The 17-year-old senior at Belleville West is part of the growing number of players in a variety of sports who find themselves permanently sidelined by concussion and post-concussion syndrome.
“You know what? I’m not going to risk my life for high school football,” said Behnke, a Millstadt resident who got his second concussion while playing for Lutheran South in St. Louis County in 2010 and his third playing for Belleville West this season. “It was really tough. I really wanted to play. I didn’t mind so much my junior year because I knew I had one more year in me.
“But it really stunk not playing my senior year.”
In a story found in the Belleville News Democrat, Alex Behnke once was devoted to the sport of football, however at least three brain injuries later his perspective has changed. What started in the backyard turned into career ending concussions; a career ended by none other than the player himself. A decision that caught everyone off guard, the player making the call to “retire” early due to concussions, almost unheard of in high school.
Bahnke also is trying to let his fellow teammates know that he does not want them to lose their career as well;
Behnke said he has spoken to other players about his situation, urging them not to lead with their helmet when making plays.
“A lot of kids still do go head-first, it’s just really hard to get out of sync like that,” said Behnke, who plans to attend St. Louis Community College and study to become a firefighter. “I’ve told them don’t lead with your head because I’ve been there. You’ll really mess yourself up.”
I thought this was an interesting story yesterday when I read it. It was part of a three-story series posted yesterday on the News-Democrat’s website. Unfortunately, I was not so pleased with parts of the articles…
I’ll tip my cap to this kid for looking out for the wellness and safety of his own self before sacrificing it to potentially harmful implications. I agree with the sentence claiming that it is almost “unheard of” for a high school player to declare his own ‘retirement,’ and I admire Alex for taking the own self-aware initiative to do so, although I feel terrible for him having to give up the game of football.
I had three diagnosed concussions in high school, but presumably endured at least six or seven without speaking up about them. After sustaining three recorded concussions in my sophomore and junior seasons, I continually resisted the thought of retirement. I believed it to be out of my own hands, and rather up to the coaches who raised me within their football program. I soon realized that it was no longer them to whom I had to address my physical issues to, it was the medical staff. One doctor, three athletic trainers, my parents, and many of my good friends had to persuade me to give up football- my coaches said nothing, only quietly hoping that I would choose the other option in staying.
Again, I admire Alex for doing this, and sending a message to many youth football athletes where the idea is spread in acknowledging the importance of one’s own health above the desires of others and influence of the game itself. I wish I had the right of mind, or even the means of education on concussions, to stand up to my coaching staff to explain why I couldn’t play, and that it would take time for me to return.
Thanks for posting this, Dustin. It shows me that there is still much promise in our most coveted youth/high school sports programs. Personally, I believe that this is where the most change must be in order to effectively put forth a cultural change in contact sports for the betterment of the athletic community.