Concussions in the “brain dead” games

November 8, 2019

PART I. CONCUSSIONS IN FOOTBALL

“It’s painful, man, for my daughters to say they’re scared of me.” Toney Dorset, the former rookie of the year, was one of the best Dallas cowboys to play, as well as the winner of the prestigious Heisman trophy. You would think life after NFL would be calm, and he would have time to spend with his family, but that’s not the case. Because of the countless hits, Dorset took in his long NFL career, he has reason to believe that he is suffering from CTE. The cause of CTE is believed to be concussions.

CTE is a neurological disease that is taking over the football scene and is one of the biggest reasons the football community needs to change its ways. CTE or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is caused by repeated head injuries. While many skeptics believe that people are overreacting, many experts believe that CTE is a rising problem, and is definitely caused by concussions.

Concussions are involved in all sports, no matter the time or place. The best example of concussions is in football. The word has been more prevalent in the world of football for the longest time, but is the NFL community really doing all they can to do? 

Not only is there a problem with concussions in pro football, but in the youth football community too. We need to figure out what the problem is and how to help people who are suffering. We need to stop the players from only thinking about being tough, and start thinking about being smart.  

In addition to the problems with concussions, The research is definitely pointing to the relationship between concussions and CTE. CTE has been found in not only ex-NFLers but also veterans that have served in active battle areas and have sustained head trauma. When CTE starts, a protein called tau starts to form clumps in your brain. These clumps are what causes the issues. When the tau starts to get big, they start killing brain cells, causing depression, memory loss, and pain.

“You are supposed to be tough. You are supposed to play through pain. You are not supposed to cry. We are taught that early on in the game as kids. Tough sport. Brutal sport. It’s like the gladiator. People want to see big hits. They wind up on Sports Center. And as a player, you don’t want to admit you are injured,” said Erick Dickerson  about CTE.  

In fact, ex-footballers are now coming out and talking about their struggles with the disease. The problem with CTE is doctors can’t treat the players or see if they have CTE until the patient is dead. 

Prior to the football crises, CTE was involved with boxing. When CTE was discovered, it was called punch drunk syndrome, because boxers were suffering from the disease and acting with impaired judgment, which is one of the many side effects of CTE.  Now many of the ex-NFLers believe they are suffering from CTE. Many football players have committed suicide because of the awful feeling and side effects of this disease. One such example is Bubba Smith, an NFL player who had been the number one overall pick and had won a Superbowl. He killed himself with an overdose on drugs, and it was later found that the reason he had the pain killer in the first place, was his CTE. 

Alongside stories of Toney Dorset and Bubba there are many more examples of cte having devastating effects on football players. And it’s not only in the NFL. Sports like soccer and rugby and even surfing have had their fair share of concerns with concussions.  Now, the NFL has made some rule changes about helmet to helmet contact in the game but did they didn’t really do that much. 

After the NFL had a record high concussion year in 2017, the league decided to add a suspension into the rule book for any player that goes helmet, meaning hitting a player with their helmet or using the shoulder to drive a player’s head.

 In addition to record high concussion rates only 4 penalties were called for the new helmet to helmet rule in the first 5 weeks of the NFL, which is a total of 62 games played, according to  Bill Pennington of the New York Times. And it’s not as if these hits were not happening. In one of the games where the Raiders played the Seahawks wide receiver Amari Cooper was knocked unconscious with a dirty helmet hit and yet no penalty was called.

According to CNN In 2018, there were 214 concussions in the NFL, and there are only 256 games per year. That’s almost a concussion a game, and keep in mind that this is all the concussions that were caught. Many experts are worried that the reason the players are suffering so much is that they are not catching the concussions, leading to having two concussions back to back.  

Generally, people in sports do not want a concussion, but why? When interviewing Elizabeth Barchi of NYU a sports medicine expert, she mentioned that one of the biggest concerns for football and concussions, in general, is called second impact syndrome. 

This syndrome has one cause. When a player gets a concussion and either doesn’t let it heal properly or ignore it and then gets hit again it can cause permanent brain damage. Now in the NFL players with concussions are normally not out for that long, but that’s not healthy to these players. A proper concussion recovery process calls for no stimulation at all in the first two days of the process according to Dr. Barchi. Now ex-football players are banding together to bring awareness to the issue.  

In 2012 a group of players sued the NFL for negligence for ignoring the fact that they knew about the danger of concussions and did not do enough about the issue, and in the end, the NFL had to pay 765 million dollars to concussion programs. 

