By Ken Reed
One of the toughest sports scenes I’ve witnessed in recent years came about last football season when the Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly took a blow to his head and suffered his second concussion in two years. TV cameras captured Kuechly sobbing uncontrollably as he tried to corral his emotions following the brain injury.
Many observers were talking at the time about whether or not Kuechly should continue playing football and risking further brain damage.
Well, he came back for another NFL season this year and recently suffered his third concussion in three seasons during the Panthers’ 28-23 loss to Philadelphia. Some people actually believe Kuechly has had more than three concussions over the past three years.
At any rate, a recent Sports Illustrated article has called Kuechly, “a poster child for the NFL’s concussion problem.”
“If Luke Kuechly has in fact suffered a concussion, then a third in three years puts him into a precarious situation,” said Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina.
“What the research has taught us is that once you have had three concussions, especially over a relatively short period of time, you are at risk for a slower recovery and an increased risk for subsequent concussions.”
Research at UNC has also revealed that football players with three or more concussions are at an increased risk for depression and mild cognitive impairment later in life.
Then, of course, there’s the elephant in football locker rooms across the country: CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a terrible degenerative brain disease associated with repetitive blows to the head.
“The big elephant in the room that people don’t seem to deal with is, do those increased hits mean that he’s at increased risk for later-life problems like CTE?” asked Dr. Robert Stern, a neuroscientist and the Director of Clinical Research for Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center.
“And concussions themselves are not really the big issue when it comes to CTE. It’s really the overall exposure to repetitive impacts, the subconcussive trauma. We don’t think the number of concussions, per se—which are symptomatic mild brain injuries—are the big issues. It’s the repetitive issue of getting hit over and over and over and over again without the rest and recovery of someone who has a diagnosed concussion.”
Kuechly obviously loves the game of football. And he’s very good at it, winning the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year award.
But it’s extremely hard to watch him repeatedly do damage to his brain on the football field … especially when one considers the potential long-term anguish — to himself and those that love him — he’s voluntarily subjecting himself to.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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