Concussions Affecting Sports At All Levels

In the past decade there has been a great deal of information brought to the table relating to concussions and the effects that they have on an athletes brain. The amount of reported concussions has doubled in the past ten years, growing to a staggering 3,800,000 concussions in 2012 alone. With emergency room visits doubling in the past year among kids from the age of eight to 13 and a 200 percent increase in concussions among kids 14 to 19 in the last ten years, there has been a direct impact on players from every level from professional all the way down to youth leagues.

The main reason these athletes are being effected has to do with the risks that concusssions have on the brain. Oswego State assistant athletic trainer Stephen Papay explains what happens to the brain during a concussion.

Now that concussions are being more recognized during sporting events there is a better chance that an athlete will not substain any serious long term injuries from it. Compared to years ago when many football players would “get their bell rung” and then just continue to play through the concussion, Stephen Papay explains what can happen if a concussion can go untreated.

As more information surfaces surrounding concussions, players at the profressional level are beginning to realize how concussions cannot only effect their careers but also their health throughout the rest of their lives. After former San Diego Charger, Junior Seau committed suicide and it was later found out that he had deveoloped CTE, which is a neurological diease that is caused from concussions and repeated head trama. This was a shocking blow to the NFL community and began to make younger players think about their own futures. Chris Borland, a linebacker for the San Franisco 49ers, recently retired in 2015 after only playing one year in the NFL because he was concerned with the potential risk of repeated head trama. Similar to Borland, Jake Locker of the Tennesse Titans decided to give up the game of football at the age of 26, after suffering multiple concussions during his four year career.

Now with the information available regarding concussions and the risks that athletes are taking in high contact sports like football and hockey, we are beginning to see a shift in rules to protect these athletes at all levels. At the professional level players are now not allowed to launch themselves into a defenseless player anywhere above the shoulders or the play will result in a penalty. At the youth level, East Rochester football coach, Brian Touranjoe explains how the game is changing, “The emphasis on techniques of appropriate tackling techniques have increased during practice. Before there was not enough emphasis on tackling with the shoulder. This has changed tackling techniques and now emphasizes getting the head out of the tackle and using your shoulder.” He also emphasized the importance of, “See what you’re tackling,” in attempts to teach younger athletes to get the head out of the tackle.

It has now gotten to the point where certain high contact sports like football and hockey are now being effected at the youth level because of parents being concerned about their child’s mental health. President Obama, as well as, LeBron James have already come out publicly and said that they would not allow their children to play football because of the potential risk of head injuries.

A Facebook poll shows that even though people understand the risk of concussions, they wouldn’t want to hold there child back from participating in a sport that they want to play. Kevin Growney, who recently became a father had this to say, “If it’s what he wants to do I wouldn’t hold him back but I would be quick to pull him out of the sport if he got a head injury and just hope it’s not to late. I do hope though he doesn’t choose football and plays a sport like soccer.”

Participation is down for youth sports because of the risk of concussions and head injuries, athletes are still playing at a high level because of their love for sports. Former collegeiate hockey player, Kyle Vanthof has suffered four concussions during his career which ultimately led him to stop playing at a competitive level. “ I stopped playing hockey at a competitive level my junior year in college. As far as the way that I played the game, the concussion issues never had an impact on the way that I played, if I was on the ice I was playing with the same intensity that I always had throughout my career.”

The difference today compared to decades ago is that athletes, coaches, and trainer now can recongize when someone recieves a concussion and they will be able to take the necessary precautions to help the athlete recover before further damage is done. There will always be contact in sports like football and hockey and that’s part of the game. The players now understand the risks they are taking by participating but continue to play because of the love of the sport. The games haven’t changed as much as people may think, but what has changed is the understanding that athletes and coaches have for concussions.

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