By Luke Frantz and Joseph McVey, Nov. 8, 2022

On Sept. 25, NFL quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of the Miami Dolphins suffered a head injury resulting in a concussion during a game against the Buffalo Bills, but he was cleared to play through the second half and the next game, where he received a second, more serious concussion.

This event sparked a discussion among many athletes and health professionals about the severity of head injuries and how they can be better treated.

Cal Poly Pomona public health professor Alex Auslander shed some light on concussions and the effects they can have on athletes.

Jackson Gray | The Poly Post

“Multiple concussions over a period of time, as you can research, have been known to cause potential brain damage and extreme effects of CTE, and we’ve seen that in athletes,” said Auslander.

CTE is a chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and it is a condition caused by multiple blows to the head that can lead to severe mood changes, memory loss and even suicidal thoughts or actions.

Concussions have been a big topic of discussion among NFL players and fans due to the injury’s prevalence in the sport and previous cases of serious head trauma.

University physician Dr. Jaqueline Lopez explained how concussions can have possible long-term effects on an athlete’s brain.

“There’s a lot we don’t know about the long-term effects, but there’s concern about neurodegenerative diseases, things like dementia, Parkinson’s disease and ALS,” said Lopez.

These possible diseases make concussions a serious injury in all sports, even effecting a student-athletes’ performance in the classroom.

“A concussion can have major impact on a student’s life, even beyond sports,” said Lopez. “It can affect their ability to concentrate in classes. For many patients who are concussed, even things like trying to listen to a lecture can exasperate their symptoms.”

Business CIS student Emilio Garcia, who is currently playing soccer for the semi-pro team Medallo City Futbol Club, in Southern California, recalled several head injuries while playing the sport.

Garcia shared he has had five concussions and provided insight on his short and long-term symptoms when dealing with head injuries.

“One time after hitting my head on the goal post, I had blacked out but came too shortly after,” said Garcia. “I continued to play, but it wasn’t till after I reached the sidelines, I experienced some symptoms such as memory loss, nausea, headaches and vomiting.”

Though these symptoms seem manageable at first, it is important to receive medical attention after any head trauma, especially in sports-related activities where a recurrence is highly likely.

“After receiving multiple concussions, some long-term symptoms started to show,” said Garcia. “I can’t remember much of my childhood nor certain events that have happened recently.”

Many athletes carry the constant urge to be tough and rub some dirt on their bruises, especially in high-contact sports where players are frowned upon for sitting out due to  injuries. As more is uncovered in sports, player health remains much more important than their reputation in the eyes of spectators.

“Especially in any team sport at the lower levels, where players aren’t constantly watched with a camera, if you see an injury, you should call it out and make sure coaches and refs know so they [the players] can get the help that they need,” said Garcia. “Injuries can affect any athlete in the long run even if symptoms do not show up immediately.”

Many athletes overlook the effects of head injuries and continue to play, ultimately making the problem much worse. Even at the professional level, these injuries can go unchecked much like for Tagovailoa, showing the importance of holding teammates and team physicians accountable when dealing with something as delicate as the human brain.

Luckily for Tagovailoa, he was taken to a nearby hospital shortly after his second hit, where he was diagnosed with a concussion and finally received treatment he needed. Since then, he is currently in good health and has again been cleared to start playing once more.

The independent neurologist that cleared Tagovailoa before the Thursday night game was fired by the NFL and a full investigation has been launched within the Dolphins’ organization.

The NFL and NFL Players Association have since agreed to new parameters to update concussion protocols in which any player that clearly exhibits signs of a concussion, as Tagovailoa did, would be pulled out of play immediately.

While this is a step in the right direction, many questions remain regarding why the NFL did not include this in protocols in the past.

The topic of head trauma is still an ever-evolving conversation in sports. As we uncover more on the effects of concussions, players should continue to stay vigilant for the health and safety of themselves, their teammates and their rivals.

If any CPP students have health concerns involving head trauma or any injuries, they can book an appointment through the CPP Student Health Center to get proper medical attention.

Feature image by Jackson Gray

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