Concussions in Sports

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As sports are ever evolving, so are the precautionary measures to prevent injury. Concussions have become one of the most popular topics in sports today. However, our knowledge and understanding of concussions has not always been this in depth. It took irreversible brain damage on numerous athletes for any preventive measures to be put in place. Concussions were nothing but folk lore up until about the last twenty years. All head injuries were viewed as nothing more than that. Nobody realized how serious the effects of these head injuries would be. Concussions are defined as, “An injury to a soft structure, especially the brain, produced by a violent blow or impact and followed by a temporary, sometimes prolonged, loss of function. A concussion of the brain results in transient loss of consciousness or memory.”(Dictionary). These horrific injuries were happening to everyone, superstar athletes included. Stars such as Muhammad Ali, Lou Gehrig, and Chris Benoit were affected. At the time of their super-stardom’s they and medical personal around them didn’t realize how fatal these head injuries would become. It took over thirty years for many of these athletes to discover the unfortunate consequences of their head traumas’. In the 1930’s there weren’t too many things more popular than the New York Yankees. They had some of the greatest players this game has ever seen. Players like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig were larger than life to many people. Lou Gehrig was the face of the franchise, New York, and baseball for many years. But on Independence Day 1939 Lou Gehrig

abruptly announced his retirement at the age of 36. This speech would become one of the most iconic moments in sports history. At the time all people knew was that Gehrig was suffering from a debilitating illness known as ALS. ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, was a debilitating illness that caused paralysis and loss of motor function. Very little was known about ALS besides it had a short and painless life expectancy. Unfortunately this was not the case; ALS is an incredibly painful way to die. There is now reason to believe that Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS, may not have been Gehrig’s cause of death. Some scientists now believe that Gehrig may not have had ALS at all, instead brain injuries caused by concussions. “Doctors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass., and the Boston University School of Medicine, the primary researchers of brain damage among deceased National Football League players, said that markings in the spinal cords of two players and one boxer who also received a diagnosis of A.L.S. indicated that those men did not have A.L.S. They had a different fatal disease, doctors said, caused by concussion like trauma that erodes the central nervous system in similar ways.”(Shwarz). Coincidently Gehrig suffered numerous documented concussions in his career in addition to many undocumented ones. Gehrig also prided himself in playing every day, many times with injuries. He was known as “The Iron Horse” for his 2130 consecutive games played. Clearly the combination of numerous concussions and no off days for fifteen years was not ideal. Gehrig’s

true cause of death may never be discovered but with continued research there may be many breakthroughs on causes of ALS and ways to reverse the fatal prognosis. Muhammad Ali, one the greatest boxers of all time, was merely unstoppable throughout his career. He was one of the most feared men on the planet and his personality in and out of the ring was unrivaled. His grace in the ring and his “Ali shuffle” made him a must see for all boxing enthusiasts and many casual fans. Along with his “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” motto, he was idolized. Perhaps his only weakness was his inability to leave the sport he loved so dearly. Ali fought well into his thirties, suffering many of his very few losses during...
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