Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A healthy Brain Compared to a Concussion Brain

Concussions in the NFL

The NFL has been experiencing a serious issue with concussions for years and years. But it seems that each year it is getting worse and we are now seeing the affects it has on the players. I intend to show you the affects of concussions on the players. I also am exploring what the players of different statuses such as rookies, veterans, and retired players feel about this situation. Finally I need to investigate and see what exactly the NFL is doing to protect our players. What measures are being taken to make sure that these guys are protected while they are playing and assisted after their playing days are over?

The first group of players I would like to talk about would be the young guys trying to make a name for themselves. It seems that they are willing to play through injuries and keep them a secret from their coaches. The NFL decided to try something new in order to try and keep the young guys safe. “For the first time, all 329 invited players at this week's NFL scouting combine will be given a baseline brain activity exam -- called the Impact test -- and will likely face more grilling than previous classes did about their concussion histories. Those implementing the changes call it smart football” (Associated Press.) The NFL is seeing that if these young players do not realize the severity of these problems they could put their bodies in serious risk for brain damage. The rookies are the future of the NFL and it would be wise of the NFL to work with them and educate them on this issue. In all of the rules the NFL is implementing the one major thing is that the players need to comply and need to be honest with their teams and medical staffs. The days of hiding their injuries need to end. It is necessary to explain to the players that football is a small portion of your life. They need to start thinking for after football and what they will want to do after football. Well the fact is that you’re going to be limited in what you can do if you do not protect your brain. Most of the time the guys with the brain damage struggle with every day easy things let alone going out and doing fun and adventurous things.

Now when talking about the veterans most of them have gone through the stage of feeling that they have to prove themselves and fight through their injuries. But now they are starting to feel the results from all of that and they have to start weighing whether it was worth it. The other thing is with the veterans sometimes they are still in the mentality that they have to play through injuries so the guy below them does not take their spot. The one main difference between the veterans and the rookies is that the veterans are experienced and they are more likely to listen to what team doctors have to say. Also in the veterans they are seeing their careers coming to an end now they begin to see what am I going to do now with my life and will I be able to function. When you look at all the blows a professional take each time it is injuring their brain. “There is no doubt that repetitive blow to the head result in long-term problems in the brain, including progressive dementia. With the N.F.L. taking these recent actions, we are finally at a point to move forward in our research and ultimately solve this important problem — for professional athletes and collegiate and youth players” (Schwarz.)

I feel that it is also on the older players to help get the message out that there is a problem with head injuries in the NFL. If they talk to the young players on their teams that respect them they will be able to spread the message that you have to take care of your body and not let things go and emphasize the consequences. “Ted Johnson, a former New England Patriots linebacker who sustained multiple concussions that have caused significant memory and emotional problems through his 30s, indicated his frustration at the league’s stance on the matter.” “I shouldn’t have to prove to anybody that there’s something wrong with me,” he said. “I’m not being vindictive. I’m not trying to reach up from the grave and get the N.F.L. But any doctor who doesn’t connect concussions with long-term effects should be ashamed of themselves” (Johnson.) If a veteran player went to give a presentation to a group of rookies this type of information is what would get through to them. This is real this is the problem in a nut shell. All of these players feel that they are invincible and that they will never be to this point and that they will never be like Ted. But in reality more players then you can imagine experiences some form of brain damage in their post playing career.

The last group we have are the retired players. These are the guys that have gone through all of the struggles and the injuries and are now moving on past the game. It is also this group that is getting to experience what the game does to their brain and body in general. They personally know what is happening and they know best that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. They feel that it is their duty to make a change so that the guys coming after them do not have to put up with the pain and the suffering they themselves are going through.

