There has been no bigger story in 2011 that has the potential to change sports as we know it than the rise in protecting athletes from concussions and head trauma. I think we are just at the beginning in realizing how widespread the concussion problem has been, especially in hockey and football.
The “enforcer” in hockey could be considered the toughest job in sports, there’s no question that it is the mentally toughest. They earn nicknames like “The Boogeyman” and get standing ovations when the reach the ice, but they’re only on the team to protect the best players and to fight the other “enforcers.” This past summer, three “enforcers”, Derek Boogard (The Boogeyman), Wade Belak and Ricky Rypien, all died; and each was believed to be a suicide.
A few months ago, John Branch, of The New York Times wrote a piece on the life of one of these enforcers, Derek Boogard. The story starts out describing how Boogard was tabbed as an “enforcer” by the age of 14, and how all of his hockey coaching and training was teaching him how to be an enforcer. The story goes on, describing Boogard’s reluctance to fight in these early days, but he thought it was the only way he could make it to the NHL. It finishes describing his medical history that’s been affected by his “enforcer role.” If you read only one thing today, it should be this story. Really lets you in on the danger of concussions and fighting in hockey. If you only read one thing today, it should be this story: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/SPORT/09/01/nhl.enforcers.deaths/index.html
Hockey isn’t the only sport having problems with concussions. Former Bears safety Dave Duerson committed suicide in February 2011 and left a note asking for his brain to be studied. The results showed he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is similar to Alzheimer’s. Doctors from Boston University, who studied Duerson’s brain believe the illness’ were concussion related.
Midway through this NFL season the NFL sent independent athletic trainers to each game to monitor potential concussion-related injuries, to try to curb athletes from returning to games after experiencing head trauma.
Some ex-players don’t think the NFL is doing all they can when it comes to concussions. A group of 21-ex NFL players believe the league has known about the medical ramificiations of concussions for years and haven’t done anything about it. They are currently suing the NFL.
We are only at the stating block when it comes to concussion awareness in sports. This will be a hot topic for years to come in both the NFL and NHL.