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Concussions are becoming more prominent in the world of football. It is increasingly common nowadays to hear about professional football players missing time due to concussions. Is it a coincidence that recently the media has picked up on the severity of concussion-related injuries due to football or has the NFL kept it quiet for so many years? It was not until the mid 1990s when the NFL took action on Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI). The league started in the 1920s, so why was there no action being taken for the first 74-years the NFL was in existence? Over time, the media has brought the attention of concussions out into the open through articles, documentaries, and interviews.
As a result of this attention, the NFL has begun to think twice about the way they deal with concussions. Many people do not know the severity of concussions and tend to believe its nothing too serious, and it will go away in a week or so.
But that is not the case. Concussions are a brain injury and they need to be taken a lot more serious as it can lead to long-term brain diseases. I know from personal experience when you have a concussion people will treat you like there is nothing wrong. They will just brush you off as they do not realize that you are struggling since they do not see anything physically broken or injured. Since the media has acquired information about concussions and the long-term effects, they are bringing it forward to the public.
Consequently, this is forcing the NFL to take action. The media is bringing bad publicity to the NFL by exposing the information through articles, interviewing former NFL players and their experience in the league, as well as creating documentaries and publicizing lawsuits. Consequently, bringing it forward to the audiences is not only raising awareness to concussions but it is also educating everyone, from fans to players. Concussions are a form of MTBI that occurs when you get hit in the head or you hit your head off of something. In scientific terms, the brain is surrounded by fluid and protective membranes called meninges, which usually cushion the brain. During an impact, the brain is pushed against the inside of the skull and can be bruised (David Menon, 2015, p.1-2). People tend to take concussions lightly as it is a common injury amongst people. Common symptoms of a concussion are but are not limited to; headaches, dizziness, nausea, forgetfulness, ringing in ears, depression, feeling out of it, irritability, etc (Concussion, 2019, p.7). People tend to believe that just because the majority of these symptoms has subsided it will not affect their long-term health. In fact, Joseph Nordqvist (2015, p.1) has proven that damaged caused by concussion can last for decades after the original head trauma. People believe after the two to three weeks of staying in a dark room and not doing any physical activity, they will feel back to normal. I can say that is not the case, for the most part. I received my concussion almost two years ago and to this day I still have challenges. There are times where I get depressed, overwhelmed, stressed out, suffer severe headaches, and become emotional at random times all as a result of this concussion. This was my first diagnosed concussion and it is nowhere as severe as the concussions these NFL players receive. These players go out every game and get their bells rung’. The fans cheer and cheer, but as an audience, they do not realize the physical toll these players undergo. Fans do not look at the severity of these hits as they are focused in on their team winning the game. These players put their lives on the line every game they play, as they are risking their health and safety to provide entertainment to fans across the world. The more concussions a player receives that go diagnosed or undiagnosed spurs long-term issues. The most common long-term disease that NFL players develop over the years is called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma (often athletes), including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head that do not cause symptoms (frequently asked questions,p.1). Before 1994, there was no Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee in the NFL. This meant there was no real protocol for concussions. In 1994 the league opened up the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. They acquired the New York Jets team doctor, Dr. Elliot Pellman, to take charge and be accountable for diagnosing these head injuries. The team doctor had no knowledge of concussions or any sort of neurological disease. Thousands of concussions went undiagnosed, and the NFL claimed to have no responsibility for the repercussions that occurred to the athletes as they got older. The NFL believes that the concussions these players received while playing in the league have no relationship to long-term diseases, like CTE, these players develop down the road. The only way to diagnose someone with CTE is by dissecting someone’s brain postmortem. Many mediums have undertaken studies on an extensive amount of former NFL players’ brains. The results showed all but one brain has had a neurodegenerative brain disease, which is the reason for their death. It is not a coincidence that these athletes were all diagnosed with CTE. The NFL needs to take responsibility and have a proper concussion protocol for these athletes so prevention of these head injuries can be put into place. Consequently, current and former NFL athletes got fed up of the NFL downplaying and neglecting their health. The way these players dealt with their frustration was by going to the media and publicizing the class action lawsuit they had against the NFL. Of course, the media picked up this story as it is headlining and it will bring more negative attention to the NFL as they need to acknowledge these hits can cause deteriorating long-term diseases down the road. The class action lawsuit between the NFL and over 20,000 former NFL athletes began on August 2011 and went on for almost six years. Former NFL players and their families wanted to get reimbursed for the tragic and difficult life they lived after their career in the NFL. This lawsuit all started when two former NFL players took their life due to their daily battle with CTE. One of the former NFL players, Dave Duerson, left a note that read Please, see that my brain is given to the NFL’s brain bank (Ezell, 2013). Duerson was one of many former NFL players that were later diagnosed with CTE postmortem. For these players, their life was a living hell. They would struggle with simple everyday tasks, memory loss, and they eventually would not feel like themselves. The media pushed this story to bring awareness that the NFL needs to step up and create a better protocol or to compensate these players for their health battles. Consequently, former NFL players that suffer the same way as Duerson did, medical experts, and people who are advocates for CTE created a bill in honor of Duerson. The bill is to protect and prevent kids that are under the age of twelve from playing contact football in the state of Illinois (The Dave Duerson Act The allegations that were used in the class action lawsuit were; 1) [The NFL] knew about the long-term health risks associated with concussions and repeated blows to the head and (2) deliberately ignored and actively concealed this information in order to protect the economic value of the game (NFL Concussion Lawsuit Information, p.4). The NFL offered these families a total of $765 million in 2013 for the damage that the league has done to the athletes and their families. to override the $765 million as she did not believe that was enough money to help grieve and/or support the 20,000 players that suffered from this disease. In 2015, the judge got rid of the $765 million cap, and then the NFL offered the families and athletes involved in the lawsuit one billion dollars to help cover any extra expenses and to support the athletes (Draper, 2017, p.2).The relationship the media has with the NFL is conflicting as it is the most watched sport in America but is also extremely scrutinized due to head injuries. The premier American football league is the largest revenue generating outlet for the networks. The same providers that receive a large amount of profit from the NFL additionally report on the injuries due to concussions and publicizing the accompanying health detriments.
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