While most fans fully understand that there will always be concussions in the game of football, most parents of players -- in Pop Warner leagues, in high school, in college and even in the National Football league – “don’t understand the effects of concussions are cumulative, and their sons will never heal one hundred present,” states a new bestseller “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic.” The book, that’s a must read here in Eugene and other football communities around the nation, explains that during any fierce game of football “there is brain seizures after impact creating lasting neurodegerative disease.”
“Silent Epidemic” destroying the brains of American youth who are heroes on the football field
“The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic,” points to “frightening numbers” that any parent who has a child playing football should pay attention to; with “estimates of sports-related concussions ranging from 1.6 million to 3.8 million annually in the United States.
“It’s becoming increasing clear that concussions, like severe head traumas, can rob players of their memory, their mental abilities and very sense of self,” state the book author’s Linda Carroll and David Rosner who write for the New York Times and other national publications.
“Because the damage caused by a football related concussion is rarely visible to the naked eye or even on a brain scan, no one knows how many millions might be living lives devastated by an invisible injury too often shrugged off as ‘just a bump on the head,” the authors of “The Concussion Crisis” add.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that “50 high school-age or younger football players in more than 20 states between 1997 and 2007 died or sustained serious head injuries on the field.”
Football coach says the game needs to change
A Eugene area football coach also noted that today’s high school and college players are “much stronger than when I played the game. We’re seeing more violent collisions on the field every Friday night and Saturday afternoon that’s more or less taking these kids out for the rest of their lives but nobody pays much attention because it’s America’s game and it’s just a game.”
The coach also noted how the game of football has “changed from when I played in the 1970’s. Today, for example, we have more tight ends getting the ball and not blocking as the position used to require. So we have smaller players getting these concussions from huge, huge players 350 to 380 pounds that must destroy their brains when smashed to the playing field. It’s not pretty. For their parents, it’s horrific and the kid’s never the same again.”
In turn, the coach says that helping younger players with “the right way to tackle,” won’t change much because the game is about hitting. Hitting hard and harder until someone coughs-up the ball. And, helmets (especially the older models that most high schools use these days) don’t do a darn think to protect a kid’s brains in a real hard head-to-head concussion."
Thus, the coach noted that “getting one’s bell rung” is no longer a laughing matter. “I now fear that the kid might be permanently brain damaged. His life is toast because he played football. That’s difficult to face when some coaches are telling these young players to 'man-up' and 'take those hits,' as if it were a badge of honor to suffer a concussion.”
Overall, “the game needs to change to protect these kids,” the coach added.
The authors of “The Concussion Crisis” concur because they say “for far too long, the menace of concussions has been hidden in plain sight. On playing fields across America, lives are being derailed by seemingly innocuous jolts to the head. From the peewees to the pros, concussions are reaching epidemic proportions. This book brings that hidden epidemic and its consequences out of the shadows.”
Top NFL quarterbacks leave the game due to concussions
Because it’s perceived as a “buzz kill,” top former NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Steve Young don’t discuss why they left the game of football to become football TV commentators. However, Leigh Steinberg, an agent for both Aikman and Young shares his story of accompanying both of these NFL super-stars to doctor’s appointments -- after both players suffered “numerous” concussions during their NFL careers – in the new bestseller “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic.”
Steinberg wanted to protect his investments. In turn, this agent for Aikman and Young asked some of the nation’s top neurologists: “How many concussions are too many? What are the possible consequences of all these concussions? At what point do these multiple concussions start to imperil an athlete’s ability to live a normal life once he gets out of the sport?”
According to the book -- “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic” – it soon became clear that even one concussion could cause permanent brain damage for life.
In turn, the book states: “If concussions were taking a toll, you certainly couldn’t tell from the way the two quarterbacks were playing. Aikman and Young where at the top of their game. Through the mid-‘90s, they took turns dominating the NFL: Aikman commanding the Cowboys to consecutive Super Bowl conquests in 19993 and ’94, Young rifling a record six touchdown passes in the 1995 Super Bowl to lead the 49ers to the title, and Aikman cementing a Dallas dynasty in 1996 by capturing an unprecedented third Super Bowl in four years.”
“But that was all about to change, and the millions of fans who had been mesmerized by the two quarterbacks’ parallel rise would soon be stunned to watch the pair’s parallel descent as mounting concussions took a toll. In the 1997 season opener, Young suffered his third official concussion over a ten-month span. Then, midway through the season, Aikman was knocked out of a game with the seventh official concussion of his career. The following week, on the eve of a showdown between the Cowboys and 49ers, Aikman and Young joked with their agent Leigh Steinberg that the game ought to be dubbed the ‘Concussion Bowl,’” states the new bestseller “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic.”
