Seeing Stars: Concussions going out of style

Growing up, I always wanted to play football. My dad had played in high school and my entire family consisted of die-hard Ohio State fans. I dreamt that one day I would play football at Ohio State and have my name on the back of one of those jerseys. But my parents forbid me from playing football.

My parents were very supportive, encouraging me to do everything and anything that I enjoyed. I participated in nearly every sport imaginable, except football. My mom is an occupational therapist, her job consisting of taking care of patients who could not take care of themselves due to brain injury.

Before all of the concussion studies that came about in the late 2000s, my mom knew that the constant sub-concussive forces to the head that were the norm in football, could not be good. Now, new rules are being instituted in sports to protect players from concussions. But these rule changes unfortunately come after a high price.

Numerous NFL players have committed suicide, and an even larger number have been diagnosed with dementia because of the head injuries received while playing football.

What I’m most interested in is the fact that concussions are not a new phenomenon, dealing with the most important organ in the body. And yet, many people have been quick to sweep the telling research under the rug in favor of more profits and enjoyment. I want to investigate the history of concussions and the general social acceptance of receiving a brain injury. Until recently, players were encouraged to return to play after receiving a concussion. In boxing, the first boxer to give the other a concussion first, wins. Why is there such a sweeping discrepancy in how brain injury is handled, especially in sports?

Growing up in a household where head safety was the number one priority, I also find it strange there is a social stigma about wearing a bicycle helmet. It is something that could save your life, yet people are mocked for using one. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want to wear a helmet when riding a bike, other than the fact that it is not considered “cool”.

I guess what the main point I would like to examine is the knowledge and the continual advancements in prevention of head injury. Not only that, I would like to look at how for a time period, head injury was a taboo subject, especially in athletic circles. People with money were able to hinder and even completely halt research that would have saved countless lives.

Concussions should be one of the most concerning injuries in every sport, and what is even scarier, is that the injury can last months or years. There is still much to be learned about contact related brain trauma, but it still begs the question; what sports are worth the risks? At what point, is it not “just part of the game”?

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