I am a little sick of the way concussions are being handled in professional sports. Along with how they are being portayed in the media, here in Australia I watched a program professing their program is the most important to watch for a parent. Below is a link to the segment, its 21 minutes long just to warn you, 21 minutes of fear and no substance.
The implication that those playing sports, once recieving a concussion, should never play again is just ludicrous. Playing a contact sport comes with inherent dangers of being injured, for every player that gets a knock to the brain and contracts a concussion there are many others who dont. There are those with arthritis in knees, ankles, hips, and shoulders that will continue to get worse as they age, it is a very unfortunate part of playing contact sports and pushing your body to extremes to get a competitive advantage.
It is prevention that will help reduce the amount of injuries players contract. This goes for all injuries, but especially concussions. A study is under way to find the best way to design helmets to help prevent or reduce the effects of concussions. This study shows that without prevention we are going to see a lot of depression and memory loss in these athletes later in life.
Throughout all of these studies one of the consistent themes has been the NFLPA's continued involvement in helping with studies, many players now are signing up to leave their brains to science to see if they can help future generations avoid what their own brains have gone through. This kind of forward thinking has lead to the NHLPA adding itself to current research to see how concussions can be handled better. What is galling is the players and owners this year fought over billions of dollars and having money put into a fund on concussion research was not even thought of. If the sport was serious about looking after its players, the NHL would be conducting their own research, not 'band wagoning' onto one already started.
The AFL here in Australia keeps on stating they are serious about concussions and how to avoid them. The game of AFL football has changed drastically in the last 5 years, front on body contact has left the game, one on one contests have left the game. All due to rule changes the AFL has put into place to reduce collisions to the head. What this has done is speed up the game, so when there is hard physical contact, it is of the highest impact and often a head injury is incurred.
The media in this country has not held the AFL to account in relation to how they are actually handling concussion, the AFL is very sketchy in relation to their concussion policy, and the actual requirements of club doctors to allow a player to return playing.
In general, the safest course of action is that the player not be allowed to return to play in the game or training session
is one of the weakest attempts to protect players from themselves.
The NFL has taken a leading step in the science of concussions by having players donate their brain to science to study the effects of concussions on the brain. Studies are being conducted all the time in an attempt to help those suffering from concussion and trying to find ways to minimise how many occur. Here is an example of a study conducted by college football teams at two universities. It is not so much the results of the study that resonate with me, its the fact that the sport of American Football is willing to take the time and more importantly the funds into researching this topic.
The authors note that there is still much to be learned, and that the terminology in use can sometimes oversimplify a more complex set of processes that still need to be teased apart. In their response to an accompanying editorial, they state, "By carefully characterizing exactly what we are talking about and by continued investigation, which will take more time ... , neurosurgeons and others will be best positioned to offer effective treatments and to advocate knowledgeably for appropriate injury-prevention strategies"
CTE is something that all sports should be taking seriously, and not just the governing body of each sport, but the players association of each sport should have just as much interest in this topic as the leagues they play in. The players are the one's who are going to have depression, memory loss, headaches, blurry vision, not only during their playing days, but post career, to the point where some players may take their life, this has already tragically occurred.
One of the myths commonly thrown around in the football media here in Australia is it is impact to the head that causes the concussion. It is not, those of you who follow enough hockey know that it is the impact of the brain against the skull. This can occur in any number of ways, the whiplash issue Malkin fell into against the Panthers, it was not Malkin's head hitting the boards, but the whipping motion of his head once his body made contact with them.
All I am saying is we need those that make descions in hockey to take the research seriously, one day we may be able to see all the big collisions we want without fear of ending a career due to a concussion because the equipment is different and the players are better informed.
Thanks for reading!