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Jack Sisson's TBI Blog

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From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Brain injury.

Say it with me now.

Brain injury.

Not head injury. Not concussion. Not getting dinged, seeing stars, or having your bell rung.

Brain injury.

That’s what it needs to be called. Every time.

The conversation surrounding sports-related brain injuries has never been louder or more widespread. Even so, the language involved in that conversation must adjust to emphasize the topic’s gravity.

When someone snaps his tibia, we call it a broken leg. When someone tears her ACL, we call it exactly that. And we know if injuries of this nature occur multiple times, the wounded may very well endure a lifetime of suffering.

Same goes for victims of head, er … brain injuries. Sorry. Force of habit.

This isn’t to say that there has been a conscious effort by people to mitigate a brain injury’s severity by using more palatable terms. As Illinois-based neurologist Dr. Julian Bailes said, “I think the word concussion is pretty much embedded in people’s minds as meaning brain injury.”

But Bailes also said that he frequently treats athletes who feel they can play through brain injuries, and as we’ve learned, that can lead to catastrophic consequences. So let’s make an effort to describe the condition as it truly is — to hammer it into people’s heads before more heads get hammered.

Hall of Fame offensive lineman Ron Yary said that whenever he goes back to Canton, Ohio, for the HOF induction ceremony, he asks other former players if they still would have suited up knowing what they know now. They all say yes. However, when he asks if they would let their kids play, they generally give a different response.


To be fair, Yary said that he would still encourage youngsters to play football, which he considers a safe sport. That’s awfully debatable, though, because football’s dangers have presented themselves in clear, sometimes tragic fashions.
We know that copious ex-NFL players were discovered to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a disease linked to depression, memory loss and dementia. We know that Junior Seau and former Bears safety Dave Duerson, both of whom committed suicide, suffered from this very disease.
We know that researchers have found that tens of thousands of high school football players have endured brain injuries, that former college football athletes have claimed that these injuries ruined their lives, and that 2,000 NFL players are suing the league for withholding information on the long-term effects of brain trauma.
Could some of us be overreacting to the data? Maybe. Might some of the NFL plaintiffs see an opportunity for a money grab? Perhaps.
Even so, I have a feeling that if Yary asked a collection of former football players who don’t own Hall of Fame jackets if they still would have played, their answers wouldn’t be so positive.
There seems to be more precaution than ever when it comes to protecting players’ brains, whether it is rule changes in the NFL, or the CIF offering courses on brain injuries and mandating players suspected of sustaining one be removed from a game or practice.

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