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Lane: Time for football to change

BY JOE LANE | DECEMBER 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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For several years now, we’ve been hearing about the increased prevalence of concussions in professional and amateur sports around the country. There is a constant stream of discussion regarding the concussion problem facing athletes at all levels. Yet for all that has allegedly been done, concussions are still a huge issue.

According to USA Today, Kosta Karageorge, a defensive linemen for Ohio State University, went missing Nov. 26. Karageorge, reports the Washington Post, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday evening in a Dumpster near his apartment.

The story of Karageorge, however, goes much deeper than an apparent suicide. A defensive lineman and wrestler for Ohio State, Karageorge had experienced several concussions throughout his college career, according to ESPN.

According to numerous sources, before going missing, Karageorge sent an apologetic text message explaining to his parents: “I am sorry if I am an embarrassment, but these concussions have my head all f----- up.”

If the apparent suicide is confirmed, this text message may serve as a direct connection between the suicidal thoughts of Karageorge and the concussions he had experienced as a result of his athletics activity.

Over the past few years, I’ve struggled to make a decision about what must, or better yet even can, be done to decrease the pervasiveness of concussions in sports — specifically football. I fell into the majority of people who thought something had to be done but didn’t want the game to change.

The death of Kosta Karageorge, however, may have changed that for me.

Football, it seems, is part of what it means to be an American. Nearly every other major sport can be found in cultures other than the U.S., while football is really only played in the United States. The hard hits that we’ve come to love from football and that elevate defensive players to the celebrity status of their specialist counterparts are a massively important component of the game, as we know it today.

And while I don’t want the game to change, it’s time to give up on that idea. The game has reached a point of no return; it absolutely has to change, and that change must begin at a level long before the NFL and even the NCAA.

According to the Washington Post, a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that repeatedly concussed teens are three times more likely to develop depression.

Furthermore, the article notes that, of the 1.5 million high-school football players in the United States, 250,000 suffer concussions in any given season.

The NFL and the NCAA are certainly starting to work toward decreasing the frequency of concussions, with the advent of the targeting rule, for example, but it’s not enough.

In an ideal world, the game could go unchanged and advanced equipment technology such as more protective helmets could decrease the rate of concussions, but the reality is that players are getting stronger, tougher, and harder hitting, faster than the technology is advancing.

Don’t get me wrong; there are few things I love more about football than watching a defensive player lay down a hard hit to stop a long run. But I would give up these hits in an instant if it means maintaining the health of athletes (at all levels) and preventing any future instances like that of Kosta Karageorge.


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