Concussions and their consequences remain a topic of intense interest from courthouses to pathology labs, Hollywood studios to locker rooms, doctor’s offices to sidelines. While concerns haven’t noticeably lessened fan enthusiasm for football – the NCAA achieved record attendance levels in 2015 – college players are paying close attention, as evident during last month’s 2016 ACC Football Kickoff at Charlotte, North Carolina.
A random survey of players in attendance found about a third had knowingly suffered concussions during their college careers. Keep in mind that only one in six concussions is diagnosed, according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation. “A lot of times they go unnoticed, and it’s up to the athlete to report that to us,” says Rob Murphy, N.C. State’s director of sports medicine. “The mentality of an athlete is fight through it, be tough. But the reality is, you can’t be tough when you’re dealing with head trauma.”
Wake Forest linebacker Marquel Lee didn’t hide anything. “I felt my bell get rung,” recalls Lee, felled while trying to tackle Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston in 2014. “I knew something wasn’t right. I stayed on the ground.”
After ministrations by trainers, Lee was sidelined during a bye week, then returned to action. “Concussions, it’s part of the game,” says the team captain. “I’ve been playing this all my life. It happens. It doesn’t deter me from doing my job.”
By now, though, the leader in denial has come around. The shift was emphasized earlier this year when Jeff Miller, the NFL’s vice president for health and safety policy, responded to a congressional query about a possible link between playing football and degenerative brain disorders. According to The New York Times, the NFL official conceded, “The answer to that is certainly, yes.”
The prospect of risking long-term trauma has depressed youth participation and persuaded a trickle of NFL players to retire early, vocally citing health concerns.- The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)