On May 2, 2012, former superstar football player Junior Seau shot himself in the chest. While he did not leave a suicide note, he did leave the lyrics to his favorite country song, “Who I Ain’t”. Co-written by his friend Jamie Paulin, the song describes a man who once had it all, but ended up making a mess of his life and is so filled with regrets that he can’t forgive himself.
Towards the end of Seau’s life he started having issues with depression, memory loss, and constantly changing emotions. When a study was performed on his brain it was discovered that that Seau had been suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is a type of brain damage found in other deceased NFL players.
But concussions don’t affect only NFL players. Recent concussion research has shown that high school athletes not only take longer to recover after a concussion when compared to collegiate or professional athletes, but they also experience greater severity of symptoms.
In seventh grade, BHS sophomore Jhett Johnson knew he should call his football career early after a major concussion, “I don’t really remember much, I remember we were playing in Butte and it was a fun bus ride but that’s all I can remember. After I knew how bad the concussion was, I was done, and I like other sports better.”
Johnson says if he never had gotten his major concussion he would most likely still be playing football today.
“I would for sure, I love watching football on TV and watching the Hawks,” he says.
But not all young people decide to quit playing football after a concussion. When he was in eighth grade, sophomore Payton Price got a concussion playing football. He got another one freshman year but it didn’t stop him from playing football.
“I got hit from the back and front of my head. I don’t remember falling to the ground, getting up, or the play, but I remember the trainer asking me questions on the sideline,” he explains.
Price says he had to think long and hard before deciding to play football this year but says, “I’m happy with my choice, it was a fun season.”
Local, board certified pediatrician Sheila Idzerda says she worries about young kids playing football.
“You know I love to watch football, but I worry as the game gets more intense then it was 10-15 years ago. Especially when you have younger kids playing with not fully developed brains,” Idzerda says.
Idzerda also says that when you suffer a major concussion as a younger kid it can truly affect you for the rest of your life. Idzerda adds that it matters based on the level of concussion you get. Idzerda says the treatment for [most] concussions consists of avoiding bright lights, loud noises, and getting lots of rest.
“Post Concussion Syndrome is a very slow recovery, even from what would be considered a mild concussion. Sometimes it’s hard to tell and symptoms won’t show up until we discover they are now academically challenged,” she says.
Johnson says that he now has headaches that he feels are brought on from his concussion. He doesn’t think everybody should stop playing football because of concussions though.
“I know my concussion has had a major impact on me, but you could go through your whole football career with no injuries,” Johnson says.
Price says there are ways to avoid concussions but that with a fast paced game like football anything can happen.
“You need to use the proper tackling form, not running with your head down, and don’t lead with your head. So there are ways to prevent it, but honestly, they can still happen at any time,” he said.
But the question still remains, is football worth the risk? You can play it and maybe get lifetime fame, but with lifetime fame you’ll have a good chance of lifetime injuries as well.
In fact, within two years of retiring, three out of four NFL players will be one or more of the following: alcohol or drug addicted; divorced; or financially distressed/bankrupt. The average career length of NFL players now is only at 3.3 years and in 2014 alone, there were 202 concussions between the preseason, regular season, and postseason. Sometimes concussions even affect players in the game causing hesitation.
Price says “sometimes I do hesitate because of the ones I’ve had before but most of the time I try to forget about them and play and have fun.”