Injuries in Football Essay Example
Every time a football player straps on their helmet and gets ready to step on the field they are putting themselves at risk. Concussions are one of the most common and significant injuries athletes suffer from in their competitive sports. There are protocols and equipment in place to help prevent concussions. The protocols and equipment that have been created are not being used as effectively as they should be which is causing players to see problems later on in their life. There needs to be a greater emphasis on the protocols that are in place and the equipment that players are using to better protect them from problems, such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy later on in their lives.
The brain is one of the most important organs in our body and when a concussion occurs it can cause issues. It is the control center that determines our every move. Without it, we would not be normal human beings. However, in contact sports, the brain is put at risk towards major brain injuries. Concussions are caused when there is a blow or impact to the head. The definition of a concussion is a traumatically induced transient disturbance of brain function and is caused by a complex pathophysiological process (Helma and Hutchinson p. 1-2). In addition, there can be stretching and nerve tissue tears due to the force at which the brain hits the skull. This also, can alter the balance of ions and chemicals in the brain, which impairs nerve cell function (Menon). Some symptoms of a concussion include headache, confusion, feeling as if in a fog, amnesia, dizziness, ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, dazed, and fatigue
According to the Brain Injury Research Institute, 1.6-3.8 billion sports concussions occur every year. On top of that, high school football accounts for 60% of concussions reported (“What is a concussion?”). There were 219 concussions reported in the 2017 NFL season (Jones and Reyes). Theories have been offered to explain the finding that the younger brain is more vulnerable to the disruption of autoregulatory functions. We need to be looking at these noteworthy statistics and realizing there needs to be a change.
There are protocols that are in place now to help prevent concussions. The NCAA issues pamphlets and flyers to provide educational information to parents, players, coaches, and team physicians. It includes information on concussions and the protocols. After this sheet has been read through there should be signed acknowledgement stating they have read and understood the material. A pre-participation assessment is also performed on the athlete. This can also be referred to as a baseline concussion test. The test will include history about previous brain injury or concussions, symptom evaluation, cognitive assessment, and balance evaluation. This test should be taken when the athlete is experiencing no concussion symptoms. The team physician can then clear the athlete for participation if there are no issues with the assessment. A plan is also in place for when a concussion is diagnosed. Athletic trainers are taught to look for signs and symptoms of concussions. This is done because athletes do not want to report their concussion out of fear they will not be able to play. This can cause even more harm. When the first sign of a concussion is present the athlete is pulled from the competition. The athlete is not allowed to return to play or practice for the rest of the day even if they don’t have a concussion. If a concussion is diagnosed then the return-to-play treatment plan is in effect. The CDC has worked with many organizations to come up with a return-to-play protocol. Most players are required to take a baseline concussion test at the beginning of every sport season. Once a concussion is diagnosed, there are steps to take to help them return safely and quickly. The first step is light aerobic exercise and each step slowly progresses until step 5 when players are eligible to return to games. Usually, seven to fourteen days are needed to fully recover from a trauma like this. Some athletes think that when they are symptom free they are able to return to games. However, this is not the case. Even though they might not be suffering from symptoms, the brain still needs the full time to recover. When athletes are performing stimulating activities while still recovering from a concussion it may reagitate the injury. Athletes need to sit out for the full seven to fourteen day time period to recover, even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.
Athletes need to be taught the importance of knowing the symptoms of concussion and the severity of them. Sometimes athletics trainers or coaches do not always see a certain hit which could be a concussion. The player might think they just took a hard hit and continue playing. This is where the situation becomes dangerous. It can keep causing over stimulation and trauma to the brain. Another issue is that the treatment in high school athletics may not be as up to par as the NFL. In the NFL they have professional athletic trainers and doctors who are very qualified. Some high schools do not even have an athletic trainer. They do not have the money to afford one. The coaches just step in when there is an injury. Also, there may only be one athletic trainer who is responsible for all the athletes in the high school. This can make it hard to keep track of all the individual player’s injuries.
A player’s equipment such as helmets and pads are a major factor for keeping the athletes safe. The National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment or NOCSAE is responsible for the protection of this equipment. This committee was formed in 1970 to help prevent injuries. One of their main focuses is on the helmet. Football helmets must include padding, air systems, a chin strap, and a face mask. The padding acts as a shock absorber placed at the head, jaw, and nose. The air system decreases the amount of pressure in the helmet. There is less space for the head to move and hit the sides of the helmet when the pressure is increased in the helmet. The chin strap is used to hold the chin in place, while also holding the helmet firmly on the head. NOCSEA are always looking for new ways to upgrade and refurbish the helmet to make it more protective. All players need to ensure that they have proper equipment that is in adequate working condition.
Over the years there have been many rule changes to help keep players on the field safe. In 2010 there was a total of 4 rule changes that had regard to concussions. This was a big rule change because it had to do with the way a player was tackling. For example, the first of these rule changes states that “A player who has just completed a catch is protected from blows to the head or neck by an opponent who launches” (NFL Evolution, 2013). The second states, “All ‘defenseless players’ are protected from blows to the head delivered by an opponent’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder” (NFL Evolution, 2013). This shows that they aren’t allowed to lead and tackle with certain body parts. This is known as targeting. This rule can help protect players on both teams.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is starting to show up as a long term effect caused by
multiple concussions (Iskandar). From 2009-2015 concussion reports were monitored to determine if they were decreasing after rule changes. Dr. Bennet Omalu first discovered CTE in the former NFL football player Mike Webster (Ban). He found grey matter in that brain while performing an autopsy. The conclusion of this study was that there was a general increase in the number of reported concussions from 2009 – 2015 so it was not possible to determine whether or not rule changes affected the rate of concussions. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated, “Within the NFL, safety-related rules will always be clearly defined and strictly enforced, and we will continue to work with our players, coaches, and others to identify new and safer ways to play the game”(NFL Evolution). Despite these promises to increase player safety, Kathleen Bachynski and Daniel Goldberg argue that they find “little evidence that these strategies prevent concussive head impacts or significantly reduce the associated long-term risks” (Bachynski and Goldberg p.333).
In conclusion, concussions are a very serious injury and should not be ignored. There
have been rules, protocols, and treatment plans put in place for a reason. There needs to be a higher demand to follow these to keep young athletes safe, but also retired athletes in their later lives. Statistics should be looked at and used to create a larger awareness. Playing football is supposed to a fun sport people can play and enjoy there needs to be rules to help keep this game fun. The precautions that are taken younger in life can help prevent long term problems in a child’s future.
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