By, Dora Friedman
Every year, without fail, we, the student body are forced to take the long, tedious ImPACT test. I myself have groaned with frustration as just when I was about to complete the –what felt like– three hour long test (although for the sake of accuracy, it is only thirty minutes), and it has the nerve to reset! Of course, these tests are important means of determining whether or not one of us has a concussion. Although the media downplays the effects of concussions, they are a major issue for kids aged 16 and under who have yet to fully developed their brains.
It is no secret that football is a rowdy sport; therefore, it is no surprise that concussions are very common in the world of football. In fact, 47% of all reported sports related concussions occur during high school football.
The largest issue with concussions was that the world believed that concussions could lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. CTE is a brain disease in which a protein called Tau kills brain cells by forming clusters which slowly spread throughout the brain. Symptoms of CTE generally do not reveal themselves until years after the initial head trauma. A recent Boston University-led study, however, suggests that it is not just concussions that can cause CTE, but any instance of repeated hard impact to the head.
So what does this mean for athletes, especially football players?
Not long after the study was released, an NFL-commissioned study was leaked to the public. This study stated that 6.1% of retired NFL players above the age of 50 had been diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive-related diseases, compared to .01% of the general population.
Only two days after the release of the NFL Commissioner report, John Urschel of the Baltimore Ravens decided to retire after only three years in the league and attend MIT in pursuit of a doctorate in mathematics. He stated that he was “unnerved that it had affected his ability to solve math problems” and wished to get his degree before any more head trauma prevented him from reaching his full potential.
In the aftermath of this study, it would not be surprising to see more football players follow Urschel’s lead and go into early retirement to pursue other various intellectual interests. Personally, however, despite the large amounts scientific data suggesting that it is better for a football player’s health to leave the league early, the data that cannot be measured is the drive and ambition that every player, even with the knowledge of the dangers facing them, chooses to play with day in and day out, all for the championship.