BRAIN FREEZE: It seems 2013 will be known as the year head trauma was the hot topic in sports. Major League Baseball is the latest big story. Pending approval by the Player’s Association, effective 2014, catcher/runner home-plate collisions will be banned and punishable, meaning the runner must slide into home plate.
The National Football League recently settled a major lawsuit with former players on the issue of concussions, and NFL players like retired quarterback Bret Favre are going public with their opinions about the potential dangers and consequences of head trauma.
In the National Hockey League, ten former players (none of whom the standard hockey enthusiast would recognize) have filed a class action suit against the NHL, claiming the league concealed information about the risks of brain trauma, and hasn’t banned fighting. In addition to monetary compensation, the players are seeking medical monitoring of their brain trauma – a great idea for both them and science.
What’s interesting is, the NHL has had a group of smart folks like Ken Dryden who indeed try to ensure players’ safety is considered. This is what Dryden himself has to say about the League and concussions, and he would know. Still, one complaint about that initial group, established in 1997, is that it didn’t instigate any action until 2010, with a penalty for head checks.
In fairness to the NHL, not many people understood the consequences of head trauma and multiple concussions in the 1970s. But these days, new cases of possible evidence sprout almost daily. And this article rightfully points out that it’s often hockey players themselves who battle against new requirements addressing their safety, for the sake of comfort and tradition.
Players in the NHL who play the role of “enforcers” typically do so because they aren’t good enough to make a significant difference otherwise. Their other option is a different career, but who wants to sell Lady Kenmores when you can be a high-level professional athlete? The glamor factor is off opposite ends of the chart. Some players say they understand what they’re getting into when they sign the contract. Others say, “If only I’d known….”
While pro football players (now) know what they’re in for, I’m guessing significant changes need to be instated by the NFL to protect not only its players, but the very sport.
I’ve read enough articles and conducted enough research to know that a life of suffering from the emotional and physical pain of head trauma is sometimes deemed a life not worth living. For the NHL, I’m thinking they need to take a couple minor measures (everything feels major initially) to allow the sport to evolve, as it has over the decades, so cash cows like Sydney Crosby have a better chance of developing to their full potential.
Unfortunately, our society has only begun to dabble in the strategy of prevention. As one documentary about U.S. presidents and major disasters stated, there’s no glory in prevention. There’s no hero.
GREEN: By now you know I live in search of entertaining sports news and events. If I can attend, even better.
In Scotland, I got lucky.
Interested in rugby? Have you heard of the Melrose Sevens? Melrose is in Scotland and famous as the birthplace of seven-a-side rugby. I caught the Melrose team in action and yep, they won.
Next to the Abbey in Arbroath is a nice little space for lawn bowling. In Glasgow, they were holding the International Lawn Bowling Championship, including teams from Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Scotland of course.
You’ve heard about that little ACL issue I had? How I caused it mountain biking? Hadn’t mountain biked since? In the Peebles region of Scotland there are groomed mountain biking trails. It looked just like this. The trails are one-way and designated like a ski area with green for easy trails, blue for intermediate and black for advanced. They even had an XS bike to rent me. Get Out!
I can’t believe NASCAR has come up in two consecutive posts, but since we’re talking GREEN, get this:
NASCAR owns the largest recycling, tree planting and renewable energy programs in all of sports.
TIMBITS: You know that song – the one touted as this past summer’s best dance hit, called Blurred Lines? Turns out when he was 11 years old, singer Robin Thicke had none other than the Wayne Gretzky as his babysitter. Thicke was with Gretzky in 1988, as Gretzky was house and kid-sitting, when the call came through that he’d been traded to the Los Angeles Kings from Edmonton.
There’s tough and there’s crazy. In athlete-speak, Lindsey Vonn says, “It’s a really fine line between glory and disaster.”
Unfortunately, Vonn is a little closer to disaster. She’s had another good spill since surgery, 10 months into recovery, on November 19. The diagnosis was a partial tear to that same ACL. After a few days’ rest and some “aggressive physical therapy,” she returned to competition, placing 5th in her best effort.
Nothing like a little pressure to quickly fine-tune that fine line. The Sochi Olympics are less than 50 days away.
UPDATE: With less than 30 days until Sochi, Vonn has announced she won’t compete.
Lastly, the Cerveceros might be moving from Arizona to Florida for Spring Training. Is it less of a party without the Brewers? (Yes.)
Happy Holidays and New Year! Let’s all get through 2014 head trauma-free, ya?!