A concussion is a mild form of traumatic brain injury that affects how your brain functions. These effects can be short-term, lasting only a few hours or a couple of days, or cause long-term problems (Utah Health, 2016). When players trade blows to the head it causes impact between the brain and the skull. A hit can be so hard that it affects the way a player’s brain functions and can also cause long-term damage. Studies show that about 300,000 TBIs occur in sports each year.
In the sport of football, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions have drastically affected hundreds of professional athletes until this day and still have an impact on the game. The NFL will always have cases of concussions no matter what equipment is worn. Concussions have been a serious present issue with players today. The NFL has tried to resolve the number on concussions occurring during seasons by improving equipment, adding concussion protocols, and making rule changes to ensure the safety of playing at all levels of football. Although these changes have improved and decreased the number of concussions occurring, coaches and organizations must focus on High School and College level players because of all the young, developing brains of the athletes. They must understand that concussions are very severe and can cause long-term damage to the brain. It is important to educate them on the issue while they’re still taking in everything that comes with playing the game of football. Concussions are a serious injury, and should no longer be taken lightly.
Helmet manufacturers have been trying to reduce the impact of hits to the head with new helmet technology. Over the years several new models of helmets have been improved more and more by the year. The National Operating Committee on Standards tests helmets for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE), which provides voluntary standards that are designed to assess a helmet’s ability to prevent skull fracture. These helmets provide bigger and more comfortable padding which only makes the players feel like it’s safer than the standard helmet. What it does is make players want to hit harder while completely disregarding a full impact head to head hit. Concussions injure your brain to some extent and they all require time to heal. Brain injury from even the mildest concussions can have short-term and long-term effects. The effects of a concussion can be subtle and change over time. Symptoms can last days, weeks or longer (Utah Health, 2016). Since 2003, researchers have been instrumenting football players with the Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) system to collect head acceleration data each time a player experiences a head impact. The measurement and analysis of head acceleration data collected from these in-helmet accelerometer arrays have been well validated and accepted. The concept of the study was to develop and introduce the concept of a new evaluation system that can be used to provide quantitative insight into the protective performance of football helmets against concussions.
With this in mind, technology is at a stage where it can resolve all problems. It has risen to be one of the most dependable sources in our present time. Technology has the power to even stop concussions occurring in our most dangerous sports, like football. Every year, thousands of football players suffer from mild concussions. Concussions occur when the brain moves and collides with the skull. In contrast to the publicly available data on the safety of automobiles, consumers have no analytical mechanism to evaluate the protective performance of football helmets. A new mechanism called the “STAR Evaluation system” was brainstormed and can be used to evaluate helmet performance by integrating player head impact exposure and risk of concussion. The Summation of Tests for the Analysis of Risk (STAR) equation relates on-field impact exposure to a series of 24 drop tests performed at four impact locations and six impact energy levels(Rowson & Duma, 2011). Using 62,974 head acceleration data points collected from football players, the number of impacts experienced for one full season was translated to 24 drop test configurations (Rowson & Duma, 2011). From those tests a new injury risk function was developed from 32 measured concussions and associated exposure data to assess risk of concussion for each impact. The data from all 24 drop tests was combined into one number using the STAR formula that incorporates the predicted exposure and injury risk for one player for one full season of practices and games. The new STAR evaluation equation provided consumers with a great tool to assess the relative performance of football helmets. With that being said coaches must be very attentive to their players and the number of impact blows taken to the head because with this new technology in effect it will be their job to monitor. It is ultimately up to coaches to keep their players safe and to follow the guidelines of this new product. It was tested to its ability and the results speak for themselves.
This past season the NFL had launched an Injury Reduction Plan with the aim to reduce the incidence of concussions in the upcoming 2018 season. Following a 16 percent increase in concussions during the 2017 season, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills issued a call-to-action to reduce concussions. “We see our job in player health and safety to have the very best care for our patients as possible—in terms of prevention, in terms of treating and diagnosing injuries, and doing rehabilitation for those injuries—so we can keep our players as safe as possible,” said Dr. Sills. NFL leaders, clubs and the wide variety of experts in medicine, engineering and science who form the NFL medical committees developed a three-pronged approach to drive behavioral changes. The NFL also created an educational video for players, coaches and club personnel about the concussion reduction strategy. “We designed what we think are going to be steps that can immediately impact the number of concussions on our fields,” he said. The NFL made 3 categories that will experience change and improvement they are preseason practices, better performing helmets, and rule changes.
Overall, impacts to the front of the helmet occurred most frequently, and were followed by impacts to the rear, top, and side of the helmet. Using these percentages, the number of impacts to each impact location for a single player participating in a complete season were computed based on the assumption that a total of 1,000 head impacts were experienced. This transformation gives that for a single season, a player will experience 347 impacts to the front of the helmet, 319 impacts to the rear of the helmet, 171 impacts to the top of the helmet, and 163 impacts to the sides of the helmet. Being that I played football my whole life I can standby these results (Rowson & Duma, 2011). Throughout a full season a player goes through a significant amount of hits to the head whether it’s during practice or in a game, the numbers add up well.
