The real cost of sports: injuries and their long-lasting effects

Photo by Jonathan Hane
Photo by Jonathan Hane

Zach Friesen, Staff Writer

   All athletes know that when they step on the field or court, they are putting themselves at risk to get hurt. Every play you make, things can take a turn for the worst and end with you laying on the ground in pain or limping off the field. Athletes have known this for years, but they still put their well-being on the line on a daily basis, thanks to the competitive fire that they all share.

   That said, people all over the nation are becoming more and more concerned about the safety of high school, collegiate and even professional athletes. Injuries are becoming more and more frequent, particularly head injuries, which is causing parents and coaches to question the safety of their particular sport.

   One particular sport that is drawing a great amount of criticism is football. With the amount of concussions being suffered in recent years, officials and executives have made a conscious effort to eliminate as many hits above the shoulder pads as they can. Also drawing their attention is the amount of former players that are being diagnosed with conditions that stem from repeated hits to the head, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which in some cases can cause memory loss and suicidal thoughts.

   Two cases that can be used as examples for the devastating effects of CTE would be former professional football players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson. Both players committed suicide after retiring from professional football, and autopsies showed that both players were suffering from common symptoms of CTE, such as dementia, sleep apnea and depression.

   These are just a couple of the many cases that the National Football League Players Association have brought up to emphasize the need to make their sport safer. They have passed many different rules in the last few years to try and ensure safety for their players, such as eliminating hits to the head and putting regulations on what kind of helmets can be used during games.

   Other sports that are taking more precautions to keep their players safe are baseball and hockey. Hockey players are dealing with a lot of the same problems football players are, due in large part to the big hits they endure, as well as getting hit in the face with pucks and getting into fights with other players on a regular basis.

   Baseball players, on the other hand, are dealing with one play in particular that could help with player safety: collisions at home plate. These plays have already been eliminated in both high school and college, with rules that call for immediate ejections when players try to run over the catcher when trying to score. These plays are still allowed in Major League Baseball, however, and they result in many different injuries, from concussions to broken legs. After seeing many different players suffer from injuries that could potentially alter their career, officials in the MLB are trying to put an end to these collisions to ensure that their players can stay safe and that their careers can stay on path as long as possible.

   All in all, all sports are making conscious efforts to improve playing conditions for their athletes, from upgrading equipment to revising rules. There have already been noticeable changes in games, and, hopefully, things can continue to get better for all athletes.