The Early Lead: Concussions
By BRANDON HURLEY
It used to be the ultimate mark of a tough guy.
You embraced bone-crushing contact, picked yourself off the ground and played the next snap. So what if you felt a little woozy or had a head ache?
Commentators, fans and coaches would reel off terms such as passionate, warrior, loyal and strong when gloating about the specific player.
But now we know. We can see those violent collisions aren’t as cool or exciting – they are dangerous and potentially life-threatening.
Proper recognition and gratuity is owed to the Greene County School District and 21st Century Rehab.
Their ambitious and proactive dedication to concussion management is something you don’t usually see in rural Iowa.
I remember my first – and thankfully only – concussion all the way back in elementary school. I didn’t know it was a concussion at the time, and frankly, I didn’t know the ensuing side effects were symptoms of a brain injury.
I was in third grade (close to 20 years ago now…wow) playing basketball in one those old gyms where the cafeteria tables folded into the walls. We were playing on a side court, that was perpendicular to the large court. For the life of me, I have no idea why, but I came speeding down on a fast break. I must’ve tripped and fell and slammed my head into the folded up tables.
But, I popped back up, never losing consciousness, without a mark or scratch and no sprain. To the best of my knowledge, and for my coach’s at that time, we didn’t think twice about a possible concussion. I just sat out for a little bit and went back in.
But, the lingering symptoms arose at home. I started to get a headache, a throbbing one at that, and my stomach was upset. I sat out the Boy Scouts meeting that night, laying in bed. Then came the puking. At that time, I thought I had the flu or was sick, not that I had suffered a brain injury a few hours earlier. My parents had no idea, either. In fact, I probably hid my upset stomach from them.
Stories like mine are what the Greene County school district and 21st Century Rehab are trying to eliminate. No longer will we guess if a player suffered a concussion or not – there is concrete and scientific evidence to prove it.
Varsity football coach and Greene County activities director Mitch Moore is fully on board with the ImPACT Concussion program, which can identify concussions by testing short term and immediate memory as well as reaction time.
“We are all so much more aware now. It really helps us be more intuitive to what we need to look for,” Moore said. “What kind of hit can make them have a concussion and so on.”
It’s an important step to take. Not even 10 years ago, Moore suffered a concussion while playing at Wisconsin-Whitewater. The protocol and awareness was no where near where it is today.
“i was knocked out in a game a junior in college,” the former college wide receiver said. “I was back practicing Monday afternoon. You didn’t know. I took some Tylenol and I was back practicing.
Think about that, not even a full decade ago we were shrugging off brain injuries. That’s terrifying.
Concussions are, frankly put – scary. Yes, many of the rule changes in recent years have watered down the thrill of football to some degree, but it’s for the overall safety of the players. Do you honestly want to see guys endure several brain injuries a game? You, I and the neighbor down the street want our kids and athletes to be able to walk and live well past the age of 50.
Tyler Sash and Junior Seau are just a few horrific examples of why this program is a tremendous positive. Their lives were lost much, much too soon and mental illness has been linked to their history of concussions.
“It’s really changed,” Moore said about concussion management. “As an athlete then, you tried to hide the headache. Athletes now know you can’t do that. You need to be forthcoming because ultimately, it can affect you long term.”
Rule changes and decreased participation at the high school level may suggest that football could look drastically different in the future. But Moore does not feel that way. He sees the sport thriving, but in a more safe manner thanks to technological advancements.
“I don’t think it’ll change a whole lot form what it is now. The equipment will get safer and the protocol for identifying the concussions is getting safer,” the coach said. “That will balance each other out. It’ll benefit all games. It’s not just football. The more knowledge we have on what makes a concussion and how you prevent a concussion the better all sports will be.”
It’ll be interesting to see where sports go from here. We are at a peculiar crossroads, with football becoming increasingly dangerous as you climb the ranks. Will we see kick-offs eliminated? Will players still use helmets? Will defenders even be able to tackle the quarterback?
There’s still so much unknown that we covered here, but it’s a wonderful sight to see Greene County be proactive in their endeavors. Kudos to them.