Alongside the lawsuit of 2012, In 2013 Junior Seau’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL, accusing the NFL of the cause of their son’s suicide, due to a disease that they knew about long before the incident and failed to make the players aware.  

 In an interview with youth football coach James Whittaker, he stated that “a lot of the teaching methods were taught incorrectly when I was in school we were taught incorrectly we were taught to use our heads to tackle” that is one of the big problems with today’s game, and in the long run the teaching methods of the past really hurt them. But there is hope for youth players. Coach Whitaker also says “what we are personally doing in our program is we don’t really mention the head doing a rugby form of tackle rap and roll” according to coach Whitaker the problem is that they aren’t teaching the new form of tackling, they need to teach the rugby-style tackle.  

Of course, this thinking is of a new time and back In 1994, the NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue created the MTBI committee. This committee was formed to treat and publish scientific papers on the NFL concussion crisis, and the head of this committee was Dr. Elliot Pellman, the New York Jets doctor, who had no previous background knowledge on the topic. When later asked about the concussion problem in the NFL, Pellman stated that concussions were “an occupational risk.”  Pellman also said that knee injuries and drug abuse were a bigger issue for the committee. Pellman and the commissioner said that they were working on the issue when they were really creating bias statements and ignoring the real problem. “On concussions, I think is one of these pack journalism issues, frankly… There is no increase in concussions, the number is relatively small… The problem is a journalist issue, “ said the NFL Commissioner Pellman

Alongside the comments, The NFL had done little to nothing to help players, and because it wasn’t hurting the player while they were playing only well into their retirement would they feel the effects of CTE. The NFL didn’t seem to care, even going as low as to blame the problem on the journalists.  The NFL has been ignoring the relations between CTE and concussions for a long time now and the big football enthusiasts might say that there is change happening and that the new head commissioner is really changing the game but that’s not entirely true the league is just talking and they don’t seem to be getting any results. 

Without delay, a new commissioner Rodger Goodell was thrust into a position as the acting commissioner. The new commissioner Roger Goodell is one of the most controversial commissioners in NFL history, players are saying that he has too much power, yet Commissioner Roger Goodell is not using that newfound power to solve the NFL’s concussion issue.  

On the other hand, Roger Goodell has said countless times that he and the NFL are really trying to make the league safer. He states that he has made over 30 rule changes in the last decade. One of these rule changes was the change of the kickoff spot allowing the players to have less build-up in speed when running at the ball carrier.  Now, this is great and the fact is that the NFL has done something for the concussion protocol but have they done enough, but this is only the NFL. There are even more leagues with concussion problems all sports need to change. Hockey fighter bogart, nicknamed the Boogeyman, died because of CTE just the other year shining a light on the NHL’s concussion problem.  

In addition to issues in major sports, there seems to be a problem with youth football leagues in America. football is the backbone of America and many rural places only have football or other sports. A docuseries  Friday Nights Tykes is a show that now shines a new light on youth football in the outer and inner city of Austin, Texas. The show focuses on the youth football league Tyga and follows certain teams throughout the year and their seasons. The docuseries has gained popularity for the surprising intensity that happens during under 12 and under 10 games. 

The docuseries has also shed new light on the youth football crisis high school football was shown to have accounted for more than 60 percent of youth concussions from ages 5 to 18, more than professional football. And Tyga is no exception, in one of the episodes a player nicknamed smiley suffered a concussion then later in the year had a seizure believed to be concussion-related. The incident brought a huge amount of attention to the show and league, but this isn’t the only case. As the NFL modifies its rules, the majority of youth football has stayed the same and in places where the concussion programs have yet to be established the dangers tackling style is having a huge effect on the players. 

On the other hand high school football coach James Whitaker said in an interview that the problem with football players in the league now was how they learned to tackle they were not taught to tackle with their shoulders but with their heads the players were never taught how to probably tackle and in the long run that really hurt them. But there is hope for youth players Coach Whitaker says that in his personal league in NYC they are teaching a new form of tackle and are not mentioning the head at all when it comes to talking. As well as teaching new ways to tackle, they also teach the consequences of football style tackling. Mr Whitaker talked about how the concussion program in his league is getting better and better each league he attends concussion meeting each year for the league and says that refs are sending players off for even the slightest concern over concussions, and it’s working so far in his league they haven’t suffered a single concussion all year, though that isn’t the case for all leagues. 

The problem with youth football and football, in general, is the awful stories that happen because of this sport, just like CTE. Drugs, alcohol, and depression take over many high school football players after their long and brutal careers. Stories that truly make football seem like torture have been surfacing all over America. Regular nice men are being driven to suicide and awful futures because they wanted to play an amateur sport. 

