A part of

Issue # 24 Thursday, April 16, 1998

About the Author:

Charles Loyd McIntosh

In 1997 Charles Loyd McIntosh was a news writer for the Talledega Daily Home (www.dailyhome.com). He was a former reporter for The Western Star in Bessemer (a small city west of Birmingham), Alabama, and a former Sports Editor for the Clanton Advertiser. At the time he was writing for the Sideroad, Loyd was pursuing a Masters in English degree at the University of Montevallo, Alabama. An avid sports fan, soccer is Loyd's sport of choice, one he has been known to coach in the recent past.



There has been a lot of discussion about concussions in sports over the last few years and how many athletes have had their careers, and even their lives, threatened due to suffering concussions while participating in their sport. Perhaps most notably now is hockey player Eric Lindros of the Philadelphia Flyers who just returned after a vicious hit several weeks ago. His brother's career was ended after one too many concussion.

Other athletes, not just hockey players, have ended (or probably should end) their playing careers after too many blows to the head. That image of Stan Humphries of the Chargers staggering around wide-eyed after a shot to the head or that picture of Boomer Esiason after getting speared by Bruce Smith almost made me sick to my stomach. After that hit, Boomer was quoted as having lost the will to live. Scary.

When I was growing up, getting knocked in the skull was just part of sports. It was almost comical to see someone get up after playing tackle football in the front yard and stagger around like they were half-crocked. I played soccer for many years, half of those spent bouncing a ball on my head. When done correctly, I'm convinced this causes little to no harm at all.

When not done correctly, you might feel a little woozy for a moment or two, but generally you were able to walk it off. A knee injury was looked at with more trepidation than a head injury. Well, new research shows that those who suffer concussions may be setting themselves up for severe problems as they grow older.

A study published at www.newsday.com has some frightening things to say about recurring concussions in athtletes.

"The blow is sudden and forceful. You are instantly blinded by a burst of brightness, then enclosed in darkness. Images are fuzzy; memory is distorted. Everyone has a twin. The hand in your face shows four fingers, not five. The president is Reagan. Niagara Falls is in Texas."
We've all been there, but after a few minutes, the fuzziness wore off and we jumped back out there. No problem. However, the study continues,
"Reassured, you return to action, unaware that by doing so, you've just multiplied the chance of a repeat episode and invited the possibility of long-term brain damage."

It's the term "long-term brain damage" that frightens the hell out of me. We all can see the result of too many years in the ring on Muhamad Ali, but what about athletes in other sports? As players in all sports grow faster and stronger, utilizing incredible advances in sports technology, players can hit harder and at quicker speeds.

Concussions are only going to get worse in sports like football and hockey, but could also be a factor in basketball in the future. The NBA is quickly turning into a free-for-all with a thug-like mentality and it may just be a matter of time before someone gets killed on the field, ice or hardwood. This is not a far-fetched idea in my opinion. But let's hope I'm wrong.

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Text copyright Charles Loyd MacIntosh, 1997 - '98. Part of the original Sideroad ezine.
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