During todays game against Manchester United, something quite awful happened. Well, in addition to the loss. No, I'm not talking about Arshavin. I am talking about Theo Walcott's injury. He got knocked out and didn't get subbed. That is wrong. That is wrong and now I am absolutely enraged.
First, let me define what a concussion is. I would copy and paste the definition of it from Wikipedia, but they stress how complex concussions are that they don't give a clear and short answer. So, I shall be going on the definition from my Anatomy and Biology classes (I know what I'm talking about, I'm a premed student and my dad's a psychiatrist). A concussion refers to an injury to the brain. That often equates to bleeding in the brain. A concussion usually refers to an injury that comes from a blunt impact, as opposed to a bullet wound. The brain itself is not in a fixed position. It's not glued to the skull or something. It's floating in some liquid called cerebrospinal fluid. When something makes the head stop moving in a very short amount of time (the ground in Walcott's case), the brain smashes against the skull. This damages the brain. So the bundle of squishy goo that controls your entire body just got smashed into hard, unrelenting bone. Does that sound painful? Well, actually, it wouldn't be. There are no pain sensors in the brain. That's why it's difficult to diagnose a concussion. There's nothing that's clearly broken. There's nothing bleeding out. You can't look in and see if something is wrong. You don't even feel any pain. But there is so much that is sinister with this little injury.
A Concussion usually comes from the front of the brain. So, naturally, it is the front of the brain that gets injured. This is called the frontal lobe. This part of the brain controls things like decision making and personality. That's why concussions can be diagnosed by looking for a change in how someone acts. However, this is not always so very apparent. You could suffer damage and not have a personality change. Of course, they look for other things. These include if the player's eyes can follow something, or if they can answer a few questions. But none of these tests are very accurate. One requires a lot more then a few simple questions to diagnose a concussion. No, it doesn't necessarily require a brain scan (which would definitely do the trick) but a few more elaborate tests. But these tests are time consuming. A player like Walcott wouldn't be able to go back into the game if he goes under these tests, and certainly wouldn't if he showed anything like a positive result. Which leads me to the scary bit of concussions.
If you are concussed, you won't be making the right decisions. It doesn't matter if you have been drilled into believing that you should leave the field at the slightest head injury because your decision making skills have been impaired. So you will refuse to believe that you have a concussion. You believe that your safety and your health isn't as important as the game. So you go back in. You're still prone to making bad decisions. Compound that with a slower thinking process and reactions. This is a perfect recipe for another concussion. Might I add that each concussion increases the likelihood and severity of the next one? It's a cycle. Each concussion causes the next one to happen, and to be worse, which makes the next one more likely and worse and etc.
Now, what does a concussion actually do? Well, there's the personality affects that it could have. Repeated concussions can equal pain and discomfort for life. Loss of coordination. Loss of memory. You know what, if you get concussed enough, you die much earlier than normal. Also, there's no way to heal the damage. Neurons don't grow back, and you can't stick them in there. The only thing you can do is let time allow your brain to get back to something like normalcy. Oh, now you say that this just happens to American Football players. Yeah? Go talk to Taylor Twellman.
This instance with Walcott especially infuriates me because of how blatant it was. I don't get angry all that easily. I'm always the guy who says "hey, everyone chill, it's alright, think rationally". But I can't stand this. Think about what happened to Walcott. His head hit the ground and he blacked out. His head smacked into the hard ground, causing his skull to suddenly stop. His brain didn't, and smashed into the bone. In response to this trauma, his body shuts down in an attempt to prevent further injury. When someone gets knocked out after a blow to the head, you can guarantee that their brain is hurting. And then you let him go back in! He can't make decisions for himself at the moment. He shouldn't be making complex predictions following analysis of an opposing players movement. He now has an inclination to be reckless and get himself another concussion. And he's young. A concussion now means he has a higher chance of getting one later. And each one will become worse. And he'll slowly lose some of that sparkle. And so shall a star in our world slowly dim.
A few comments so far have talked about the seriousness of the bonk on his head, or if he was knocked out or not. Well, from thousands of miles away, I can tell that he hit his head very hard. And I can tell that he then didn't get up immediately. And that's all that it takes. I don't need his limp body lying there to tell me that he shouldn't be playing when (thank god it was a when) he got up (though it did help). You don't need to be bleeding or unconscious or suddenly incompetent to suffer a concussion. That lack of distinct immediate symptoms makes them all the more scary. But we don't take it all that seriously. When we see the word "concussion" next to a players name, we think, Ugh, he's injured. It's just another injury to us. News Flash. It's not just another injury. This is your brain we are talking about. It's not your arm or your leg. It's the single most vital organ in the human body. You can have your heart stop momentarily and still survive. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who's brain completely stopped working, even for an instance? Well, unless you chat with ghosts in your local cemetery, that's a resounding no.
Concussions are poorly understood conditions. But that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. Just because this isn't the American version of football doesn't mean there won't be head injuries. Just because he looks OK doesn't mean he is. It was dangerous to risk his health like that. And I am seriously disappointed. Don't trust me on how bad concussions are? Talk to Scott Kessler of the Philadelphia Union blog, The Brotherly Game.