COLUMN: Why I still play football even after a concussion

Courtesy of the Cundari family

Courtesy of the Cundari family

Nick Cundari, Staff Reporter

Concussion. To most people 10-15 years ago, this just meant you “got your bell rung” during a football play. Today, the stigma of concussions is completely different.  I am, in fact, one of the players who is willing to risk getting a concussion every fall.  I have already had one.

I am a proud football player and will be beginning my seventh season next year. To me, it’s more than just a game; it’s almost a way of life. The thrill of converting on third and long, or the rush you get when your teams scores a huge touchdown is irreplaceable. But just like for most other players, the idea of getting a concussion never crossed my mind; then I actually got one.

Unless you have been living under a rock, it’s no surprise that football is one of the biggest sports in America. Being almost completely an American tradition, the sport has changed countless lives. With thousands of children and teens trying the sport every year, it has been rapidly growing for many years. In high school, the football players are often superstars of the school, and in college many stadiums can hold in excess of 100,000 people.

But just like with anything else in life, football has some major drawbacks; one of the largest being the growing rate of concussions on all levels of the game.

The definition of a concussion is actually rather simple. The human skull is filled with fluid, and the brain sits in this fluid. When rapid deceleration occurs, the brain will jolt to one side and will hit against the inside of the skull. This causes a disruption of brain activity, which often correlates to a loss in balance, coordination, memory, and reaction time. According to RB athletic trainer, William Frey, most concussions occur because of players executing improper technique on a hit.

When testing for a concussion in a game, an athletic trainer will give a brief sideline evaluation that tests balance, coordination, memory, and reaction time. The trainer will then ask the athlete how they feel. The downside of a test like this is that players will often lie about how they feel so they can keep playing.

It was quick. At the beginning of the play I remember feeling perfectly fine, but after being blindsided on a punt, I knew something was very wrong. Suddenly, nothing made sense to me and my head felt like it was about to blow off my shoulders. My whole body was in pain, and even simple tasks seemed impossible. While attempting to get a drink from a water bottle, I realized just how messed up I was. What really scared me was that I truly couldn’t understand how to drink water. When my brain finally told me I should get help, I found our athletic trainer. He did the usual test involved with a concussion, (balance, memory, etc.) and I wasn’t looking too good. But just as Frey said, I lied about how I felt, and found myself back on the field.

Besides that small instance, almost everything from that entire weekend is gone from my memory. I don’t remember that day at school, before, during, and after the game, or even the weekend I spent resting at home.

When I returned to school, Frey administered the computer based test, and my results didn’t come back very well. After failing pretty badly in the memory section of the test, I was forced to sit out of the entire week of practice and even the upcoming game that Friday night.

After I was cleared to play, it was as if nothing had even happened to me. My love for the game was still strong as ever and my drive to win seemed even greater than before.

In an interview with head football coach Brendan Curtin, I was reminded of the effects the game of football has on a person. The game has given me structure in my life, and has taught me to set goals for myself. Even if this isn’t the real focus of the sport, it has helped to transform the lives of countless people. I feel like every time someone goes online, or opens a newspaper, all they see about football is bad stories involving cheating, lying, or horrible injuries. I for one find this to be a terrible injustice to the sport that I love so much.

When it comes to football, I am fully aware of the risks, but I am also fully aware of the endless benefits of the game. In my opinion, too much emphasis is put on the negatives as opposed to the positives. Being more of a glass half full kind of guy, I look forward to going out onto the field on Fridays, even with the possibility of a big hit changing my life. It is the one sport that I can say that I truly love, and I can’t imagine not being able to play anymore. With hopes of continuing to play in college, I know the risks will be even greater, but the rewards could be things that I can only dream of.

I believe the only real way to stop the high number of concussions in football is to practice the fundamentals of the game even more than they already are. With proper technique, the number of injuries will definitely go down, and the game will become more enjoyable for both spectators and players.