North Texas Daily

Football team emphasizes concussion safety

Football team emphasizes concussion safety

Football team emphasizes concussion safety
October 15
23:43 2014

Ehsan Azad / Staff Writer

With hitting and tackling, football is considered one of the more violent sports in the world, and there can be serious injuries that come with it. Concussions are becoming the one injury that has the football world paused for concern, including the Mean Green football team.

Since the PBS documentary “League of Denial” came out in 2013, concussions have been a big topic when it comes to football. New research, which is shown in the documentary, shows that multiple concussions can cause severe brain damage and brain disease. Frontline of PBS tracks the number of concussions in the NFL per year and said that there were 152 cases in 2013.

Some former NFL players have been diagnosed with mood disorders and some even killed themselves. These disorders are linked to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a disease caused by multiple concussions. 

“I don’t think we’ve taken it more seriously lately. We have always taken it very seriously,” assistant athletic trainer Danny Kalkhoff said. “There is no such thing as a minor injury when it comes to the brain, so we do a lot to prepare and we do a lot to be as sensitive as we can.”

The training staff has already put in place a very strict process that players must pass with the approval of the team doctors in order to return to the field.

“We have Sway Balance, a phone-based test that can test their motor skills, because it can affect their motor, it can affect their memory,” Kalkhoff said. “Then on top of that, we have a series of questions to get a feel for it. A lot of it is, do they seem like themselves or not? The unfortunate part of concussions is that, if they don’t want me to know they have one, they hide it.”

The questions are usually basic memory questions to see how the players feel in that moment. Some of the symptoms they are looking for are headaches, nausea and sensitivity to light and noise.

After a player has suffered a concussion, he must wait 48 hours and then must take the ImPACT test, a computer program that shows cognitive functions in the brain. The computer has all the players’ baseline cognitive levels, so it can tell if things aren’t normal. If the player doesn’t pass it, he continues to sit out until symptoms cease.

If things seem normal, he goes through different exercises to see if symptoms return. If they do, the player continues to sit out. But if they don’t and a doctor clears the player, he can return.

Kalkhoff said the coaches play a big part in making sure that the players are good to go.

“It is hard to keep track of 116 guys spread across two fields,” Kalkhoff said. “So a lot of times the position coach or the player themselves are the ones that bring those things up to our attention.”

Head coach Dan McCarney leaves most of the work to the doctors and trainers. While he takes a step back on actually handing the issue, he is amazed at the scientific advancements made to make the game safer.

“I am never going to put anybody on the field that the trainers and doctors don’t say, ‘Hey, he’s fine Mac, he is ready to go,’” McCarney said.

McCarney said he will never risk any player’s life and health over a game. The former Division-I player knows how dangerous it can be, and said he played before all the advancements to player safety were in place.

“There was no question that I had concussions, but we didn’t have the tests,” McCarney said.

While the issue is serious, the players aren’t too worried about the long-term effect of playing football and how concussions can impact their careers.

“As far as long-term, I don’t know. I have seen some research that says some scary stuff, but as of right now I am not worried,” senior offensive lineman Mason Y’Barbo said.

The football training staff is dedicated to making sure they make the game safe for the players.

“We will always make more improvements as we get new research, but we’ve always been sensitive to the fact that it is a significant event,” Kalkhoff said. “Even if it is classified as a mild concussion, it really isn’t mild at all.”

Featured Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

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