fabricated with ethylene vinyl acetate which maintains the stiffness of the mouthpiece to prevent the mouthpiece from becoming deformed. The mouthpiece must have a fitted bite position to enable it to prevent the extra force to the jaw. The stats prove that a change needs to be made with the concussion protocol at all levels of football. They are very startling: “One in 30 football players ages 5 to 14 will sustain one concussion per season. One in 14 high school players will get a concussion. One in 20 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) players will get a concussion.
The total number of concussions during the 2012-2013 seasons include 141 at the youth level, 795 at the high school level, and 262 at the college level” (Nordrum). A concern is the amount of contact that occurs during practice: “58% of high school concussions occur in practice, 57% of college concussions occur in practice and 45% of youth concussions occur in practice” (Nordrum). Youth concussions only occur less frequently in practice because they don’t practice every day. Proper tackling techniques need to be taught to the coaches so that the coaches can turn around and teach it to their players.
Full contact could also be limited in practices to try to minimize concussions. Players that have received multiple concussions are at an increased risk to suffer from long-term effects. The amount of time it takes to recover from a concussion depends on the severity of the concussion and the amount of concussions a player has received. The NFL has a definite protocol for return: “A player may be considered for return to practice and play only after the player has returned to baseline status with rest, has repeat neuropsychological testing to baseline levels of functioning, and has completed the
Return to Participation Protocol and is cleared by Team Physician and Independent Neurological Consultants” (NFL Head). The NFL has also placed an athletic trainer in a stadium booth at every game to serve as a spotter to recognize injuries. There are also steps taken to ensure teams aren’t clearing players from concussion protocol to help them win games: “Each team will be assigned an unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant to be impartial and declare proper diagnosis and treatment of head injuries” (NFL Head).
Players must be regularly checked even after they have been cleared to play. The NCAA uses a very similar baseline protocol to the NFL and they also use the stepwise progression. The progression can only start after a player has return to all baseline functioning and proper balance. A player has 5 days to complete the 6 step progression. The first two steps: Light aerobic exercise and intense aerobic exercise may be completed in the same day. The next step is football practice without head impact. They can then participate in non-contact drills with resistance training.
If still no symptoms are shown, they can return to full-contact practice. They are ready to play after they have passed fullcontact practice. If they show symptoms at any of the steps though, they must start from the beginning. High school and youth football have a similar stance for their concussion protocol. The steps are required to be completed and a doctor must clear the athlete before he is allowed to play again. The long-term effects that have been caused from multiple concussions or related head injuries have cost the players and the NFL.
While the player’s health is what has been affected personally, the NFL’s bank account had suffered: “Settlement will cost the NFL $1 billion over 65 years to resolve lawsuits and average individual awards would be about $190,000″ (Gerken). Retired player’s health is a growing concern with studies: “1,063 players were asked if they had dementia or Alzheimer’s. 2 percent of players ages 30 to 49 said yes. For retired players over 50, 6 percent said yes” (Bhimani). While these statistics may seem small, they are much greater than their age groups percentage in the general population.
NFL players aged 30 to 49 have a 19 times higher rate than the general population to have dementia or Alzheimer’s. Players 50 or older have a 6 times greater risk for these diseases. The future for players isn’t look bright either: “Projections predict 6,000 of nearly 20,000 players could develop Alzheimer’s or dementia in their lifetime. The risks to have these diseases increase with the amount of concussions you receive. The most severe condition from concussions is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE): “More than 70 former NFL players have suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain disease thought to be related to impact” (Nordrum).
While the number of players with the disease is small, the results are detrimental. CTE produces abnormal proteins and these proteins wrap around the brain’s blood vessels and kill nerve cells. The earliest stages of CTE include mood swings such as depression and rage. The further stages include memory loss and advanced dementia. CTE has caused players to take the lives of themselves, and even their loved ones. Jovan Belcher played for the Kansas City Chiefs and when he murdered his girlfriend then committed suicide, his brain showed he suffered from CTE. He was only 25 years old.
Other notable players who have took their own lives after suffering from CTE are Junior Seau and Adrian Robinson Jr. Junior Seau, an NFL Hall of Famer, shot himself in the chest for his brain to be examined. Though he never sat out from football because of a concussion, his ex-wife claimed he had suffered from multiple along his career. His brain tested positive for CTE. His family proceeded to sue the NFL over his brain injuries. Though Adrian Robinson Jr. doesn’t have the legendary career like Junior Seau, he is the latest player to commit suicide because of CTE. Like Jovan Belcher, he was just 25 years old.
CTE’s occurrence is increasing: “The AP report said 88 of 92 NFL players whose brains have been tested posthumously at Boston University have shown evidence of CTE” (Schwab). While the concussion protocol has made positive movement, there is still work that must be done. Concussions are very dangerous and the player safety should be at the fore-front for football officials. Studies revealing the long-term effects of concussions are serious and these effects harm players and their families. These can be minimized or become non-existent with a stricter protocol for every level of football.