Head injuries all too common in sports

There wasn’t much to the one and only major tackle my soul experienced in a rather short and uneventful football career.

Falling backward in a one-on-two person tackling drill in middle school was enough to rattle the ol’ bean in the dome.

There was a slight sense of disorientation, followed by the smallest of headaches.

There was no blackout moment, nor did my bell get too rung.

Get up, get back in line and prepare for the next drill was the focus in my middle school mind. 

Such a scenario was no big deal for me back then. “Just deal with it and keep going,” I’d say. 

Looking at it today, however, my thought process might be a little different.

Head injuries in contact sports isn’t a new phenomenon, nor is it something that will go away with the advent of technology.

Constructing helmets that make football players look like the Great Gazoo from “The Flintstones” may not help curb the concussion issue. 

We also can’t seem to escape tragedies that befall those who choose to make a career in the contact sports.

Last week, Canadian UFC fighter turned boxer Tim Hague died several days after he was knocked out in the ring.

Hall of Fame NFL lineman Warren Sapp earlier this week chose to donate his brain to science, citing issues with his memory after a long and arduous career on the gridiron.

Similar stories come from those who have also played their respective sport, but are also battling some sort of brain injury.

It’s becoming a challenge for American sports fans to continue to supporting our favorite teams, knowing full well the damage it’s causing athletes.

Part of the issue is we at times see players as the on-field product, rather than the human that’s underneath the layers of protective padding.

But the big multi-million dollar question seems to be will people turn away from contact sports – football, hockey, soccer, boxing – due to the injuries suffered by players?

Conventional wisdom says no, at least not in the near future.

But 50 years from now, the tone of such a question could take on different meaning.

In my mind, boxing, for all of it’s Hollywood glory, may not survive the next two decades. Concussions may not be the primary factor for the sports’ decline, though.

Soccer, which has more concussions than one might assume, could one day require all players to wear some sort of protective headgear, at least at the younger levels of the sport.

For as much as we clamor for football, asking young children to hit the gridiron could one day be an outdated practice.

Yet, for all of the pitfalls that could arise from contact sports, I also can’t see myself preventing any potential offspring I might have in life from competing in them.

It wouldn’t be my place as a future parent to restrict a child from playing football or hockey.

But at the same time, the responsibility falls on parents to know when enough is enough.

And maybe that’s what we as a society must do more often. To ensure players understand that at some point, the risk of playing contact sports isn’t worth the perceived reward it may bring.

Debate on the dangers of contact sports surely won’t go away anytime soon.

Hopefully we as a society can better understand those dangers, and one day make our favorite sports as safe as can be.

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