Recently, 49er’s linebacker Chris Borland retired early at the age of 24 due to concerns over the head trauma associated with the sport.
Legendary linebacker, Junior Seau, took his own life by shooting himself in the chest in 2012, just two years after he retired. It was later discovered that his brain had Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma. It is only been found post- mortem, but there are current efforts underway to learn how to diagnose it in living people.
The average NFL career is 3.5 years, almost the equivalent to the career of a college player. Seau played for 20 years. It is no longer a secret how much damage pro football can do to the men who play it and the same goes for college players and other athletes as well. According to Phil Lentz, one of Pacific
University’s assistant athletic trainers, Pacific has had a total of 25 concussions this year. Some of the sports that make up that figure are football, wrestling and basketball.
“I was wrestling and then blacked out.”
That’s all freshman wrestler, Mariah Damaso, can remember when asked how she received her second concussion. She suffered her second concussion during this past wrestling season, lasting a total of six weeks.
There is a strict protocol the trainers follow when managing concussion and head-related injuries.
First is a head injury assessment, looking for symptoms such as loss of consciousness, dizziness, nausea, loss of memory or vision problems. Then, a second evaluation is done to continue to monitor for progressive signs or symptoms. Athletes need to be symptom free for one week and then they are able to start their “return to play” phase of protocol. This portion consists of physical and cognitive rest for three days, then light aerobic activity, sport specific activity and weight training. Then, continued training progressing from minimal to full contact throughout the week.
The time it takes to recover from a concussion, however, is different for everyone. With athletes itching to get cleared quickly, sometimes they try to cheat or get cleared to play before they are fully recovered.
“We have athletes trying to skirt the process all the time,” Lentz said. In order to combat that, trainers sometimes issue the impact test since it’s harder to cheat. Impact is the first and most widely used scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system. At Pacific, students who participate in baseball, softball, basketball, football, lacrosse, pole- vaulting, soccer and wrestling, are required to take a baseline test before the beginning of their season.
Damaso said she lied. With Nationals only a few weeks away, she wanted to get cleared as soon as possible.
“Everybody looks at you like you’re a faker so there’s this added pressure to get better. Had I taken the test, I would have failed miserably,” Damaso said.
Now after three months since wrestling season has ended, she still feels the effects from her injury. Realizing the severity of her previous injuries, she said if she suffers another concussion, she would stop wrestling.
All sports come with risks but the growing number of concussions and serious injuries are begging the question if playing is even worth the risk.