Risk versus reward

By Caroline Sweeney

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Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
Graphic by Paul Trap

An estimated 11,000 college athletes are diagnosed with concussions every year and about 350,000 athletes die from sudden cardiac arrest per year, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.

This could be why former NFL Quarterback and Hall of Famer Brett Favre says he is “afraid” for his grandkids to play football.

In an interview with CNN, Favre explains that he knows the consequences of playing football, and he knows that these consequences can be life-threatening. However, Farve is still not entirely discouraging his grandkids from playing football.

According to the University of Missouri Health Care, physical activity and athletics offer many benefits for young people. These benefits include student athletes at any level doing better academically. Sports provide an outlet for students to get away from the stress and pressure of academics; participating in sports teaches teamwork; and the obvious health benefits athletics impart.

“It is a good experience to be involved in a sport, especially in college,” said Sarah Deangelo, Wellness Coordinator for DCCC. “Sports offers not only health benefits, but also allows students to be involved with the college. They are a part of a team and a community.”

However, with the recent extensive research into sports injuries, specifically concussions, many are wondering if the positive aspects of sports outweigh the chance of life-changing injuries.

“I believe that when you are competing in a sport, injuries are bound to happen,” said Suni Blackwell, director of Wellness, Athletics and Recreation via email. “Athletes don’t go into a sport thinking about getting injured. If this is the case, most athletes will not work hard due to being cautious.”

Deangelo explained how important it is to keep athletes safe. She added that the college is constantly tending to fields, making sure the ground is ready. Also, maintenance is conducted on sports facilities to make sure all equipment and floors are in shape for the athletes.

There are also DCCC trainers at every home sporting event, who treat the student on the spot and continue to follow up with the student after the injury, Deangelo added.

Despite these precautions, severe injuries can occur.

In 2002 Dr. Bennet Omalu discovered the degenerative brain disease of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, in NFL players.

The condition occurs when someone has had multiple hits to the head. According to experts, that does not mean just concussions; however, any head impact could lead to CTE.

The NFL has been at the center of ongoing controversy surrounding concussions, CTE, and how the league handles athletes’ post injuries.

The NFL has finally acknowledged the connection between football and concussions.

According to the NCAA, if athletes start a contact sport at a younger age, they are more likely to be diagnosed with CTE because of the constant impact.

The younger the athletes are, the longer it takes for them to recover from a concussion because their brains are not fully developed, according to the Concussion and Brain Injury Clinic.

Blackwell and Deangelo both agree that concussion protocol is so important for any sport. “We have to do a better job at the youth sport level educating offering trainings for coaches, parents and players on how to treat and/or avoid concussions and sport injury,” Blackwell said.

According to the Journal of Child & Adolescent Substance Abuse, minor injuries also have the potential to become a life-changing event. Painkillers for injuries have become “the dirty little secret” of the sports world, the journal notes.

Athletes, even at the college level, have easier access to pain-killing medication because these athletes do not always need a prescription by a doctor to obtain them. Especially in a contact sport like football, trainers have the access to these medications and hand them out freely to athletes who feel they need them.

It is common that athletes take the pills to stop the pain without allowing their bodies to recover, making even a small ankle sprain more dangerous, reported the American Addiction Center.According to the American Psychiatric Association, despite all of the facts and figures on the risks of sports, the majority of athletes, both college and professional, will take that risk.

In an interview with the American Psychiatric Association, Ronald Kamm, director of Sports Psychiatry Association in Oakhurst, N.J., said, “[Sports] have become a religious experience for many participants.”

Kamm explained that sports are an important part of people’s identity. He describes sports as providing athletes and fans a sense of belonging, that leads to why athletics are so beloved to some.

“Passion psychologically drives people, in both athletes and fans,” Kamm said. “To win and be the best is intoxicating. It is a driving force that cannot be stopped.”

Contact Caroline Sweeney at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu