The Ethics Behind Risky Play
It’s hard to get into the groove as a student journalist unfamiliar with sports.
The stories are challenging. The terminology, confusing. The myriad of sports fans stirring the back of the classroom with glee makes a non-sports fan shake their head in awe.
So an experiment was conducted.
From one sports-illiterate party to another, as a chat room — filled with gamers, no less — became, for a while, the de-facto breeding ground for sports discussion. The dialogue was prompted by this Life Noggin video:
And of course, the results were recorded. But warning, crude language may follow.
For our mobile users: the video describes the harmful dangers surrounding American football from ligament sprains to ACL injuries — using nifty animation tools. The channel thrives on the sciences and ‘what-if’ scenarios.
The conversation pool was small, at first. Friends, acquaintances, and the like. Since we figured everyone had something to say. With the immediate topic prompted by the video as: football and the dangers of high-contact sports in the 21st century. The goal was to ascertain the logic behind the desire to play. And to assess the moral dangers behind the freedom of choice.
Soon the comments flowed in. Edward was the first to respond. Among the group, sports aren’t the most popular of conversation topics (they’re all nerds, after all). But Ed’s an exception; he used to box. A lot.
Others had stories to tell, too.
The youngest of the group (we’ll call him D4) strayed far away from physical activity, since his health was a factor.
Dante, strong language aside, called football a “suicide sport”.
Alex had no idea what was being said, so he started talking specifics about the video aesthetics.
Patrick, a novice practitioner, wrote paragraphs on the matter.
And Bryce, a senior in high school, and an expert on cryptic, text-speak acronyms, shared his own experiences on head trauma, speaking from experience.
Divulging the obvious: football aside, cognitive deficiencies become more common with age — this is fact.
Yet external factors — including head trauma, concussions, and physical activity that propagates damaged brain function spurs a question that needs asking: How strong an impact do physically intensive sports have on psychological development, especially as one ages?
Well, depending on the severity, a significant amount.
Head injuries constitute the most fascinating and equally terrifying occurrences to happen in sports.
According to Sciencedaily, this neurological study involving head trauma, taken up by researchers at the Baycrest Health Sciences Rotman Research Institute is dominated with dispute. The comprehensive test, utilizing alumni from the National Hockey League, reports a contrast between the “objective” brain impairment and the “subjective” responses of their patients.
To clarify, the damage sustained — as far as concussions are concerned — is real, and displays immediate changes to memory function. But the emotional responses to specific questions differ.
The study began in 2010, led by Dr. Brian Levine, and describes the emotional challenges displayed by the former players as the investigation focuses on cognitive functioning, genetics, medical history, and age.
And there were questionnaires given to the athletes. According to the study, between the control and treatment groups, the latter saw significant disadvantage “on executive and intellectual functioning,” which is an element of the test traced to prior exposure to concussions and general physical trauma.
Levine’s team plans to continue the study for long-term inquiry.
In essence, the findings only further understanding of the brain and general psychological disadvantages to intensive play. But that’s not all.
Other than the resurgence of problems in later life, the study also argues that conversation surrounding the topic of sports-related injuries should be commonplace.
Well, we can start.
Concussions are a medical problem facing professional (or soon to be) athletes in the 21st century.
Sports are defined by the ability to thrive and conquer the opponent. But given our current understanding of long-term injuries — especially as it pertains to retired professionals — the sports industry is given some trouble.
In short, the medical community has reached an impasse. And people are scrambling to find an answer to appease parental figures and close the case on the dangers of high-contact sports. Can this be remedied? And how?
You start small. And according to English professor Robert Early, you watch Frontline.
“It’s like a documentary. An investigative journalism type of documentary. It’s really good. They dig deep into stories. There was this one, centered on this doctor — this brain doctor — collecting brain samples of NFL football players who had passed away. And she’s finding an outrageous percent of them have this specific kind of brain damage,” Early said.
The episode in question details a supposed cover-up of football sustained brain injuries by the National Football League.
Nevertheless, the dialogue was spurred from curiosity: whether high school and college sports — such as football, basketball, hockey — should be advertised as harmful, and potentially banned. Early soon delved into brain development.
“Which — its really bad. And it leads to suicide. It’s one of the worst side-effects of it,” Early said.
Early was referring to Traumatic Brain Injuries (TMI) which, given the severity of the damage, can result in long-term complications — including increased psychological stress. TMIs are classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as: a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. Concussions classify as a minor form of TMI.
