Football draft avoids talk of concussions, while NFL shares Terry Bradshaw's warning

Dave Masko's picture

EUGENE, Ore. – University of Oregon “Duck” football fans were glued to their TV sets today as the National Football League began the annual draft of their favorite college players; however, Oregon fans also know that these NFL rookies may wind up like famed Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw with serious brain damage due to a football career filled with concussions that result in memory, concentration, speech impediments, headaches and other neurological problems.

Concussion awareness and safety is one aspect of a contentious labor dispute between wealthy team owners – who want more action and hits on the playing field – and NFL players who don’t want to suffer from brain damage as have Terry Bradshaw and thousands of other players. In fact, at least 50 high school or younger football players in more than 20 states since 1997 have been killed or have sustained serious head injuries due to concussions on the field, according to research by The New York Times.

"Over a million persons suffer from concussions in the United States every year – including high school, college and NFL players -- whose diagnosis depends on someone on the sidelines who may, or may not, be capable of getting it right. If the diagnosis is wrong, and the player returns to the field and is hit in the head again, the second concussion will probably be far more serious, and possibly even fatal," states the New York Times in its ongoing investigation of football related injuries.

Bradshaw’s brain damage revelation timed before NFL draft

The official NFL website is now featuring a section devoted to football concussion awareness with a statement that “Terry Bradshaw says he's feeling the effects of numerous concussions that he sustained during his Hall of Fame career and now struggles with short-term memory loss, depression and anxiety.”

The NFL has previously viewed any talk of concussions as a negative, say sports analysts who are now revealing a change with the NFL wanting to help players.

In fact, the NFL website included this statement from Bradshaw:

"Today most athletes rehab after surgery from a knee or shoulder injury. Well, I'm learning how to prevent my brain from getting worse than it is after suffering a career worth of concussions playing football," wrote Bradshaw, now a mainstay on Fox Sports' NFL pre-game and postgame coverage. "When I played for the Steelers and I got my bell rung, I'd take smelling salts and go right back out there. All of us did that. We didn't know any better. You don't know how many times I was in the huddle, asking my teammates to help me call a play. After a few minutes, I'd be fine and I'd keep playing just like nothing had happened."

NFL draft also means college players will now face a greater risk of concussions

Head injuries, including concussions, particularly in the game of American football, have become a subject of deep concern, much study and even Congressional hearings in the United States,” states a New York Times investigation into concussions impact on the game of football for high school, college and professional players.

According to sports medicine experts here in Eugene, a “concussion generally occurs when the head either accelerates rapidly and then is stopped, or is spun rapidly.”

“This violent shaking causes the brain cells to become depolarized and fire all their neurotransmitters at once in an unhealthy cascade, flooding the brain with chemicals and deadening certain receptors linked to learning and memory. The results often include confusion, blurred vision, memory loss, nausea and, sometimes, unconsciousness. Neurologists say once a person suffers a concussion, he is as much as four times more likely to sustain a second one. Moreover, after several concussions, it takes less of a blow to cause the injury and requires more time to recover,” the New York Times reported.

Concussions once viewed as “just getting your bell rung,” by tough-minded coaches

Fans enjoy those head-to-head hits on the playing field, but players have to deal with it the rest of their lives, states a former Oregon “Duck” player who’s helping to lead a local parents group in Eugene on what they’ve dubbed as “concussion consciousness.” The parents view concussions on the football playing filed as an “epidemic of head injuries” that are worse than any parent really thought.

Moreover, experts such as Purdue University biomedical engineering professor Eric Nauman’s research – as reported on the website Slate – “calculates there are about 1 million high-school football players in any given year in the United States.” Off that number, “there are some 67,000 reported concussions, and probably about as many that go unreported because fans, coaches, and parents don't want a star athlete pulled from a game.”

But among the supposedly injury-free remainder, “the Purdue researchers believe tens of thousands of athletes routinely suffer serious brain injuries from high-impact collisions intrinsic to the game.”

Also, some of the high-school players that Nauman studied “suffered about 150 head impacts per week during the season, or about 1,500 impacts per year. On average, the hits carried a force of around 40G, with the force of impacts being measured by sensors within helmets.”

Nauman also noted that: “These hits did not knock players out, but they caused systematic changes in their brain functioning. Unlike the violent helmet-to-helmet collisions in the open field that have drawn warnings and suspensions from the NFL, these blows usually involved routine blocks and tackles, often along the line of scrimmage. “

Image source of brain scan after football concussion: Wikipedia

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