"Concussion" Hysteria Reaches Boiling Point
Sean Walsh's column, "Musings from the Mills" appears only on the Barnstable-Hyannis Patch. He welcomes feedback and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There must be some medical expert out there who played football.
Granted, football is a dangerous, violent, often times vicious sport. One must be quick-witted and quick afoot to stay out of harm's way but at the same time maintain a level of aggressiveness that helps preempt the possibility of an opposing player imposing physical damage.
I confess that concussions in all sports are viable, realistic occurences. I'm fairly certain after having played high school football and been a coach for some time, that concussions occur every time a football team steps on the field. I'm equally certain I've sustained more than a few concussions but at the same time I never went to the doctor because of it. I speak from experience when I say, football helmets are, or at least were, fairly uncomfortable, cumbersome safety devices: just wearing them often times causes headaches.
The question remains, where does one draw the line? Right now we are immersed in a sort of socio-cultural hysteria regarding concussions. Moms across America are cringing every time they see their boy collide with another come game day. Doctors everywhere seem ready with pen-in-hand to write up entire regimens of physical therapy and weeks on end of rehabilitation.
Does anyone recall the days when all football players had were leather helmets with no facemask?
What's all the fuss about?
The fuss is largely created by a media-hyper culture that feasts on newsclips of vicious tackles and head-on football game collisions. It's a You Tube frenzy of the hardest hits that have caused the most physiologically debilitating damage. Did anyone see how hard Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III was hit two weeks ago? He was back in uniform four days later and he could barely walk after he took one of the most vicious hits I've ever seen.
So... what does it all boil down to? What it boils down to is what I stated earlier: football is violent. Again, football is violent. So is ice hockey, soccer, field hockey, rugby (no helmets), Karate, wrestling, boxing and on and on and on. Heck, even baseball can be exceptionally dangerous.
Did America forget that it's most popular sport - football - is nothing more or less than that? It's violent !
I guess I just don't understand what the fuss is. Yes, I would agree that there are legitimate concussions every day on the football fields across America. Yes, I've even witnessed my friends and loved ones sustain them - actual, legitimate concussions. Yes, I've learned to be more cautious about my perception of what a concussion is but I'll be darned if this hysteria isn't creating more danger than good.
It's more dangerous now because of one thing: when doctors and hospitals and trainers and the like are so quick to diagnose a concussion, it only makes some athletes steel their nerves more. In essence, there are athletes out there as we speak who have legitimate, even life-threatening injuries who by sheer willpower will refuse to come off the field or be candid about the symptoms they are experiencing.
And if I'm not mistaken, that's the most dangerous aspect of a concussion: to sustain one, then sustain another soon thereafter and in some cases, maybe even another, and continue to refuse to come off the field. Add political clout and ineptitude to the mix and what you have a situation where someone really will become injured for life.
I say drop the hysteria and do the right thing: have an actual concussion-trained physician in attendance at each football game: someone who knows the game and knows the possibility of a concussion when they witness it. At the very least, anyone sent to the hospital with suspicion of a concussion should be sent with game film in hand. Beyond that, it seems like just so much random testing and guessing and analyzing "symptoms" that one can get just by being dehydrated or sleep-deprived.