Left: Healthy brain tissue. Right: Brain tissue belonging to former NFL player John Grimsley who suffered 9 concussions during his career.
Football is back. Heck, I’m watching a football game as I write this.
Week 1 of America’s favorite pastime played out over the weekend. With all of the amazing displays of speed, strength and athleticism also come concussions. A few players suffered concussions Sunday. I can recall seeing at least one player — Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington — being knocked unconscious.
But concussions also have a major presence in youth football. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 175,000 kids are sent to the hospital each year due to sports-related brain injuries, most of which are suffered while playing football.
On Monday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer announced his support for a new legislation designed to improve the standards for youth and high school football helmets.
That’s great, as long as Schumer and everyone else understand that safer helmets are not a cure-all. Take it from one of most well-written sports articles I’ve ever read:
“Scientists compare the brain to Jell-O, or an egg yolk, or an oyster, or fettuccine Alfredo — it’s hard to get the metaphor just right when you’re dealing with the seat of consciousness — but the point is that you’re not supposed to jiggle it. The brain is not a snow globe. Neurons don’t simply settle back down after a vigorous shake.
“No helmet can prevent the head from stopping short, nor keep the cortex (thinking, vision), basal ganglia (messaging neurons), frontal lobes (problem solving, judgment) and temporal lobes (hearing, memory) from sloshing forward and banging into bone. That’s when the damage occurs, damage that shows up in postmortem staining tests as heinous brown splotches. Yes, it’s true, football turns the brain brown. Football makes the brain look like a football.”
Concussions in football have become a major headline as a rash of ex-players have said they believe they are living with the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive, degenerative brain disease that is found post-mortem and often in people who have suffered multiple concussions. The symptoms include psychosis, dementia and depression, to name a few. A few players have committed suicide in the past couple of years, and CTE was later detected in their brains. Numerous current and former players have already signed a waiver to donate their brains to science after they are gone.
But no matter the safety regulations implemented to curb concussions, be it safer headgear, banning hits to the head, limiting the number of plays that a high school or youth player can spend on the field, concussions will always be a risk for any football player.
The only way to truly avoid them in football … is to not play football. Due to what is being discovered by scientists, more and more parents, including some NFL players, are demanding that their children take that route instead.