This past season the NFL had launched an Injury Reduction Plan with the plan to reduce the incidence of concussions in the 2018 season. The NFL had a 16 percent increase in concussions during the 2017 season. NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills set a call-to-action to reduce concussions.
“We see our job in player health and safety to have the very best care for our patients as possible—in terms of prevention, in terms of treating and diagnosing injuries, and doing rehabilitation for those injuries—so we can keep our players as safe as possible,” said Dr. Sills.
NFL leaders, clubs and the wide variety of experts in medicine, engineering and scienctists for the NFL brainstormed a three-part approach to reduce injury. The NFL also created an educational video for players, coaches and club personnel about the concussion reduction strategy (Sills, 2018).
The NFL made 3 categories that will experience change and improvement they are the following:
- Preseason Practices
Sills wants to start the concussion reduction to start in the preseason practices. He wants practices to be supervised and drills to be watched incase anything brings risk of concussion. His main goal is to drive the number down.
The NFL is sharing information across the league to educate, stimulate change and enhance player safety—including information about the causes of concussion, the helmets players wear, and injury data analysis, such as preseason practice concussion data (Sills, 2018)
2. Better Performing Helmets
The second part of the Injury Reduction Plan is a goal to get players out of old-age helmets and to get them into modern day performing helmets in an effort to decrease the risk of injury. Each year, helmets go into laboratory testing by biomechanical engineers in-partner with the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Their goals are to determine which helmets are more durable and reduce head impact and injury. The results of the laboratory tests are printed onto posters and shared with NFL players, club equipment managers, along with club medical, training and coaching staffs. In 2018, based on the results of this study and the opinions of the biomechanical experts involved, the NFL and NFLPA will prohibit 10 helmet models from being worn by NFL players (Sills, 2018). No helmet can completely protect a player from serious head injuries a player might sustain while playing football.
- Rules Changes
The third component of the Injury Reduction Plan is the enforcement of rules changes which is made to reduce big hits that can potentially lead to inury. The “Use of the Helmet” rule has been strictly enforced this season. Any player to make helmet-to-helmet contact will result in an automatic flag and first down, possibly a fine depending on how dangerous the hit was. The NFL is leveraging data in an effort to improve player safety and evolve the game.
Approximately 300,000 sport-related concussions occur in the United States annually, and the likelihood of serious injury may increase with repeated head injury (NCAA Concussion Study, 2003). A prospective cohort study of incident and recurrent concussions in a defined group of collegiate athletes was taken place for 3 football seasons, a total of 2,905 players were studied. The study resulted in 196 reported concussions among 184 players. Of the 196 incident concussions, 94 were included in the assessment group. The overall rate of incident concussion was 0.81 per 1000 athlete exposures. The rate in Division III was also higher than the rates in Divisions I and II (NCAA Concussion Study, 2003).
Effects of Concussions
If serious, concussions may also cause headache, a temporary loss of consciousness, feeling as if your brain is in a fog, delayed response to questions, dizziness, ringing in your ears, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light and sound (Utah Health, 2016). Concussions have an effect on the human brain that is unlike any other injury. Those involved in sports that engage in the most contact are more likely to suffer from injuries such as a concussion. Players who have experienced a concussion for themselves are sometimes hesitant about going back on the field to potentially relive the horror moment that put them out of the game in the first place.
Concussions can also have long-term effects on an individual. Some symptoms of a concussion develop hours or even days after the traumatic brain injury. Although, most people that suffer from a concussion only see short-term effects there are cases where people have to suffer long-term. Long-term effects of a concussion can include trouble concentrating, memory problems, irritability and other personality changes, sensitivity to light and noise, sleep disturbances, depression and other psychological problems, and disorders of smell and taste (Utah Health, 2016). Some people even suffer from post-concussion syndrome, which is where they seem to still experience symptoms even after it has been six weeks since the injury has occurred. What some may fail to realize is that, the more concussions a person has than the more long-term effects an individual may suffer from. This can also occur if one rushes into returning to the same activity that landed them with the concussion itself in the first place (football) without letting their brain fully heal. It is important to let your brain heal to the fullest, because one wrong move can potentially set that person back even further than before.
In conclusion, concussions are more serious than most people would think. The effects of these traumatic injuries can be life changing, and ruin ones career and lifelong dreams. No matter what equipment is made to decrease a concussion from happening, it will never be sufficient for one to be completely risk-free. It is important to take into consideration that the NFL has even worked diligently on trying to prevent their players from having to suffer from such injury, which is why concussions should be taken even more seriously. Concussions have long-lasting effects, can destroy our youth’s both physically and emotionally, and can damage the future for our children when it comes to playing sports and living their life to the fullest.
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