For the people that deny the fact that CTE is caused by repeated concussions, they are putting your kids in danger, and if something is not done soon to all football leagues, there will be serious consequences in the future generations. 

For example one of these stories that have come to the forefront is Zac Easter, who is an ex-football player who played for his high school team. AC graduated and felt great he had a long term girlfriend who was his best friend, but that all changed after only a few months after he graduated from high school. He started having memory loss and constant migraines, which later evolved into depression and constant pain. Zac started writing a journal about the effects of what he said was CTE.

Zac had been feeling pain and had been suffering from depression after his high school football career, so he decided to make a journal describing his pain and showing what it was like to live with this awful condition. Zac had loved playing football and had been playing for all of this highschool time. He had also gained great experiences but none were worth the end price. Zac wrote to his family and friends- who had no idea what was going on- the night before he committed suicide. 

When Zac was writing his letter he talked about he was sorry to have put his family through his suicide but said that he could no longer live with the pain. He wanted to be buried on the hill where he shot his first buck and wanted to be in the exact place where it had happened right by the long pile. Zac requested that he did not want the biggest funeral and did not want his family to spend a penny on his funeral. He also wanted to be cremated. Zac wrote all this down in his letter. Zacs plan was too drive out to his favorite childhood lake and shoot himself. When he arrived he took a photo, and posted a Facebook update that he was sorry he took the selfish way out, and then ended his life.

Zac had felt like he was at a disadvantage when it came to football because of his small size, but he didn’t let that stop him when he learned that he could use his head to tackle and always win tackles. He went all-in gaining the reputation that he was the toughest player on the field and that no matter what he would make the tackle. He said in his journal that he had learned to not pick his head up until the game was over. 

The same mentality that caused Zac to suffer so much is still being used today. While some football leagues are trying to get the game safer, there are still many places with the toughness first safety later mentality.  

when your coach tells you to do something, you do it no questions asked because your coach knows what’s best. When a football coach tells you to take with your head you do it, and that’s what needs to stop. The mentality that because they are on the other team I need to hurt them or destroy them with my helmet is wrong. This issue isn’t only on the players and the heads of the leagues but as well as on the coaches, and you can do something about it if you are worried about your safety or a friends safety speak to the  coach and ask them why and be the person that helps and not just watches these stories surface and destroy athletes lives.   

CTE has become one of the most common diseases in the NFL and is becoming more recognized for the consequences and its effects around the world. You may be thinking that people aren’t helping at all but that’s not the case, in fact, people around the world are trying to help those with CTE by studying and looking at CTE in brains. 

Alongside the recent news in this topic the The Patrick Risha CTE awareness foundation is a volunteer nonprofit group that helps the public and sports programs across the globe deal with and help prevent CTE from taking over the athlete’s lives.  They hold fundraisers for medical research and sponsor days to bring awareness to the condition.

CTE is not a disease spread by the media and is very real. The NFL has refused to make changes to the game and when they have they made changes they did not follow their own rules. The countless stories that have come from football have painted a story that there needs to change and we had a country need to review the game that we love. There is no denying that CTE is a problem, and we need to be able to research it. If you know anyone who might be suffering please reach out to a research company or a suicide hotline if they are having suicidal.

PART II. CONCUSSIONS IN RUGBY

“I was fully aware there was something wrong with me, but to be told I had scarring on the brain was surprising. It’s irreversible damage.” The 52-year-old ex-rugby player Ian Roberts suffered from multiple traumatic brain injuries due to his valuable position in the team causing him to be in a concussion study with 24 other ex-rugby players.

After his mesmerizing rugby career, he then went on to pursue an acting career. 

In a quote gathered from bbc.com, he said, “In the last five years, I’ve noticed my recollection of things has slowed down, and my memory isn’t as sharp as it was. I first realized it during the rehearsals for plays, because my ability to learn lines has deteriorated. I’m just not as sharp as I was in the past.” His acting career was heavily affected by his previous concussions which caused him to have complications with his mental health.

After multiple traumatic brain injuries that lead to a concussion, rugby players experience multiple slowdowns in the brain, which causes a dysfunctional daily life. 

Roberts’ first major concussion was when he was in his early teens, and when his career turned professionally, he was knocked unconscious on 14 separate occasions. This contributed to complications with Robert’s mental health. Robert’s main reason for doing the study was to make sure that his symptoms were caused during his rugby career and not from other events that may have happened.

