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 #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered and got to know well, like Muhammad Ali, as well as his relationships with fellow sports journalists like Bob Costas and Howard Cosell.
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Episode #16 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Andrew Maraniss: Outstanding Author of Books That Focus On the Intersection of Sports, History and Social Justice.
Episode #15 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Psychology with Dr. Tim Rice. We discuss the growth of sports psychology at all levels, the positive impact that a number of high profile athletes have had by opening up, and the importance of everyone involved in sports caring for the whole athlete, mind and body.
Episode #14 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Making Sense of the Injury Pandemic in Major League Baseball – Gary McCoy is a strength, conditioning and high performance coach who has worked with several Major League Baseball organizations.
Episode #13 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Conversation With Long-Time MLB Exec Dan Evans About What’s Right With Baseball and What Could Be Better – Evans is a former general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers and is currently a consultant for Go the Distance Baseball, which owns the Field of Dreams movie site.
Episode #12 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Fun Chat With Dan Gutman, Author of the Baseball Card Adventure Series for Kids
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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