Matthew Colby died in the fall of 2001 at a high school football game after a
helmet to helmet collision with an opposing player. He had complained for two weeks
that he had a headache from an earlier helmet to helmet hit (Nowinski 45). A
concussion is a serious injury that happens to many football players. It is estimated that
there are 1.5 million high school football players in America today (Slattery 1). Of the
300,000 sports related concussions reported annually, 83% are suffered by football
players (Scoggins 1). Sadly, since 1968, eighty nine high school football players have
died after suffering a concussion (Nowinski 49). Players also can suffer long term
negative effects from a concussion including depression and sometimes even
Alzheimer’s Disease (Yeoman 1). The purpose of this paper is to explain the causes,
effects and treatment of the football concussion injury, as well as an examination of the
high technology research being done that aims to prevent this type of brain injury.
It should not be surprising that there are a lot of head injuries in the game of
football. Football is a game where players use their heads to tackle and block. A huge
problem with this injury is that it is hard to diagnose (Logue 43). After suffering a
head hit, many players come to the sidelines and tell the trainer that they are seeing stars
or that they have a headache (Logue 43). Despite giving their symptoms to the trainer,
many players insist on going back into the game. This is known as the “Macho Factor.”
Even though the player has probably suffered a concussion he wants to go back in
because he doesn’t want to let his team down Football players are also taught from an
early age to play through the pain (“Mucho Macho“ 1).
Over the last several decades doctor’s have come up with standards on the
different degrees of concussions. These grades were made so that the concussion injury
could be correctly diagnosed, and to keep players on the sidelines despite their wishes to
return to the game. A Grade 1 concussion occurs when there is no loss of consciousness,
and the person seems confused. Usually, the symptoms go away in a matter of minutes.
The symptoms of a Grade 2 concussion are the same as a Grade 1 except they last longer.
The worst type of concussion is a Grade 3 where the player loses consciousness and does
not remember the injury happening (University of Missouri 1).
Another important advancement in the area of concussions is known as ‘Second
Impact Syndrome” (S.I.S). This injury occurs when an athlete suffers a second
concussion after a first concussion has not had time to heal. This is what happened to
Matthew Colby. Researchers have found that most (S.I.S.) cases happen to athletes 12-18
years of age. After suffering the second blow to the head the player may be dazed, feel
nauseated, and may even collapse and stop breathing (Nowinski 45). The discovery of
this syndrome shows how important it is to correctly diagnose and treat a first time
Another research project on concussions has shown that certain types of helmets
reduce the risk of this injury. An early study by the University at Waterloo concluded that
padded helmets provided more safety than old suspension helmets (Bishop 233-236).
More recently, a study showed that players using the new Ridell Revolution helmet were
31% less likely to be concussed compared to athletes using traditional helmets (“Better
Helmets” 1). The Ridell helmet uses more padding on the top of the head and around the
side of the face and chin. More than 300,000 high school kids now use this brand of
helmet (Slattery 1). New helmet technology and the concussion grading scale have helped to reduce the number of first concussions and (S.I.S) injuries.
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