10 PHI KAPPA PHI FORUM
I still remember the loud thwack of
crashing plastic on the football field that
sent a shiver through me as I sat in the
bleachers silently whispering that God
should allow No. 51, my son, to stand
up. He and another player had crashed
helmets during a play. Though he
suffered a mild concussion, my son and
the other player have, fortunately, not
had health issues since.
What especially distressed me was my
husband’s experience as a high school
football player. He suffered a concussion
so severe that he did not remember
being taken to the locker room. When
he awoke, he was rambling gibberish
and wandered into the opposing team’s
huddle, a disorientation that typically
occurs with concussions. It took him
several hours before he was lucid again.
According to Head Case, a concussion
management system company, some 47
percent of all reported sports concussions
occur in high school football.
Concussions are an injury to the
brain, though they may appear invisible.
In the past, those who experienced
concussions — as my husband and
son did — were told to shake it off.
Some concussions may include ongoing
symptoms such as nausea and headaches,
cognitive issues such as having challenges
with concentration or memory, and
emotional issues such as sadness and
irritability, according to the Sports
Repeated concussions can cause
irreparable damage. As we have seen in
former NFL players and boxers (think
MAIRE O. SIMINGTON, Society vice president at large, is the director of care management services for Banner Health,
Phoenix, Arizona. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Hofstra University, a master’s degree in English from Arizona
State University (her Phi Kappa Phi chapter), an MBA from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in English/rhetoric from
Arizona State. She is a peer reviewer for the Journal of American Culture and the Journal of Healthcare Management. Email her
Muhammad Ali), the effects are devastating. As the Institute notes, a professional football
player might receive some 900-1,500 blows to the head during a season. There have been
recent reports of NFL players committing suicide attributed to chronic encephalopathy, a
degenerative disease that occurs in people with multiple head traumas.
Concussions are not just limited to football. Boxers receive punches to the head at
an estimate of 20 mph and the speed of a soccer ball being headed by a player is at the
average of 70 mph, according to the Institute. Injuries also occur in lacrosse, ice hockey,
wrestling, basketball, softball, field hockey, gymnastics and cheerleading. According
to Head Case, some 3. 8 million concussions were reported in 2012, double what was
reported in 2002. A third of concussions occur during practice. Some 39 percent of
these injuries are considered cumulative and increase catastrophic injury that results in
permanent neurologic damage.
A 2014 class action lawsuit brought by 4,500 former members of the NFL brought
heightened awareness to the issue in what PBS characterized as a “public firestorm.” A
third of these players suffer from neuro-cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s disease or
dementia. The NFL has taken a defensive position on the matter.
So what can be done? Better data collection can establish the true extent of the issue,
especially as it relates to young people. More studies about the repeated nature of head
trauma are needed to understand the long-term effects. More safety rules about contact
sports need to be established, and finally, the number of times a concussion occurs and
time lapsed between concussions needs to be examined.
Many health care organizations have established concussion centers to help diagnose
and treat brain injuries. The Concussion Legacy Foundation can help locate a facility
in any geographic area of the country for more information or treatment. With more
awareness about safety, we should be able to get back to the notion that sports should
be fun and not life-endangering.
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