For most human beings, the brain reaches peak performance around 22 years old. Lasting for half a decade before declining specifically in areas regarding memory and decision-making.
And the recent proposals concerning the ban of football in U.S. high schools have provoked growing concerns. With debate in the ethics behind safe play, as it applies to young adults, a riveting topic.
“We have a concussion protocol in place now. Which, I think, is consistent with what most schools are doing now,” said Jason Leone, head men’s basketball coach at Oswego State.
“So, from a coach’s perspective, we have certified athletic trainers that are involved with our program — that work with our team doctor and Mary Walker Health Center, to determine the status of our players in terms of being able to play or not. So, if and when some sort of injury that involves head trauma occurs in our practices or games, immediately it goes to the experts that are involved. They make the determination that allow or disallow an athlete to play,” Leone said.
Leone’s testimony speaks to a new imperative: an indication that university-level sports recognize the risks involved in high-contact play. However, the story differs from those in high-school and under; with evidence that even a single season of football, for instance, can have drastic negative effects on brain development in youth.
The study was conducted by Radiology. And it suggests that the small, incremental impacts of physical contact — bouts that don’t cause immediate trauma — are the culprits behind detrimental brain changes.
Small blows lead to huge consequences.
And the ethical implications are extremely complex. Interwoven with external and internal influence, the specific kind of contact or trauma, the age, the gender, the sport — you’re left with more questions than answers.
Nevertheless, the brain is intriguing. This squishy culmination of grey matter and billions of neurons betrays it’s repertoire of weaknesses and faults and deficiencies in this business of intense roughhousing. And it’s only through vigorous trial and error that we have a grasp on those various issues.
“In terms of my own personal experience, while playing, I’ve personally have had three what you would call documented concussions. That’s where you’ve either been knocked out unconscious or you’ve had loss of memory or something of that form. I’ve personally had three of those — where I’ve had to go to a hospital, see a doctor, take the time away from a game,” Jon Whitelaw, assistant men’s ice hockey coach said.
Whitelaw, a recent Oswego State grad and newest addition to it’s hockey team in a coaching position, has experienced three concussions over a 7-year time span. But as far as he’s aware, they left no lingering after-effects.
“Definitely. Well, you see it a lot in professional sports, whether it be football players or hockey players or boxers — any sport where there’s risk of trauma to the head. Definitely. And when it happens repeatedly, there definitely is issues and consequences of that. I think all the scientific studies out there now will show that. For myself, having what I would deem a relatively low number, I personally never experienced any issues or anything like that. I’ve known people that have. Unfortunately, it’s caused some people to step away from doing something they love. It’s unfortunately the risk you take when you play a high-contact sport,” Whitelaw said.
Hence, moral principles, as it applies to sports and concussions and the freedom of choice, divides the overarching issue into two avenues:
You either participate in sports of your own volition, or you don’t. This applies to parental figures — and their kids — as well. And both harbor consequences of their own merit.
So with all this being said, why is this relevant? What can you do?
Follow your heart, seriously.
It’s corny, redundant, overplayed, but it’s true.
Humans don’t have foresight into the future. We make our predictions on current — present — circumstances. And our obsessive nature over finding the answer, or the correct solution, to a problem that expresses an infinitude of different factors — will only lead to more confusion.
Moreover, as the student behind the ball, if you will it, you can do it. Regardless of the sport.
For the parents behind the decision-making: make the choice, solely, with child in mind. Passion in a child is not to be ignored, but neither are health issues.
Patrick, our novice, delved into the matter with finesse. His experience with concussions, and injuries of that sort, have greatly expanded since his admission into medical school in the pacific islands.
And when he isn’t ranting about the horrendous internet connection, he provides substantial information on his medical escapades.
With some philosophical insight, of course.
The chat was strewn with conversation of this manner, as the dangers of sports, and the ethics behind playing sports, and the moral complications behind those complications went full circle.
As conscious beings that have to consider the immediate and long term factors to every decision, there’s no fault to anyone if things go awry — unless there was evidence to say otherwise.
People aren’t perfect. And the emphasis on such must be stated.
As far as order is concerned: whether or not football should be banned, or whether high-contact sports are too dangerous an activity for anyone under 25, or whether your risk of concussion increases with so-so is useless conjecture as far as attaining the correct answer.
Because there is no such thing.