Monday, January 14, 2013

End of Hard Contact Sports inevitable

 We are looking at a radical transformation in sports. Most certainly, football as we know it will disappear one way or the other, the other been a monster class action suite by the victims and the victim's families targeting both the NFL and the schools. All the rules regarding contact sports will need to be revisited and reset.

Boxing will have to operate without head shots. Will it still be boxing?

First let me make the case for the science so it is abundantly clear. If you receive one concussion capable of producing micro tears in the brain you have a problem that will take months to recover from. The good news is that it is plausible to often achieve full recovery. The bad news is that it will take a long time and we are not good yet at establishing recovery and mental stability.

The really bad news is that a concussion overlaid over an unhealed first concussion hugely weakens the prognosis to permanent damage and instability. Obviously if you then really work at it as happens in football, massive damage is inevitable.

The only ethical choice is to outlaw concussion risk and let the sports fraternity go figure it all out.

Hockey is likely fixable because the head is not used as a weapon normally and removing the body armor would subdue remaining risks. Other sports have generally already come to grips with concussion risk. If one event is sufficient to end a career, then so be it. We are already seeing just that happening in hockey.

We can not eliminate outright accidents but we can sure take the victims off the playing field and outright imprison deliberate offenders who target other players. It is draconian but the consequences are worse.

I am not sure that we can save football as we know it. It is abundantly clear that high school football needs to revert back to touch football rules. The remaining question is whether we toss the pads and make the whole sport operate with some version of touch football.

The game would be fast and furious and physical blocking still part of the game. We may even come to like it. Recall that watching a soccer virtuoso makes soccer incredibly exciting and maybe it is time to get serious about soccer.

Junior Seau’s suicide due to chronic football brain damage

jANUARY 10, 2013

Junior Seau’s suicide devastated the community of San Diego and raised the question of why. Today, that question has been answered. Junior Seau, the famous San Diego Charger #55 had degenerative brain disease after playing 20 football seasons. On Jan. 10, 2013, NBC 7 San Diego reports that “Junior Seau, one of the NFL's best and fiercest players for nearly two decades, had a degenerative brain disease when he committed suicide last May, the National Institutes of Health told The Associated Press on Thursday.”

Junior Seau had been a famous linebacker for 20 NFL seasons with San Diego, Miami and New England. He retired in 2009. On May 2, 2012, Junior Seau committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. Junior Seau’s girlfriend found him in his home in Oceanside which is in the northern part of San Diego.

The studies and analysis done on Junior Seau’s brain were made upon the request of Junior Seau’s family.

After the studies were completed on Junior Seau’s brain, the National Institute of Health (NIH) was able to determine that Junior Seau’s brain showed abnormalities which were “consistent with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).”

Traumatic encephalopathy, also known as Dementia pugilistica (DP) or Traumatic brain injury (TBI), can occur after frequent injuries to the head like a bump, blow, jolt, or direct head impact. While immediate concussions warrant a visit to the hospital, less apparent concussions and damage to the brain might not be visible until, as in Junior Seau’s case, it is too late.

Like in Junior Seau’s case, symptoms of traumatic brain injury due to repeated sports “invisible” head injuries can include memory problems, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and if left untreated, suicide.

The study of Junior Seau’s brain was conducted by several independent experts who examined the tissue of Junior Seau’s brain.

Junior Seau’s suicide propelled the topic of concussions in the NFL and other sports leagues that involve head injuries into the public eye. After reports of other sports players having experienced depression or memory trouble, NIH conducted further research studies which were published on Jan. 7, 2013.

Dr. John Hart Jr. from the University of Texas at Dallas, who was involved in the NIH study of Junior Seau’s brain, emphasized that "Not everyone gets this problem. … It's a more complex issue than [that] has just sort of been thrown out there."

Dr. Hart does encourage more NFL and other sports players to “to get their brains checked out.” For most players, there are no consequences or minor consequences from playing sports. However, getting checked out can bring peace of mind not only for the player but also for the player’s family.

Ideally, he said, all players would be evaluated before, during and after their careers to check for brain changes. That would help doctors learn more about how head trauma is related to mental decline and dementia - and hopefully avert those problems in future athletes.”

In Junior Seau’s case, San Diegans, and especially Junior Seau’s family, knowing what caused Junior Seau’s suicide brings some closure.

Tyler Seau, Junior Seau’s 23-year-old son said that “"I was not surprised after learning a little about CTE that he had it. … He did play so many years at that level. I was more just kind of angry I didn't do something more and have the awareness to help him more, and now it is too late. … I don't think any of us were aware of the side effects that could be going on with head trauma until he passed away. We didn't know his behavior was from head trauma.”

According to Junior Seau’s wife, Junior Seau’s symptoms included wild mood swings, irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia, depression, and emotional detachment from his surroundings.

The fact that Junior Seau was able to hide his invisible “brain damage” and its severe consequences so well from the public emphasizes the importance of close family members caring for a loved one who is involved in sports.

According to NBC’s report, Junior Seau “hid it well in public … But not when he was with family or close friends.”


Anonymous said...

What about freedom? What about each individual's right to choose to play a contact sports and take the risk of serious injury (and make millions of dollars doing it)?

You would have laws passed to make us a society in which everything is safe, but life is not safe. Life is a risk. After all, you might die!

Amerika (sic) is rapidly becoming a county of wimps and frightened children. The rugged individualism on which our country was founded is being legislated away by people like you who wish to remove anything and everything that might cause injury.

Contact sports are not safe; they carry inherent risk of injury. If you remove all risk of injury from contact sports then you eliminate the sport itself.

Which is more important - safety or freedom?

arclein said...

That argument is silly. Let us start forthwith and charge all owners and sponsors with negligent homicide while we are at it because that is what a couple of sports have been allowed to degenerate to.

There is no freedom to kill or maim on the playing field as an answer to real talent. Our purpose must be to protect real talent and not end a gifted player's career with a severe concussion from a cheap shot.