the CTE discussion.
It is imperative to keep exploring ways to keep our young athletes safe across the board. All ages, races and sexes are affected the same. The tragedy and burden has fallen to the NFL to correct the CTE discussion. The NFL has some “blame” for it as they channeled money hand over fist, advertising big, hard hits. They are exciting and motivating to fans, with little thought to how it impacts the players. The rhetoric maintained they get paid well so “suck it” up and “rub some dirty on it.” Maybe society and fans should shoulder a bit of the load here too. Point is that it affects us all and we can all help the cause. I would implore us all as parents, brothers, sisters, friends, coaches, fans and teammates to stay vigilant in preventing the lasting effect of head and brain trauma.