Athletes at risk for concussions and injuries

Michael McKee, Sports Editor, Culture Editor

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For a long time sports fans have enjoyed watching their favorite teams and players go head to head in competition, but at what cost? Concussions in modern day sports are a very real and dangerous thing; they do not only affect full contact sports such as football, lacrosse, or hockey, it affects just about everything.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or body that is so hard it rocks the brain inside the skull. Symptoms of a concussion can be as mild as brief unconsciousness or forget what happened right after the injury to getting repeated concussions and causing lasting damage or maybe even CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy].

According to the Concussion Foundation, CTE is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. In CTE, a protein called Tau forms clumps that slowly spread throughout the brain, killing brain cells. So how does head trauma affect sports from high school all the way to pros and what can be done in high schools to prevent such injuries? Should professional leagues be more heavily regulated in safety?

The C.D.C (Centers for Disease Control) has determined that sports concussions in the United States have reached an epidemic level. There are between an estimated 1.6 and 3.8 million sports-related concussions in the United States every year. How does this apply to the modern world? Aaron Hernandez, former Patriots tight end, was imprisoned in 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez was detained until April of 2017 when corrections officers found he had committed suicide. Shortly after his death, his brain was released to the Boston University. In September Boston University published that Hernandez tested positive for CTE. Researchers told the New York Times “the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age.” Shortly after, Hernandez’s fiancée and daughter sued the Patriots and the NFL for causing his death. This kind of case in someone of his age is very unusual but apparently not impossible, and it raises the question, how many people in the NFL and other professional sports are suffering from the same affliction right now? Is there any way to stop it? There is no cure for this disease, and as of now, there is no way to determine if someone has CTE until they have died.

According to Prevacus, on average 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season and 33% of high school athletes who have a sports concussion report two or more in the same year. While concussions are virtually non preventable, it is still imperative to be aware of the symptoms and wear all protective gear. The athletic trainer at Revere, Taylor Gray, works as an outreach athletic trainer for Summa Health. Gray deals with many concussions through every sports season. Gray described how concussions affect players at Revere.

“In general, it can be common concussion patients feel isolated from their teammates due to their restriction of athletic participation. It is important concussion patients still feel apart of their team and attend team-related events even though they physically cannot participate in physical activity,” Gray said.

A concussion is not an injury that should scare athletes from playing the sports they love. Athletes should be aware of the dangers of concussions and the lasting injuries they can cause. Research should continue to push on to make all sports safer for young and pro athletes in the future.

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