The Concussion Issue

by Olivia Berard, Staff Writer

I remember bits and pieces… little by little putting the pieces together. The black seemed to consume me, not knowing where I was. The remembrance of colliding with my teammate permanently sticks in my head as I watch a sport where crashing into each other is part of the game. The clashing of heads in football has led to concussions after concussions. Is the concussion protocol too soft for football? Or is football turning a blind eye to the inevitable? 

A study concluded by the end of the 2019 season found that there were approximately 528,000 blows to the head over six schools: Air Force, Army, North Carolina, U.C.L.A., Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin. 

Over five college football seasons, 72% of concussions resulted due to practice with one-fifth happening during the preseason. During the NFL season, 7% of concussions were practice related. A coach is not to hold more than 14 padded practices (players wear full pads and helmets) during the regular season, but this doesn’t include preseason.

During the 2020-2021 NFL season reported 224 concussions overall, a 4.7% decrease from the 2018-2019 season. But this season didn’t include a preseason, so that could be the cause for the decline. What if not having a preseason helps with the problem? Or maybe the NFL should take more initiative to encourage player safety during the game. 

“Most people, scientists or not, are aware that there’s more full-contact activity in the preseason than in the regular season, so I’m not sure the trend of that finding is a surprise. But maybe the magnitude of it,” said Michael A. McCrea, a neurosurgery professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Preseason for most teams is to inspect young players during a game. Many of the  “important” players don’t play because the team needs them to be “healthy.”  So does that mean prospects are less important? Should teams be risking players at all, even if they aren’t going to be on the roster during the regular season? These questions raise concerns but also solutions. 

Preseason is a great time to learn an opponent’s strategies for the regular season, so I don’t oppose the preseason. But the NFL should take greater responsibility for concussions that occur throughout the season. My proposal consists of weekly concussion tests by the trainers to make sure each player is intact. Another possibility could be tests for players who have had a hit to the head during a game, even if they don’t have symptoms. Keeping players safe and reducing the number of concussions per season is the best thing that protects an athlete’s future.