The brain is vital to one’s life, but brains are sensitive pieces of machinery and can be easily damaged. Blows to the body or head can cause a concussion, where the brain shakes in the skull, tearing and breaking brain cells. This erosion of cells can change how the brain works for a short or long period of time. Concussions and concussion symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, feeling sluggish and sensitivity to light as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), usually last about ten days. 

However, multiple concussions can have long term effects called CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. CTE is similar to having a permanent concussion. Symptoms include memory loss, confusion, aggression, parkinsonism, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Many athletes leave their sport with CTE, especially football and boxing where a player repeatedly takes blows to the body and head. The average life expectancy for people with CTE is 51 years, wheras the the average life expectancy in America is 77 years, according to the CDC.

Sophomore Lena Levings suffered from a concussion. “During my concussion, I immediately became dizzy and my head hurt throughout the day, not just in the spot that I hit it. I was unable to focus on things and through the week felt super tired.” Sophomore Gabby Haviv has also had a concussion from cheer. “Having a concussion made me feel separated from the world. It felt like I was spinning and the light was painful. When I stepped outside and the sun was barely out it felt like my eyes were melting. I was also so nauseated I could not keep my head upright,” Haviv said. Even a minor concussion can make everyday activities such as reading and surfing the internet extremely difficult. 

CTE and concussions maintain the ability to cause long term effects, but some sports are not taking it seriously enough. According to a study done by Military Times, 99 percent of brains that were tested in the NFL have CTE, 91 percent of college football players have CTE and 21 percent of high school players have CTE. An NFL player’s large salary often clouds focus on their well being, making them play with a concussion or an injury. Even at the collegiate level this can happen, as coaches and players are trying to increase their draft stock and get new NFL deals. 

The concussion protocols for NFL players is as follows: first, they come off the field. After the concussion is identified, they examine the player and look at the play where the injury took place. There is a five step process to deal with concussions. Most importantly, a concussion-inflicted athlete should engage in little activity. Aerobic exercises and football specific exercises are also beneficial ways to treat a concussion. The player should engage in football drills with no contact and receive full play clearance. The average time a player is out from a concussion in the NFL is nine days. However, many players rush the process so that they can play in the next game. 

Tua Tagovailoa injured after a serious hit against the Bengals. Photo: CNN

The NFL currently attempts to protect its players from concussions by making new helmets with sensors that can detect concussions. They are trying to eliminate dangerous hits by adding a new targeting penalty. The penalty does not allow a player to lead with the crown of his helmet into a tackle. Most of these calls have been about trying to protect the quarterback. Some of these rule changes have made spectators call football “soft,” and some of the calls have been game changing. Senior Connor Phelan said, “The rule changes are good, but I do believe they are kinda soft. The concussions rules can also be better, and the coaches should be pulling players out sooner.” 

The problem of NFL concussions recently came to light with an incident that happened with the Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa was concussed the week prior to his accident, but did not miss any games. He was tackled hard and landed on his head. When he hit the ground he rolled over and his hands were in a rigid shape over his head, signaling brain damage. 

This horrible incident is what sparked all of the concussion talks in the NFL. However, the NFL should have been actively trying to keep players safe, not just when the media talks about it. Concussions and CTE need to be studied further. Player safety should be the number one priority of the NFL and protocols must be improved.

Get the discussion going! Leave a comment or reply below.