brain-scan

CTE: Let’s Use Our Head on This

screen-shot-2017-11-06-at-5-14-34-pmBy Jim Biery

When I was seven, I was a typical kid who couldn’t wait to go outside and play with my friends. As I ran down the hallway and started down the hardwood stairs, I was also trying to save time and put on my shirt in the process. Halfway down, I missed a step and went head-first into the next to last step. After the crying was done and Mom had wiped all the tears away, I went next-door to play.

After a couple more pals showed up, we were ready to ride bikes. But the mother of my next-door neighbor said before he could go play he had to pick up the mess he left in the basement. We all joined together to help him out. Once we got to the basement, things began to change.

When I tried to look around for the toys we had to pick up, all I saw was black. I looked at the light in the corner and it looked just like the sun. No details of the lamp but just a round sphere of color. After a few failed attempts to see anything on the floor, I went back home and told my Mom what was happening. She took me straight to the family doctor, and he confirmed my first of a handful of concussions.

So, why am I telling you about something that happens to just about every kid in the world? (After all, most kids will fall, run into something or get hit in the head with an object.) It’s because, fairly recently, we have become aware of what multiple concussions can do to the human brain. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

Let’s start with understanding exactly what I’m talking about.

The definition of a concussion is temporary unconsciousness caused by a blow to the head. The term is also used loosely of the aftereffects, such as confusion or temporary incapacity. A concussion is also know as as mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

CTE, according to a recent Mayo Clinic report, is “a diagnosis only made at the time of an autopsy studying sections of the brain. CTE is a very rare condition. … CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease for which there is no treatment.”

The symptoms of CTE are difficulty thinking, impulsive behavior, depression, short term memory loss, and difficulty planning and carrying out tasks.

If you ask anyone who may be over the age of 50 (yours truly would fit into this category), these are the same symptoms of everyday life. So, why is football getting the lion’s share of the blame for CTE?

There have been a growing number of parents who have decided that football is too dangerous to play and have kept their kids out of the sport. Of course, parents are making these decisions to try and protect their kids, however you might be surprised to know what sports and activities bring the most danger to participants.

Jennifer Graham of Descret News reported researchers’ results in an article from April 2016. Researchers analyzed ER visits between 2003-2016 dealing with head trauma and concussions.

They put sports and activities into six categories: Contact sports like football, soccer, etc.; roller sports; skiing; equestrian; aquatic; and snow boarding.

The number one leader with 45 percent of ER visits was equestrian sports. Interpersonal contact sports was second with 20 percent of the reported visits. If we applied the same protective logic to results like these, little Suzy would never get that pony she has always wanted.

Listen, I’m not trying to say that riding horses or skateboarding or even snow skiing are inherently as dangerous as contact sports, but the only difference is that no one – to my knowledge – is taking actions to try and persuade people not to participate in these activities if someone chooses to. So why are we doing so with football?


THANKFULLY FOR ME, MY MOTHER DECIDED SHE WOULD NOT PLACE ANY OF HER KIDS IN THE PREVERBIAL PLASTIC BUBBLE. UNFORTUNATELY FOR HER, I WAS JUMPING OFF ROOFS AS A CHILD.


Concussions can be caused by all kinds of events, butwhat I’m wanting people to focus on is not to limit what a loved one does because of fear of what could happen, but to do research and continue to improve safety features of any given sport. Many steps have been taken to improve safety. For instance, kids under the age of 12 playing soccer are not allowed to use their heads to advance or try to score a goal. This is called a “header” and can cause damage to both the heads and necks of young soccer enthusiasts.

We can’t always prevent kids from doing what makes them happy and what they enjoy. My grandmother was so protective of my mother that she was not allowed to even ride a roller coaster. She told me this as I was growing up and said that it was something she wished she had done as a child.

Thankfully for me, my mother decided she would not place any of her kids in the preverbial plastic bubble. Unfortunately for her, I was jumping off roofs as a child. I would, of course, jump my bicycle over anything I could find to jump: trash cans, sewer pipes, even other kids! Yes, this did lead to some pretty gruesome crashes. Once while riding my bike no handed, I hit a sewer cap and flipped over the handle bars and knocked myself out.

Let’s not bury the sport of football to try and solve the concussion issue in kids. That’s like throwing the baby out which the bath water logic. How about we teach proper tackling, improve equipment and look for other ways to play sports of all kinds more safely instead of just telling people not play what they want.

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