When we think about concussions in football, we typically associate the injury with instances reported in youth or high school programs, relating to second-impact syndrome and the lingering effects post-concussion syndrome can hold upon a student athlete, or we consider the implications of the term ‘concussion’ as it relates to professional football—the leading candidate of media exposure with regards to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, lawsuits, and the root behind penalties and fines. These are hierarchical extremities of the American football family, where we are presented accounts of the effects of traumatic brain injury in our children, or in our idols. One question remains however, and it is one that has rarely been touched upon by the general sports coverage media—what about college football? Where does the issue stand in that level of play?
We have seen efforts from some college football programs in taking on the issue at hand, more specifically referencing the allegiance of the Ivy League, where in this past year they instituted a decrease in mandatory full-contact practices—an effort to limit player exposure to head trauma and the potential risks of repetitive head trauma, a decision that can link itself back to Chris Nowinski’s proposal of ‘hit counts.’ But we haven’t seen many efforts of collegiate teams to address this issue, though a handful of coaches have openly given positive feedback to the awareness that has been brought about lately. College football dominates our weekly routines browsing television, as hundreds of teams square up to compete on the national stage, and upon that stage, it is inevitable to understand that concussions are occurring—it is inevitable to understand that many concussions aren’t being reported, either, by the coaching staffs to the media, or by the players to the coaches.
There is no reason to make it seem that the NCAA is infected by coaches withholding “Mike Leach” complexes, but there is reason to believe that there is a need for issue exposure at this level of the game.
We have been working on an original Concussion Blog research study involving information gathering while monitoring reported concussions in Division I football. After tracing reports back to preseason scrimmages prior to the 2011 season’s kickoff, I recently came to find an article published by The Florida Times-Union which discussed the absence of requirements regarding the reporting of injuries in college football. When noting the publication of this article, I found it particularly interesting to see how our compiled statistics amounted during Week 3 of the college football season (not to say that this one article had a profound impact on college football as a whole, but it was eye-opening to a degree).
Reported concussions dropped by nearly 75%.
What could such a dramatic decrease in injury rate imply? For one, college teams are beginning to approach the heart of their conference play, and coaches sure do not want to expose their own player’s weaknesses in light of that. Coaches don’t want to hear about their own player’s weaknesses either, and players’ don’t want to admit to any of such ‘weaknesses.’ It’s time for teams to get serious and play hard, and with that, injury reports have decreased profoundly, especially regarding concussions.
Let’s recap on what we have gathered for The Concussion Blog’s NCAA Reported-Concussion Study (this research project by no means an exact science, but it has brought about some alarming rates and questioned to be raised regarding several issues under the domain of concussions in football).
21 concussions were reported during pre-season practices and/or scrimmages.
21 concussions were reported in 78 games during Week 1—a rate of 1 concussion per every 3.714 games.
22 concussions were reported in 65 games during Week 2—a rate of 1 concussion per every 2.954 games.
Only 4 concussions were reported in 64 games during Week 3—a rate of 1 concussion per every 16 games.*
There have been 3 concussions reported so far during Week 4 of the NCAA season, and 71 have been accounted for in total, with 47 concussions in 207 games played (excluding Week 4), providing us with a rate of 1 concussion per every 4.404 games.
But more has come from this study that raises issues in how we come about this crisis, how we deal with such a crisis, and how we react to concussions in college football. There have been 4 reported retirements in Division I football this season (a red-shirt sophomore, two juniors, and a red-shirt junior), as well as two players reported to have been shut down from all play in 2011.
It’s only the fourth week of the season, and such underlying circumstances have been stuck below the radar of college football’s mystifying power over the nation’s attention. Again, in my own opinion, large-scale media fatigue has troubled the forward progress of awareness, and we are seeing some holes in the clarity of the college football agenda as it relates to concussions in the game.
We will continue this research study throughout the 2011 college football season. Conversation regarding this issue in collegiate sports would be greatly appreciated, as the ideas of those who are passionate in what we cover are of great importance to us working at The Concussion Blog.
[SIDE NOTE: As of last week, former Eastern Illinois football player and captain Adrian Arrington filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, claiming that it failed to provide the necessary means of concussion prevention (via awareness and/or education), which ultimately contributed to his struggling in the completion of his degree. Arrington believes that coaching is of the greatest issue in the concussion debate, for there has not been enough emphasis on tackling and focusing of one’s own play.]