Concussions in sports: What is and can be done?

By Jesse Gaunce
September 21, 2010

Brain injuries are one of the deadliest in all of sports. reports that Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Kevin Kolb, New York Giants tight end Kevin Boss and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers are the latest players to land on the ever expanding list of head injuries.

Kolb was diagnosed with a concussion after the Eagles home opening loss to the Green Bay Packers in week 1. reported that in 2009, nearly one-fifth of 160 players surveyed by the Associated Press from Nov. 2-15 revealed that they had not informed their organizations of their concussions.

Former New England Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson retired before the 2005 season due to sustaining as many as 50 concussions throughout his ten-year playing career, according to and On Feb. 1, 2007, Johnson told the New York Times that he was suffering from amphetamine addiction, depression and headaches that were relative to post concussion syndrome and Second Impact Syndrome.

The Boston Globe and the New York Times reported that he also was showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Aside from Johnson, reports that a study in 2000 which surveyed about 1090 former N.F.L player’s, showed that 60 percent of them had sustained a concussion at least once in their career and 26 percent had three or more. Of those players who reported concussions, memory, concentration, speech impediments, headaches and other neurological problems were some of the symptoms they were suffering from.

In September, 2009, a new study conducted by the N.F.L had shown that Alzheimer’s and other similar memory-loss diseases were being diagnosed in the league’s former players more than the national population at a rate of 19 times the normal rate of men ages 30 to 49.

Although this research has not been peer reviewed, what was discovered falls into place with several other studies done.

N.F.L Commissioner Roger Goodell has insisted that the leagues policies on head injuries are safe and that no third-party involvement is necessary. However, recently the N.F.L has seemed to take opinions from outside sources into consideration. An embarrassing hearing before the House Judiciary Committee had the league’s policies drawing comparisons to the tobacco industry.

After all the criticism the league took for its weak policies, they finally took action.

On Dec. 3, 2009, the league announced its new and very much improved rules on how they handle concussions.

The league now requires players to be removed from practice or a game as soon as they report concussion-like symptoms. They will also not be allowed to return to action on the same day. In July 2010, the N.F.L made this matter even more important when they produced a poster that pointed out the long-term effects of concussions. It also used words such as “depression,” and “early onset of dementia.”

This is regarded as the league’s most definitive statement.

League spokesman Greg Aiello, said that the poster “is intended to present the most current and objective medical information on concussions and will be distributed to the players and clubs in the near future.”

This poster has been hung in the locker rooms of all 32 N.F.L franchises. It is intended not only to make the players aware, but also has redirected the league’s attention and awareness to the matter since these rule changes were made last fall. reports that in Dec. 2009, former player Chris Nowinski testified before the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), called for a hearing aimed at bringing the issue further into perspective.

The N.H.L has also seen a few players go down recently with concussions. Ian Laperriere of the Philadelphia Flyers and Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins both suffered concussions from head shots. Laperriere was the victim of a puck to the face in game 5 of the Flyers opening playoff round series victory against the New Jersey Devils in the spring of 2010. Savard was on the receiving end of a blind-side hit from Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke in a game in early March, 2010. Though they both returned later on in the playoffs, they are still suffering Post-Concussion Syndrome. Laperriere has been told that he may have to retire, while there is no word on the health of Savard at the moment.

The difference between the hits on these players was that Laperriere’s was not intentional, as he laid out to block a shot and was hit in the face. The hit Matt Cooke delivered on Savard was intentional because Cooke had his elbow raised with every intent to injure. Savard could not see Cooke and could not prepare for what was the come. Cooke received no penalty from the N.H.L; a move that most people, including myself, think was the wrong move.

I think the N.F.L and the N.H.L get criticized for the way they handle this issue that they ultimately can’t prevent. No one can go out there and stop a player from getting hurt. It is the nature of the sport. However, I do think they may be able to do a little bit more to enforce the issue.

Often times I’ve seen concussions result from vicious hits to the head, which both leagues already have very strict policies on. I feel that if a concussion is the end result of an intentional hit to the head by another player, the player that delivered the hit should be suspended for as long as the player on the receiving end is out. I also think the league should give out bigger fines depending on the severity of the injury and in accordance to how long the player is out.

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Jesse Gaunce

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