Sunday, October 28, 2012

It’s Just a headache, You Can Play

I wonder how many D1 football teams try to sweep concussions under the turf. How many of the college football players that we see on the fields are not themselves because they were asked if they ‘really’ could play in the game even though they should not have been put in the position to make that call.

My son’s first college roommate suffered his third concussion in a year. Yes, that is in one year, not his career. His second concussion ‘didn’t even warrant’ getting checked out by a real doctor. Yes, you heard that right too, the football team didn’t take him to a doctor after his second concussion to get checked out to make sure everything was really ok with him. I can’t help but to think about other people who were not as fortunate as he was after they received a ‘small’ bump to the head and ended up not making it due to a brain hemorrhage.

After this third concussion, his coaches asked him if he would be able to play in their next scheduled game. His bell was still much rung where he was definitely not acting like himself, yet they still asked him if he was going to play. I am just very thankful that this young man had the courage to stand up to his coaches around this serious health issue.

His coaches where pushing back with comments like “it’s just a headache, you can play”. If I ever had any faith that his coaches would understand Migraine disease because of all of the big time football players who had to be taken out of professional games because of Migraines, I knew in this instant that it was best we never said anything about Migraines to them. Ugh.

I am just thankful that this young man, this college senior was adult and mature enough, unlike his coaches, to keep saying that he could not play. He was brought to the neurologist shortly after refusing to play where he was told he would need to medically retire because of the number of concussions he had in that short duration.

Why did the player with a brain injury need to make this tough personal decision to his coaches? Why weren’t the coaches looking out for his best interest? Will some of the other players on the team not want to make the right decision now for fear that they will never be able to play football ever again? Could this be portrayed as a punishment for not wanting to play when all you have is ‘just a headache’ by some of the other players?

I remember the recruiting process. I remember the promises made by the coaching staff. I do not feel like they were as upfront about things as they claimed to be with their ‘football family’ where they would never do anything to hurt them. I know the many items they did with my son with his concussion which could have put his life in jeopardy if he was not as out of it as he was and I have not finished dealing with that yet. They can’t keep being this obtuse with our children and ‘their football family’ who they promised to take care of for us.

The coaches did finally get smart about another player on their team who kept playing with a ‘perpetual concussion’. This player just wanted to keep playing, didn’t care about school and only had dreams of playing in the pros. He never reported anything, but it was quite obvious as to his condition. Everyone was turning a blind eye to what was going on to the point where even the coaches were joking about it. It is no joking matter when it comes to playing with your head like this. You would think with all of the press around concussions right now, that they would put a stop to all of this nonsense as quickly as possible. We only have one brain for life and we all must use ours.

This is where colleges need the same laws that some of the states have instituted for their high schools. Nancy Bonk wrote about it on about how NY State enacted a concussion management and awareness law. This is where if an athlete is even suspected of having a concussion, they have to be taken out of play and cannot return to play until they are symptom free for at least 24 hours and have signed documentation from the treating doctor. There are other good things brought on about this law, but it really should include colleges too! The colleges are not doing enough to police and protect their own players which is precisely why the law was needed for the high schools.

I am so thankful that my son’s head is on straight and that he knew classes had to come first. I am so glad his first roommate did not let the coaches bully him into playing because of ‘just a headache’. Your life is not worth risking for a game. These irresponsible coaches are the reasons we need laws to protect our children no matter how old they get.

Do you think this is common practice for all levels of college football? Do you think it still goes on in high school football? What about other sports; does this same irresponsible practice happen in other sports too?

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