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Steinberg: Much more is needed

Steinberg Says

May 25, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg, Daily Pilot

EDITOR'S NOTE: This corrects the year of Aikman's concussion. It was in the 1993 season, in a game played Jan. 1994.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Famed Newport Beach sports agent Leigh Steinberg, whose career partially inspired the film "Jerry Maguire," has agreed to write a weekly column for the Daily Pilot. This is his first.

In 1994, I saw something that terrified me after the Dallas Cowboys defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.

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Troy Aikman, the winning quarterback, suffered a concussion and I visited him that night in a darkened hospital room at Baylor Medical Center in downtown Dallas.

The city was awash with celebration, horns honking, fireworks in the sky. Troy greeted me with a confused look on his face.

"Where am I?" he asked. "Did I play today? How well did I play? Did we win? Are we going to the Super Bowl?"

I answered the questions and his face brightened. Five minutes later, he looked at me in confusion and asked the same questions again and I answered before he smiled.

But five minutes later he asked the same questions once again as if we had never talked. I became terrified at the toll a concussion took on the tender thread separating sentient consciousness from dementia.

I vowed to explore ways to protect the health of athletes that I had a fiduciary duty to protect. Much more profound issues than their bankbook were at stake. This affects memory and cognition and what it means to be human.

This largely undiagnosed health epidemic is sweeping athletic fields across the country. It is posing a threat to athletes in every age group.

There are millions of diagnosed concussions and many times more that aren't correctly detected and treated. The families of the impacted athletes need to take an active role in pushing awareness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The risk has become more urgent because the actual physics of collision are being amplified. Larger, stronger, faster athletes are colliding, which produces a much more impactful and damaging hit. I fear that offensive and defensive lineman in football are involved in thousands of low-level concussions at the commencement of every play. The symptoms may not show up for years.

We need to stop glorifying hits to the head in media and DVD and realize the short- and long-term dangers of collisions in sports. We need more awareness, education, research, prevention and the most cutting edge treatment for the victims.

There has been little progress since that night with Troy. More is needed.

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