In an article I read it talked about a dozen players who are donating their brains when they pass away so that research can be done so that they can learn and fix the problems involving the concussions. “She recalled in a telephone interview Monday that Grimsley told her he had sustained eight or nine concussions during his nine seasons in the N.F.L. from 1984 through 1993.” “She added that for four or five years before his death, he had been exhibiting the irritability and short-term memory problems she was later told are early behavioral manifestations of C.T.E.“I would tell him what to get at the store two miles away, and he’d forget and have to call me from there to ask,” Virginia Grimsley said.”(Schwarz) When I read that citation it makes me feel awful. I cannot imagine living the last five years of my life in pain and not being able to function like a normal human being does in everyday life. These guys have to feel like outcasts among other things and it has to be a tough thing to deal with after being so famous.

The one group that can do the most to help out these players is the NFL. The one reason you can tell that NFL is serious about this situation and that they feel it needs to be addressed immediately is the fact that they changed a rule in the middle of the season. “The new policy states, in part: “Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant."(Schfter) I feel that this is a perfect rule. These players are going to have to go through testing that will be able to prove whether the brain has healed yet or not. One of the severe problems is that players come back to early from the injury and by doing so put themselves in serious danger. If you injure your head again after already doing so you are putting your brain in serious danger. I also like the fact that you have to go to team doctor and then you have to go to an independent neurological consultant. I have found that many teams were sweeping injuries under the table. This is going to limit their ability to do this anymore. I feel that this rule is just what can help get things going in the right direction.

I have also read about something that will be happening this June. It is called the 2010 concussion summit. “This June, the NFL will hold another critical summit on concussions for team medical staffs and NFLPA representatives. This conference will be similar to the 2007 summit in that the NFL will invite independent scientists to present cutting edge research. Players, owners, and fans will be watching to see whether the NFL amends the language of its pamphlet to players. If the NFL's recent concussion policy improvements serve as any indication, the new pamphlet to players will likely make full disclosure about the risks of sustaining multiple head injuries. Meaning, the league will hopefully reveal the findings of independent scientists like CSTE in the pamphlet itself.” (Duffy) This is going to allow for more talking and disgusting of what the NFL could do keeping on working on increasing the strength of their rules and the protection of their players.

I like also that they NFL is really looking into how they can best get all the information on injuries as possible. “The NFL's new guidelines on concussion management include a telephone hotline that will make it easier to report to the league when a player with a head injury is being forced to practice or play against medical advice. The league's new concussion guidelines, many of which stemmed from a conference in June involving team trainers and doctors, were formalized Tuesday and will be sent to all players and other team personnel. They include whistleblower provisions for individuals to report concussions with the telephone hotline and a booklet that will allow players and their families to identify symptoms. We want to make sure all NFL players, coaches and staff members are fully informed and take advantage of the most up-to-date information and resources as we continue to study the long-term impact of concussions," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement issued by the league”(Associated Press.) This is a really good rule we need people surrounding these teams that will look for the bad stuff. We cannot trust that the players, coaches, and medical professionals will always be out in the open and honest about the health of their players. I feel this will be a great way for the NFL to keep tabs on each team it should go a long way.

The issue involving the NFL players and head injuries is a very serious one. I like seeing what NFL is doing with its various rules and programs to help eliminate and control the growing issue. I think it is now really up to the Teams and the Players. They really need to identify the severity of what the consequences are down the road from what they do today. I feel that the NFL could develop a program where the retired players experiencing brain damage can go and talk to the current players. I just feel that the players need in the face information to make them sit up and listen up. These guys think they are invincible and really in reality they are not. I hope that the players take this issue serious and I hope that they look at the facts and realize that they need to do their part to help slow down the growing number of concussions.

Work Cited

Duffy, Paula. "New NFL rule changes hit concussions where they live." National Examiner 25 Mar. 2010: 1+. Web. 1 Apr. 2010. .
NFL combine puts more emphasis on Concussions. The Associated Press, 25 Feb. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2010. .
Schefter, Adam. NFL changes return to play policy. ESPN, 3 Dec. 2009. Web. 1 Apr. 2010. .
Schwarz, Alan. "Dozen Athletes are donating their brains when they die." New York Times 23 Sept. 2008: 1+. Web. 1 Apr. 2010. .
"NFL's new concussion rules include hotline to report abuses." Associated Press 2007: 1+. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. .