Get it through your head
Eliminating brain injuries could save lives
Todd Colin Vaughn
Sidney Crosby should retire.
Sounds crazy, but hear it out for a bit.
Concussions and post-concussion syndrome have become all the talk in the sports world lately, most specifically in the National Hockey League and the National Football League.
This has coincided with a training boom in professional sports that has made most athletes stronger and faster. It means when an athlete takes a hit, it’s not by a 180-pound player; it’s by a 230-pound ball of muscle. Big difference when it comes to how the brain is impacted.
Bigger athletes create a greater risk for head injuries, something sports fans have to accept as fact.
With this in mind, the argument for the most talented hockey player to give up what he loves becomes clearer.
Sid the Kid has suffered post-concussion syndrome for over a year now since two brutal hits in a game against Washington during the 2011 NHL Winter Classic, the symptoms of which include headaches, vomiting, difficulty concentrating and emotional and behavioral symptoms, such as irritabilityand depression, according to Web MD.
The bigger issue of concussions is that after suffering one, the next one becomes more likely to occur if someone is hit again. Several concussions can lead to more severe issues like permanent brain damage and death.
Is it worth it for Sid to keep playing a game he loves if it could mean his death? From a sports fan’s perspective of course you want to see the man of the Olympic Golden Goal continue his career. But, do we as fans encourage athletes to take unnecessary risks?
More globally, does Sid playing hockey encourage young kids playing hockey to play through serious, life-threatening injuries? Not an easy question to answer considering we should rarely tell someone to quit what they love, but the repercussions of this issue are great.
Consider the late NFL star Dave Duerson who tragically chose to take his own life in February 2011. Duerson before his death ensured that his brain would bedonated to science. He intended to show the long-term neurological effects of playing in the NFL.
Although not specifically proven to be the reason for his suicide, it was shown that Duerson suffered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a condition caused by multiple concussions, symptoms of which include dementia, memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression.
A tragic tale on how a brain injury could affect an athlete following his career.
So how does the problem of concussions in inherently violent sports — like hockey, football, boxing and ultimate fighting — get solved?
In hockey specifically, efforts have been made to improve helmets and to have stiffer penalties for players who target people’s heads, but is this enough?
A recent rant by Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry, who is famous for promoting an aggressive brand of hockey, pointed out that there have been more concussions in the NHL since the helmet rule was initiated in 1979.
This may be a skewed fact because concussion research has greatly improved since that era, and many players at that time would not admit to having been hit above the shoulders, but it does raise the issue that helmet technology may give players a false sense of security.
A false sense of security that compounds an already complicated issue with unknown factors and the fact that many fans watch NHL hockey specifically for the rough nature of the sport that Cherry is so proud to rant about.
Crosby, a player with a body specifically made to be the best hockey player in the world, faces a dilemma. The sports world would be up in arms if he were to decide to hang up his skates, but for a fan, is it the humanitarian thing to do to encourage the end of his career?
Crosby, in all likelihood, will not retire due to his competitive nature, but an effort must be made to ensure his and all other athletes safety on the field, rink, court, squared-circle, etc.
Does the sports world want to see the best player of a generation quit due to unfortunate injuries? Of course not, but maybe he should. Maybe the risk that he, and many other athletes — professional and amateur alike — is just too great.
As for what should be done. . . well yes, efforts should be made to limit vicious hits and improve technology, but in the end it comes down to the individual mantra of a sport. Athletes don’t need to be suckered in by dinosaur pundits from a long-gone generation who encourage a rough and talentless violent physicality.
Physicality is a skill that is used in many sports and should never be taken out. The difference is when athletes perceive that physicality as violence. As long as this false perception remains, there will be more and more head injuries in sports.
So yes, Sidney Crosby should retire for the sake of martyrdom.
His example would protect young hockey players all over the world from skating into a hit that could end their life.