In turn, both Aikman and Young suffered more concussions.
“Young spent the rest of 1999 season on the sidelines, struggling to overcome the fallout from his latest concussion. For weeks, he was plagued by headaches and nausea; he felt dizzy, woozy and fatigued. Even with the symptoms began to lift, a host of people advised him to quit: his doctors, his family, even his team. That spring, eight months after his ninth official concussion, Steve Young retired at age thirty-eight,” writes Linda Carroll and David Rosner in the new book called “The Concussion Crisis.”
Meanwhile, the authors write “it would take much longer for Aikman to finally accept the reality of his situation and the advice of his family, friends and teammates. The following spring, four months after his tenth official concussion, Aikman tearfully announced his retirement at age thirty-four.”
“Just like that, Troy Aikman and Steve Young, two of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL history, had been forced from the sport with ten months of one another,” add the authors of “The Concussion Crisis.”
More college players quitting football to save their brains
The authors of the new book “The Concussion Crisis” also share the story of Dr. Jill Brooks, the team neuropsychologist for the Rutgers University football team who told top high school draft pick Dave Showalter to step away from the game of football even before he could play a single down of college football.
In turn, Showalter – who wanted NFL stardom like most young college players – suffered a “helmet-to-helmet hit during hit during a practice game that flooded his mouth with that familiar and frightening metallic taste” that Aikman, Young and tens of thousands of other football players report after a concussion.
“Do you remember getting a strange taste in your mouth after you got hit,” asked Dr. Brooks.
Showalter’s large eyes widened. “Yes,” he said slowly. “How did you know that?”
“Was it a kind of metallic taste?” Dr. Brooks asked.
“His eyes widened further as Dr. Brooks explained that a concussion is a serious injury.”
“It wasn’t just a ‘ding’ or just ‘getting your bell rung,” Dr. Brooks explained.
“You can’t look at it any other way, because this is an injury to your brain,” she said, “and your brain controls everything that you do – from breathing to moving your extremities to your thinking to your emotions. Your brain controls it all. And if you get repeated injuries and repeated impact seizures, you start having difficulties with thinking in class and with follow-through and with sadness and with all that other stuff.”
“Dave, you should not be playing football,” Dr. Brooks said, drawing a deep breath. “You should never think of playing football again.”
In turn, Showalter – who had gone to Rutgers to get a college education – thought “this can’t be right. She’s just being overprotective. I’m young; I’ll heal; I’ll be fine by next season,” stated a report about this young college player in the book “The Concussion Crisis.”
“Dave, this could be permanent,” she said finally. “You’ve had multiple concussions – there’s no way of knowing how many (since high school) – and the effects can be cumulative. Your brain might not heal one hundred percent. Your memory might never come all the way back.”
In turn, the doctor did not want to make things worse by telling this young college football star that he has permanent brain damage along the same way as Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw shared with fans last year when he was brave enough to buck the NFL and Fox Sports by being a “buzz kill,” and admitting he’s being treated for brain damage after dozens of concussions Bradshaw suffered during his playing years in high school, college and in the pros.
Parents must stand-up for their kids who play football because coaches want to win
"What's happening today is that there's an increased recognition of the problem, and there's an evolution in the culture at every level of play that's allowing and even encouraging players to self-report when they have symptoms," said Dr. Gail Rosseau in an Oct. 24 businessweek.com report. Rosseasu is a neurosurgeon at Northshore University Health System in suburban Chicago and a spokeswoman for the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
In turn, a high school football coach in Eugene said that he appreciates when parents stand-up for their kids who play football because us coaches want to win and, frankly, there’s so much wrong in our culture about what’s ‘winning,’ that we let these concussions just happen and play on.”
"Football is a game that three million young Americans love to play, and so we're not talking about doing away with the game completely," noted Rosseau, who is also the mother of a high school freshman who's been playing football for seven years. "But as neurosurgeons we want to do everything we can do to make it as safe as possible."
Image source of Troy Aikman in 2000 when he left the Cowboys after doctors warned him “you’ve had too many concussions.” Aikman had seven official major concussions during his NFL career, with a dozen or more other suspected concussions during his high school and college playing days. By the time most players reach the NFL, they’ve suffered “dozens” of concussions, say experts. Photo courtesy Wikipedia