Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sports concussions -- "a ticking time bomb"

Sports agent Leigh Steinberg gave the keynote address at the National Concussion Summit in Marina Del Rey the other day. He was trying to get the audience's attention, and he succeeded. He told of visiting his star client Troy Aikman in the hospital after he was knocked out of the 1994 NFC championship game.
Aikman: “Did we play a football game today?’’
Steinberg: “Yes.’’
Aikman: “How did we do?’’
Steinberg: “You did well.’’
Aikman: “What does that mean?’’
Steinberg: “You’re going to the Super Bowl.’’

Five minutes later, Aikman had a few more questions.
“Did we play a football game today?’’
“How did we do?’’
“What does that mean?’’

Five minutes later, Aikman repeated the same questions yet again. It was clear the concussion, which published reports described as "mild," had at least temporarily robbed Aikman of his memory. The moment shook Steinberg. It also spurred him to act. A crusade began.
Steinberg's campaign has gained momentum over the last decade, and medical science now knows far more than it used to about the long-term impact of sports concussions. As Steinberg says, they're "a ticking time bomb." The impact is cumulative and may not really show up until decades after the initial injury -- and then the impact can be devastating, as the San Francisco Chronicle notes.
"What are the stakes?" Steinberg said. "It's one thing to go out and play football and understand that when you turn 40, you can bend over to pick up your child and have aches and pains. It's another thing to bend down and not be able to identify that child."
Steinberg is referring to the increase in the incidence of early-onset Alzheimer's among athletes who have suffered multiple concussions. There's more information at both links. Check them out. A bump on the head will never seem the same.

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