One of the most hotly debated topics in all levels of contact sports today has been injuries to the head, specifically concussions. Athletes have experienced mental illnesses and serious brain damage from concussions, which is the loss of brain cells from impact of the brain colliding with the skull. Although there are differing opinions regarding concussions, the goal is clear: make contact sports safer without lessening the quality of the game. With that being said, the statistics about the danger of concussions are undeniable. Here are some statistics about concussions from Head Case:
- 33% of all sports concussions happen at practice
- 39% — the amount by which cumulative concussions are shown to increase catastrophic head injury leading to permanent neurologic disability
- 47% of all reported sports concussions occur during high school football
- 1 in 5 high school athletes will sustain a sports concussion during the season
- 33% of high school athletes who have a sports concussion report two or more in the same year
- 4 to 5 million concussions occur annually, with rising numbers among middle school athletes
- 90% of most diagnosed concussions do not involve a loss of consciousness
- An estimated 5.3 million Americans live with a traumatic brain injury-related disability (CDC)
Recent concussion victim and varsity hockey player, senior Vinny Zammiello, weighed in on the issue. When asked about his personal experience he said, “I had to spend the entire next day in my room with the blinds shut. Exposure to light or technology would give me a migraine and it was very uncomfortable.” Zammiello suffered the brain injury after an illegal, blindsided elbow-to-the-head hit in his hockey game.
But even at the professional levels of sports, steps are being taken to prevent head trauma. Awareness has been on the rise in recent years, especially with the 2015 release of the movie “Concussion.” The film brought insight into the types of miserable lives some football players carried out after their NFL careers because of brain injury. The long-term effects on some of these players in the movies included: suicide, self-mutilation, memory loss, harm to loved ones and overall degeneration of the brain. Being under fire the past few years, the NFL took more steps toward safening the game and introduced a new concussion protocol for players.
Nonetheless, athletes and sports officials must ask themselves these questions: how much is too much? At one point does the game become just a game and serious life-changing brain damage become the priority?
Balancing the competitiveness and safety of contact sports is no easy task, but is something that must be assessed. Athletes should still be able play the sport they love with fire, intensity and physicality, but it is undeniable that more steps need to be taken to prevent serious brain trauma that can affect people for the rest of their lives. With helmet technology and concussion awareness on the rise, the predicament should be settled sooner rather than later. However, we can only hope that new rules and regulations will not restrict athletes from allowing them to do what they have worked hard to succeed at for years.