Tuesday, May 21, 2019

High rates of concussion raise questions about contact sports

ESTHER SHITTU ’17

STAFF WRITER

This past week, I was sitting in class and a discussion came up about contact sports and the amount of concussions people get from playing contact sports. I honestly did not know that people get as many concussions as they did from playing a sport until I came to Trinity, and this person and that person got concussions. Part of the reason is because I am not “sporty.” Other than the cheerleading team in high school, I did not play sports. Don’t get me wrong. I admire those who have a love for the game, and there are many benefits of being part of a sport, but having sat through an hour-long  class on the effects of concussions, and those who had later psychological problems due to having concussion while playing in a sport, I began to wonder if the love of any sport was worth it in the end? Another question which was posed by my classmates is, will I allow my kids to play in a contact sport?

In order to answer the second, I must answer the first. According to the University of Pittsburg, “Estimates regarding the likelihood of an athlete in a contact sport experiencing a concussion may be as high as 19 percent per season.” This may not seem high. And someone else may take a look at this statistic and say, “oh, that is not so bad.” But if you really consider what the statistic is saying, or at least what I believe it is saying, every season there is a 19 percent chance of someone who is playing in a contact sport getting hit in the head and being diagnosed with a concussion. This means that if you play in a contact sport, which is an all-year sport, your chances may be higher. This does not really disturb me as much as the effects of concussion in the life of an individual later in their adulthood. In September of 2012, former NFL players, over 3,000 decided to sue the NFL because, according to the Los Angeles Times, “The players say the blows to the head have contributed to depression, memory loss and other neurological disorders.”  I take that to mean the players are now experiencing the side effects of having had concussions while they were on the field. In the Los Angeles Times article, there was research done which found that those who formally played contact sports may have died because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. Therefore, when people get hit in the brain many times on the field as they play a sport, the brain sometimes does not automatically heal by itself. Sometimes, the brain tells you later down the road, or it may begin to show signals that there is something wrong. I was astounded in the class when there were mentions of former NFL players who had concussions killing themselves. I also learned in the class about players who become violent later in life as a result of a concussion. I am not sure if I could allow myself to keep getting hurt because of a sport. As the class discussion went on, I thought to myself, “Guess my kids are not going to play sports,” but then, as if reading my thoughts, the teacher asked the class, “would you actually let your kids play sports, contact or no contact?”

As I mentioned earlier, I was a cheerleader. There was a time, my mom told me I could no longer cheerlead, and as this was not the girly cheerleading TV portrays (it was competitive cheerleading), and I felt my heart break into a thousand pieces. I cried, fought, and thankfully she lifted her rule. I cheerlead even when the amount of money my coach was asking for was not something I had. In this way, I understand what it means to love a sport. If my children decide they love a sport, am I willing to tell them, “No, honey, you are not going to play the sport because I am afraid you will get a concussion?” Honestly, part of me says yes, and part of me says no. Life is unpredictable. Some people get concussions from hitting their head on the roof of a car, and one can get hurt in anything you do. However, the possibility of a person getting something as serious (and yes it is pretty serious for those who do not know) as a concussion is higher when you are playing a sport than when you are walking down the street. Arguments people like to make, especially in the case of football is this: “If they just make better helmets…” However, when you think about it, who’s to say the helmet does not do more harm than good? You really do not know what will happen in a sport, and what getting a concussion today will lead to tomorrow. Like I said, as of right now, I’m undecided if my kids will play sports or not, but what I do hope is like all things yet unsolved in this world, God will improve the technology. That way, if the question does come up, my fears will not keep my kids from doing what they love. I also feel like each person decides if a sport is worth the physical damage. For me, absolutely not, for my kids, I do not think so, but they may think so, and that is where the real conflict lies.

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