Photo by Hunter Franklin, ’19 | Brophy’s football team kneels as their injured quarterback, Noah Gonzales ’18, is looked over by Brophy’s physical trainers in a high school football game against Desert Vista Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in Phoenix. Desert Vista defeated Brophy 17-14.
By Spencer Inglett ’19 & Matthew Zacher ’18
While the risk of concussions is visible in every sport, football and the sport’s hard hits raise debate about the safety of the sport, especially for developing adolescents on high school campuses.
According to the CDC, a concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth.
Concussions vary in severity and length, but having protocols in line, like the NFL and NCAA, assist in helping spot concussions and preventing football players from further brain damage.
“I think the protocols [NFL and NCAA] are based on very good and current science,” said Head Athletic Trainer Mr. Chris White. “But it is problematic as we don’t know everything about concussions.”
Until recently, the repercussions of concussions such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) were unknown, and scientists are currently only able to diagnose CTE posthumously.
According to the Center for Disease Control, CTE is a progressive neurodegenerative disease caused by total brain trauma which results in symptoms such as decline in memory and cognitive function, mood and behavioral disturbances, and depression. CTE is not limited to athletes who have reported concussions.
According to Mr. White, approximately 10 percent of Brophy football players, at all levels, sustain a concussion, with different levels of severity.
Brophy student and Varsity football player EJ Hamilton ’19 was diagnosed with a concussion while playing football. He said that he could not control his emotions after he sustained his concussion.
“When I had my first big concussion, I was laughing and crying at the same time all while I couldn’t understand the questions being asked by the paramedics,” Hamilton said.
While the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) does not have a concussion protocol, athletic trainers attend all Brophy athletic events and are always scanning the field for concussions.
Mr. White said that the most important step in treating concussions is for students to come forward when they suspect they have sustained a head injury.
Athletes not reporting themselves or their teammates of possible head trauma is an issue, but Mr. White said he believes that Brophy has done an overall good job in providing a comfortable environment for students to report potential concussions.
“We’ve created a pretty good culture at Brophy but it’s up to individuals and parents and coaches to reinforce the concept,” Mr. White said. “If you are having symptoms and you take another hit to the head, you run the risk of much more serious brain injury.”
Christian Kirkland ’18 has suffered three concussions playing varsity football and an additional one playing basketball.
Kirkland said he had a difficult time retaining information in the classroom following his concussions.
“I couldn’t concentrate and had a hard time remembering things for longer than 30 minutes or so,” he said. “I couldn’t take tests because I would forget what I studied and got behind on my schoolwork.”
Kirkland added that the coaches and training staff are nice and fair when dealing with injured athletes, but he said that his experience with concussions has discouraged him from playing in the future.
“I am too smart to suffer more concussions,” Kirkland said. “It would be irresponsible to continue playing.”
However, Kirkland would not discourage others from playing the sport if they want to take the risk.
“I would not discourage others from playing football,” he said. “By playing any sport you understand there are injuries that you can suffer, and if you are okay with that, then there is no problem.”
Freshman football coach Mr. Scott Heideman said that concussions are his number one priority as a head coach.
“Concussions have always been a factor,” Mr. Heideman said. “I just think the lack of knowledge on it has really forced it to the forefront. Now, it would be foolish to think that it’s not any football coach’s number one priority.”
Mr. Heideman said that sometimes the symptoms of a concussion are not immediately obvious, and he said he is grateful that Brophy has such an adept training staff.
“It is a very interesting injury,” he said. “We are lucky to have a training staff where if they say, ‘concussion,’ you just don’t take that chance.”
Mr. Heideman added that athletes need to make reporting concussions a bigger priority for themselves.
“I still don’t think that athletes report enough,” he said. “I would rather these kids be safe than sorry. If you feel in any way that you got your bell rung, you need to let the coaches know or the training staff know.”
Mr. White also spoke to the need for athletes to report to the training staff if they feel the symptoms of a concussion, despite the desire to remain on the field.
“We have adolescents who only want to play, and they know if they report that they will not be able to play,” Mr. White said. “We can’t force athletes to report, but we rely on that and other individuals having the guts to say, ‘my friends not right.’”