Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tackling brain trauma

The recent death of future Hall of Famer Junior Seau from a suicide that is possibly related to the brain trauma acquired from years of playing professional football is a loss of not just a football superstar,it may be the beginning of the end of football as we know it.

I know that sounds like hyperbole,but bear with me.
Think back to the early 20th century and football was so violent that the game was on the verge of being banned before President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in,formed a commission to change a game that was killing players every year and began to refine the game a bit to make it safer,but yet added things that would change the game to a version that is closer to what we know it as today,which added the forward pass,changed the amount of yardage to gain a first down and eliminated the scrum type formations that you see in Rugby.

There is precedent for a almost total revamp of the game and the current incremental changes are going to slowly but surely change the game of football.
The changes to the kickoff rule might be just the start of gradual rule changes that over time might make this game quite different than the game that our great grandchildren watch,if for that matter they watch it at all.
Plus who knows what rule changes are coming as more and more knowledge is gained by the study of the problems with the brain.

Look,I am not a neurologist,but it does appear that a game that is based around hard hitting is going to have its share of head injuries and I do not think even with cutting edge technology that we can avoid those types of injuries involved with football anytime soon,but is the game that has become the country's most popular one in trouble?
Not more than any other sport that has issues.
Hockey has issues with head injuries and boxing has had them for as men raised their fist to fire at others and as sure as the Earth rotates around the Sun,the popularity of the mixed martial arts will be affected with this issue as well.
The NHL has gotten some unwanted attention with the recent problems of enforcers that have committed suicide,but short of banning fighting,I do not know any other solutions that the league can do to better battle head injuries.

My brother posted about the attention that Junior Seau's death getting attention for the topic of brain injuries yet the issues that many professional wrestlers have with brain trauma have been ignored and even laughed at.
I understand the dangerous issues that so many wrestlers have faced,but there is one huge difference between what pro athletes in sport and what professional wrestlers have to deal with.
Professional wrestlers have done much of this to themselves.

Few people that are not involved with professional wrestling have the love that I do for the "business",so I say this with as much respect as possible for the men that truly live for the business.
Much of what you are going through is what you have brought on yourself.
Conducting matches that offer predetermined violence that can deliver the same type of brain trauma that sports that are played in "real time" in which people can get hurt is silly and frankly dumb on the athletes part.
Wrestling has moved past the 1990's mentality that brought the ridiculous "hardcore" style that featured
full forced blows to the head with objects that would only be used in the most violent of situations in the real world,but just as professional football is dealing with its stars of the same time period being forced to ponder this issue and for all the raps that professional wrestling takes,it is about to take more.
The pounding that wrestlers take up until that point had usually been scar tissue,back injuries from taking bumps and neck injuries from the same,but that era and the style that thrilled some did something else-damaged brain cells.

There is just one problem with that-it just was not needed to make wrestling worth watching.
It just shortened careers and sent its stars into pain that was not just unimaginable,but unnecessary as well.
Wrestling had always been about the illusion of violence that despite being grueling,long term damage did not occur,now the violence was real even if the winner was pre-determined
It is one thing to gain sympathy for injuries sustained in a physical game,it is another in which the combatants control what they do in a match.
Both performers agree on just what to do to each other (with the exception of an ending) and therefore for the most part,the inflicted damage and how it occurs is pretty much agreed on,so some of the things used cause injury.
And not the type of injury that is a light one either.
They are punishing and they are permanent.
And they bring it on themselves......



Shawn said...

From Cherie:
Excellent article! We know so little about the human brain, which is equally as fascinating as the blueprint of our galaxy. We struggle to grasp the complexities of both, and anything we continue to learn about either shows how ignorant we really are in our current understanding.

However, (and I bet you knew it was coming)...I somewhat disagree on your take about the wrestlers.
I feel a football player, or boxer, is equally responsible in using their body to make a living. They are aware of the risks that can be acquired in the sports field and agree to them when they agree to play or compete for compensation. But I do wholeheartedly agree that the aftercare received from the NFL, is horrendous and embarrassing in a sport as lucrative as theirs. Wrestlers put their bodies on the line day after day after day. They are called on to perform without rest or proper time for healing from injuries. And, yes, the sport has changed, and much of the risks they take in the namesake of "extreme" wrestling is foolish. But injuries occur to the wrestlers irregardless. Compared to the care the NFL gives to its current players the wrestlers may as well be peasants. They are at the mercy of Vince McMahon & company for their health care and that cannot be something that helps them sleep well at night. Wrestlers continue to be undervalued and unappreciated as athletes, but their injuries are every bit as real. And I would dare say that for some of the top talent they literally sacrifice their bodies, willingly, for their sport. And unlike the NFL there is no committee or advocate for the rights of former (or current) wrestlers.

Shawn said...

It seems like I am arguing with myself!

Much of what you write is correct,but I still believe that professional wrestling went through a period of time where reckless in ring risks will eventually lead to brain injury.
Vince McMahon may be guilty of many things,but Vince McMahon was not having wrestlers hit each other full bore on the head with metal objects until it was proven to him that he could occasionally make money doing those things.
It saddened me then and still to this day to see the horrendous in ring things that are done to each other in the name of "the business" that would be drawing jail time if done in real life for sums of money that would not buy a family a nice dinner...