Steinberg: Better to be safe

Steinberg Says

October 08, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg

Susan Bush was troubled.

Her son, Sam, plays left tackle for Newport Harbor High's football team. She had read and heard of the dangers from concussions and felt as a parent she had a responsibility to safeguard her son's health.

She mentioned her concerns to her husband, Blaine, who is president of the Newport Harbor Football Booster Club, and he too felt frustrated at the lack of protection for their son and other athletes. He ran into a fellow athletic parent, Bill Lewis, who mentioned a process he was aware of called, "baseline testing."


They agreed that it should be instituted by the football team and they contacted imPACT, which is run by a friend of mine, Dr. Mark Lovell, their CEO who has been a seminal figure in the fight to reshape the treatment protocol for this injury.

They ran the possibility by Principal Michael Vossen, Athletic Director Mike Zimmerman, and Coach Jeff Brinkley and found them to be supportive. Very shortly, all of the players will be tested on campus. Blaine is on a mission to share what he has learned with other parents at local high schools.

I have been haunted by the spectre of concussion consequences for 35 years. It is the only injury that impacts consciousness, memory and what it means to be human. As I've written in this space before, we all know that sports like football take a toll on every joint in the body. We know that anyone who plays football long enough will have damage to their knees, back and shoulders. But it is one thing to feel pain while leaning over to pick up a child at age 35, it is another not to be able to recognize that child.

And I was frightened by injuries to NFL players like Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Warren Moon, Drew Bledsoe andBen Roethlisberger.

I have called concussion "an undiagnosed health epidemic" and a "ticking time bomb" because the damage is so often overlooked and the symptoms may not show up for years. I began holding seminars in Newport Beach in the 90s by inviting neurologists, helmet and playing surface experts, and players and parents to participate in "white papers" suggesting change. The brain is the last frontier of medical research. It wasn't until the last five years, when I was involved in three more seminars, that research was conducted that showed that three was the magic number. And that premature senility, dementia, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease and elevated rates of depression could be directly tied to multiple blows to the head.

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