BBC Sports reported that the 25 ex-rugby players, including Roberts, were significantly slower at completing the tasks they were asked to complete. Studies showed they  were specifically 20% worse at picking up, manipulating, and placing three small pins into different holes than the control group, 15% slower at response to touching a target when it appears on a tablet screen than the control group, 122% worse at identifying the location of discrete patterns concealed behind boxes on a screen than the control  group, 98% worse in repeatedly finding and remembering tokens located behind boxes than the control group, 71% worse in maintaining concentration in the activity of concentrating on one figure as two figures are randomly displayed on a screen than the control group, and 76% returned abnormal brain responses than the control group from Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

These studies show us that the concussions or multiple hits to the brain caused a massive effect on the ex-rugby players in their concentration levels and memory levels, which affects their daily life and how they suffer from these traumatic brain hits every day. 

What is a concussion?

A concussion, which is known as a subset of traumatic brain injury, is when a force comes in contact with the head, neck or face, or fast movement of the head, causing a functional injury to the brain. According to the AANS The second-impact syndrome is when a player has obtained a second concussion when you either return to the field the same day or return to play before complete recovery from a previous concussion. This is a result of brain swelling, from vascular congestion and increased intracranial pressure, this can be fatal to a player as it is a very difficult medical injury to control. The brain is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which protects it from light trauma. More severe impacts, or the forces associated with rapid acceleration, may not be absorbed by this cushion. Concussion may be caused by impact forces, in which the head strikes or is struck by something, or impulsive forces, in which the head moves without itself being subject to blunt trauma. 

Diseases caused by a concussion

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE,  is an example of the cumulative damage that can occur as the result of multiple concussions or less severe blows to the head. The condition was previously referred to as “dementia pugilistica,” or “punch drunk” syndrome, as it was first noted in boxers. The disease can lead to cognitive and physical handicaps such as parkinsonism, speech and memory problems, slowed mental processing, tremor, depression, and inappropriate behavior. It shares features with Alzheimer’s disease. 

CTE can also cause multiple impulse decisions, aggression, and mainly depression which all of these players undergo all the symptoms and then later on in life they struggle which leads to them believing there’s nothing to live for because there life is very difficult with there handicaps, Which leads them to commit suicide. Suicide is a very big killer in rugby because aftersustaining all those traumatic brain hits, the brain cannot function as it did in its prime. Suicide affected young rugby player Danial James. According to ruckscience.com, the 23-year-old was paralyzed for life after a training incident with his team in the United Kingdom. Months later his parents and James came to a consensus for James to commit suicide and that his parents would assist him in his suicide. 

How do you get a concussion?

Concussions in England’s professional rugby union are the most common injury received while playing the game. Concussions can occur where an individual experiences an impact to the head. They commonly occur in high contact sporting activities such American football, boxing, and rugby. It can also occur in recreational activities like horse riding, jumping, cycling, and skiing. The reason being that it doesn’t have to be something to strike you in the proximity of your brain, but can also be caused by a rapid change of movement, giving the skull not enough time to move with your body, causing your brain to press against your skull. With rugby being such contact and fast-moving sport, it is no wonder why there are a concussion and other head injuries occurring. With the development of equipment and training methods, these will help benefit the players on the field know what could happen and how they can help with preventing it.

What is the rugby community doing about it?

The relationship between rugby and concussions are improving. According to The News Observer There have been 2 concussions in the Rugby World Cup 2019 held in Japan. In the last Rugby World Cup in 2015 held in England, 24 players had concussions.  From the 2 different tournaments in 4 years, they have had a decrease in concussions by 78% in recent world cups. This shows a major improvement in concussions in rugby.  The rugby league has achieved this concussion percentage rate because they made ways to help players be as safe as possible while playing the game they love. 

In 2012 they invented a new system called the “head injury assessment” also known as (HIA) which allows medics to take a player off the pitch for 10 minutes to conduct a standardized assessment where they get 3 different parts. In HIA test one includes immediate and permanent removal from the match • An off-field assessment including a symptom checklist, medical evaluation, balance assessment and cognitive tests performed by a doctor • Video review • Clinical evaluation by the treating doctor. After this test, they go to HIA test 2 where they repeat the medical evaluation performed by a doctor within 3 hours of the incident, and then the doctor assists in early diagnosis of a concussion. Then they proceed to HIA 3 where A further medical evaluation is performed 48-72 hours after the incident, and then eventually if needed assists with the late diagnosis of a concussion. This is a very good assessment because allows players to stay safe and have a longer career and not just ignoring the obvious of maybe having a concussion. 

