Catches and Concussions

Students every year are suffering from concussions, is the risk really worth the thrill of the game?

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Catches and Concussions

Aurora Stanley, Reporter

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Schools across the nation watch as students play the game. They catch the ball,or they pin their opponent to the ground, and hope they are able to win. Football players, basketball players, soccer players, and wrestlers all compete in high contact sports, and many of them get severe injuries such as concussions or other Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) while playing. However it is looked at, students are getting injured in school sanctioned and sponsored activities, and as a whole this can cause a lifetime of damage to the student, and perpetuates a society where we accept student injury.

Students getting lifelong injuries, especially brain injuries such as concussions is worrying. Now I am not saying to ban all sports. I don’t want to pull the swimmers out of the water, or tie the track kids shoelaces in knots so they can’t run. But sports such football, basketball, and wrestling are dangerous for students. They are near neglectful on the count of the school as they can endanger students, and not particularly necessary for any reason other than entertainment.

Many believe that sports are good for students because they promote a healthy lifestyle and are a good outlet for stress. But running on a treadmill, playing a game of tennis, or going for a hike are all also good ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle, that are actually maintainable long term compared to say football, which only a select few can play after high school. As for them being an outlet for stress, saying you should be allowed to bash into people and cause serious possibly lifelong injuries to take out your stress is not only selfish, but also dangerous as it promotes the idea that physical contact and force is a valid and healthy way of working out emotional problems.

Many also say that sports are helpful because many students use them for scholarships to get an education after high school. This is working under the skewed logic that it is beneficial for students to damage their brain in order to get an education. An education that could soon be useless as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a common long term result of concussions, or other neurodegenerative conditions begin to affect cognitive functions, due to concussions obtained in athletes youth, which can hinder the career that they played sports and went to college to obtain. When instead of bashing their skulls in for money they could focus in school and get academic scholarships to achieve the same academic result without the possibility of brain damage.

Many do not really realize how widespread the problem is, how many students are actually being hurt. Reducing the injury rates in football and other male contact sports to those of non-contact sports like tennis or baseball would result in 601,900 fewer injuries per year in high school. Just to bring in some perspective, there are about 8 million high school students in the United States playing sports, just sports in general, not exclusively contact. That is over 1 in 16 students getting hurt playing sports, more if we include injury rates in students who do not participate in contact sports, or just the sheer rates of injury in contact sports, not the reduced rates.

And we would like to think that this isn’t a problem for us, that we live in a peaceful community and that our children are safe. But just in the 2018-2019 school year at Scappoose High School there were 33 reported concussions from student athletes. Scappoose numbers are likely a little high as there is a certified athletic trainer working for the school who can better diagnose concussions, but that is still a lot of students. Not to mention students who are treated for other injuries. From contact sports alone there were 24 concussions, 26 if you count cheer/dance. Attached below is a graph of concussions across different sports.

Note, the graph is inaccurate if you wish to compare concussion rates between school years as there was not an athletic trainer working at SHS during November and December of the 2017-2018 school year, when high contact sports such as basketball and wrestling were taking place, and that the current academic year (2018-2019) has not yet ended, so the data is not yet fully complete.

What is also worrying is that a concussion is considered to be a TBI. Tragically, according to Trine Madsen, PhD, of the Danish Research Institute of Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Center in Copenhagen, and her group of research associates, victims of a TBI are at a twice greater risk of dying from suicide. This even more concerning since the National Institute of Mental Health lists suicide as the second most common cause of death in youth age 10-34, second only to unintentional injury. Compared to say age groups 35-54 where suicide is the 4th most common cause of death. So by allowing and encouraging students who are already in the age group most at risk to commit suicide to play a sport that could cause TBI, we are inadvertently doubling those students likelihood of suicide. And then we ask ourselves why, because as we saw it they were a star athlete who had so much to live for, not a student with brain trauma.

Of course, like with everything else, money does have a role to play in the continuation of high school sports. Other than the risk of neurodegenerative conditions and teen suicide, economically speaking full contact sports are  a financial drain. If schools cut all contact sports they would save up to $19.2 billion in high schools nationwide per year. Cutting football alone would save high schools about 70% in savings. Meaning that overall, even if there was no increased risk of teen suicide or neurodegenerative disease, we are still losing almost 20 billion dollars on promoting it annually.

But this isn’t about how much money schools could save. For football alone concussion rates were 10 times higher in students who played football than those who didn’t. Eliminating football alone would lead to 161,400 less concussions yearly nationwide, 161,400 students who are less likely to kill themselves or suffer from neurodegenerative conditions. This isn’t something that is just now becoming a problem, it is something that has been happening for years. Now in the past we had a valid excuse to let youth cause themselves long term brain damage, ignorance. We did not know how serious concussions were so and students seemed fine right after so we assumed they caused only short term damage. But as those students, those professional football players, and others who suffered concussions have aged we have been able to clearly see the marked degenerative brain function happening.

Instead of pretending that concussions are not a problem and something that does not deserve awareness, we need to face them head on. Full contact sports are dangerous, and we promote it as part of the “high school experience”, before we promote academics or student safety. This needs to change, student safety needs to be prioritized. Schools used to have physical education classes where students learned how to shoot bows and guns, but they were gotten away with because they were deemed dangerous. Visible injuries, such as one from a bow, are not the only ones that are needed to be protected against. There are other equally dangerous sports such as football, wrestling, basketball, etc. that we are letting students get harmed in. So instead of accepting and perpetuating dangerous sports because “oh, well teens have always played x sport”, we need to do as we have done in the banning of dangerous sports in schools, and eliminate full contact sports for the safety and mental development of students.