In the past few weeks there has been a rash of concussions involving Wisconsin and football, from the NFL to college to the sixth grade.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel pointed out, last Sunday Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Stewart Bradley collapsed on the gridiron in a game against the Green Bay Packers. Both Bradley and Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb sustained concussions during that game, and didn’t play this weekend.
In another incident, this one on Sept. 11, University of Wisconsin-Madison receiver David Gilreath was hit and rendered unconscious in a game against San Jose State. He was carted off the field in a stretcher, and did not play in a recent game against Arizona State University.
And in a truly heart-breaking case in early September, 11-year-old Evan Coubal of Muskego sustained a concussion during a youth football game. In a freak accident several days later Coubal, a student at Bay Lane Middle School, hit his head on a football sled. He died of head trauma in a local hospital.
The incident involving the Eagles’ Bradley, which was seen by more than 28 million people via Fox, brought the team’s handling of the situation under scrutiny.
As The New York Times wrote, during the game “Bradley rose woozily, stumbled and then collapsed onto the turf. The Fox announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman expressed concern and even horror. Players waved frantically for medical assistance.”
Yet Bradley was sent back to the field only minutes later, and his concussion wasn’t diagnosed until halftime. The Eagles defended their actions, saying that Bradley wasn’t immediately taken out of the game, as mandated by new NFL rules, because a sideline exam didn’t find a concussion. Huh? It seems that none of the Eagles’ medical personnel witnessed him take his hit or saw his collapse.
As The Times astutely pointed out, “If a concussion this glaring can be missed, how many go unnoticed every fall weekend on high school and youth fields, where the consequences can be more serious, even fatal?”
A lot, I would venture to say.
And right next to The Times’ story Thursdsy about Bradley was another article on NFL head injuries. The headline on that piece was “A Giant’s Concussions Begin to Add Up.” The story was about New York Giants’ tight end Kevin Boss, who has suffered three concussions since 2008, with the most recent one during a game against the Carolina Panthers.
In that story, Boss downplayed the seriousness of his concussions, telling The Times, “I’ve seen guys come stumbling off the field who can’t remember their own name. Nothing has been that bad.”
But the latest research shows that repetitive concussions have a cumulative effect on the brain, causing progressive damage. That’s what Boss is at risk of, whether or not he can remember his name after being hit on the field.
The issue of concussions and youth athletes will be the topic of Thursday’s hearing of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, which is considering legislation to cut down on head injuries.
The Journal Sentinel outlined the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Associations’s rules on concussions. Under those guidelines, young athletes who have symptoms of concussions or are unconscioius can’t go back to a game or practice the same day without a doctor’s written permission. A doctor must also approve an athlete before he or she can come back to competition afterward. And Wisconsin has a protocol for athletes to follow before they return to play fulltime.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
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