Another way the rugby community is improving with concussions is the global governing body, who also made the HIA tests, that has also launched several trials aimed at making tackling safer, as it accounts for 76% of concussions in elite matches. World Rugby, therefore, promotes low-risk techniques, both by issuing warnings to players who are not bent at the waist when tackling (players are meant to bend at the waist when tackling) and rewarding teams who take steps towards safe tackling. Therefore, teams are becoming safer by rewarding them for their safety measures, and the award is motivation for them to be safer. 

In a recent interview with young prodigy rugby star Luca Pereria Fears, he said that “I used to be scared of getting a concussion but now I’ve learned how to tackle properly without getting a concussion; my coaches taught how to be safer on the field without using my head as a weapon.” This tells us that the coaches are telling their young athletes how to play the game as safe as possible while playing their hardest. He also mentioned some of the things they are told at a young age. 

Pereria Fears also said, “We were taught how to prevent concussions, and were also told that [rugby] is a way safer sport than all contact sports.” The coaches are trying to make their athletes feel more comfortable so that they can feel safe playing rugby. Things to 

What is the rugby community not doing about it?

Pereria Fears  also mentioned that the rugby community isn’t doing enough to protect their young athletes: “I haven’t heard as many changes happening to prevent concussions in rugby.”This shows that the rugby union isn’t doing anything to spread awareness of this life-endangering sport. They should be contributing money to research the topic about concussions in rugby so it can benefit future generations and help them play the sport as safe as possible while playing there hardest and how they want to play. 

Pereria Fears also mentioned his thoughts on his game mentality where he said this, “A lot of times we’re not really focusing on the consequences of the game but were focusing on playing the hardest we can.” This means that the rugby community is not doing enough to protect their young athletes. They are not trying their hardest to prevent concussions, which will affect their daily lives as they go on.

History of rugby union   

Rugby Union has been played since the early eighteen hundreds. Being a high contact sport, it has the highest announced rates of concussion. With the game being both physically and mentally demanding, it varies from being at high intensities of sprinting, tackling and rucking, with small intensities of jogging and walking. 

According to telegraph.co.uk, in the 2011/12 English rugby premiership season, there were 4.5 concussions per 1,000 playing hours. In the 2012/13 season, there were 6.7 concussions per 1,000 playing hours. In the 2013/14 season, there were about 10.5 concussions per 1,000 playing hours.

Then, according to dw.com, the most common injury in the 2017/18 season was a concussion where it was 17.9 concussions per 1,000 hours. This data represents that over the seasons in the same rugby league (English rugby premiership) concussion rates have been increasing by every season or couple seasons by decent amounts, which shows that the English rugby community needs to input safer ways to play the game and conduct more research. 

In addition to this data, about 8 out of the 40 players in the squad will be injured due to a concussion-related injury, and only about 13 percent of players sustained at least one concussion. 

Post-retirement with concussions in rugby

Post-retirement can be difficult for most ex-rugby players (some are not as heavily affected, depends on the impact of the hits leading to a concussion) who suffered from a concussion. Every day they have to deal with major slowdowns because of there brain damage. They have worse memory, reaction speed, worse in concentrating on a task. They also have to deal with the long term concussion symptoms, which are multiple impulse decisions, aggression, and mainly depression. In a recent study conducted by ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, they studied and tested a total of 672 male retired rugby players (mean ages of 38-52 years). Three studies tested neuropsychological functioning in retired rugby players in comparison with a control group, with no significant evidence of worse performance in most of the tests when compared to a control group. Five out of the six studies tested self-reported measures of cognition. Three studies compared another set of retired rugby players to a control group, one of which found significantly increased subjective cognitive complaints among the set of retired rugby players. The other two studies found that persistent post-concussion symptoms were associated with a higher number of self-diagnosed concussions. Two studies reported worse fine motor control in retired rugby players in comparison with a control group. This represents the brains of retired rugby players who suffered from concussions, and how their brain is significantly worse in behavior, showing emotions, brain speed than a brain that hasn’t suffered from a concussion. Therefore post-retirement suffering from long term concussion symptoms is very serious and causes multiple complications in later life which can lead to depression and even suicide for the retired rugby players.

If you know anyone suffering from a concussion or is struggling with the symptoms of one, please reach out to them and their family or contact the suicide health line. Help them with their symptoms or if not capable contact someone who is. If you believe you are struggling with CTE, reach out for help don’t hold your silence because we’re here for you. This is an ongoing issue in all sports like hockey, soccer, football, etc. If you are a young athlete, try to learn ways the play your sport the safest as possible while playing it with your style so you can prevent these tragic things that happen to these retired athletes. Don’t be silent.

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