Football, Concussion and Suicide

Yesterday on my radio show, I interviewed Dr. Brian Reiger, director of the Sports Concussion Center at University Hospital in Syracuse, NY. It’s the second time I’ve interviewed him, and each time, I’m left shaking my head afterwards.

This week we spoke to him because it was Superbowl Sunday, and a discussion about football seemed to be in order. We opened by talking about Andre Waters, the 44-year old former Philadelphia Eagle and St. Louis Cardinal who committed suicide last November. A forensic pathologist in Pittsburg autopsied Mr. Waters’ brain and discovered damage which he described to be most like the brain of an 85-year old Alzheimers’ Disease patient. The pathologist stated that he believed the damage was a result of the concussions and brain trauma suffered by the NFL player throughout his football playing career.

So why was I shaking my head? I think of all those young kids who play football in school, who are banging their heads everyday at practice or in games, and run right back into the game. Part of my conversation with Dr. Reiger was about the coaches and parents who ignore the signs of concussion — beyond a bump on the head — yet send the kids back to play.

And why do they do it? Two reasons — they want to win the game, and the kids want scholarships for college.

I wonder how many of those parents realize the long term damage they are causing their kids? Do they realize that for the sake of a win, or some sort of bragging right, they may be doing long term damage that will end their child’s life earlier, or at least have debilitating effects on them for the rest of their lives?

Certainly it’s not every bump on the head we are talking about. But as parents, we know our kids and how they react, and I urge any parent or coach who ever has a suspicion that their child’s bump on the head is anymore than just small — to get it checked out.

Protect your kids. It’s much more important than pushing them.

Trisha Torrey
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