For many the new year starts on January 1st. But for millions of teachers, the year begins in September. One of favorite things about working in high school is that annual tradition of high school football. But it does lead to a major problem.
I usually am teaching 9th graders and annually get notes from the sports trainer. The note reads, “This student has suffered a concession and is unable to do work in class.” In my school that relies heavily on group work, this is a problem. But a problem I am more that willing to work around.
The most important question is why are their so many concussions in high school sports? It doesn’t occur for the older students only for the younger ones. These inexperienced players who don’t know how to tackle or hit properly led to many concussions. A lot of them are injured when they lead with their heads.
Why do I bring this up? Concussions are a serious business. The National Football League has had a 68 percent increase in concussions on its injury reports in the last few years. Clearer reporting and understanding has played a major factor in this increase in concussions. The NFL sadly had high profile suicides to ex-players like Junior Seau who died of concussion like damage to his brain. However, he was never even diagnosed with one in his time in the NFL. The lack of understanding has lead to many problems in American sports.
Thankfully, the WWE is leading the way. Its moves on this issue are to be commended. Then this Triple H angle showed up. Concussions are not a thing to be taken lightly and I worry the WWE is ruining its good work with this angle. Overcoming concussions is not an issue of toughness anymore.
First, let’s examine the history. The WWE’s history of head trauma is a dangerous and sadly very deadly one. It took a lot of pain and suffering to reach this critical point. The ban on chair shots to the head is a brave and intelligent policy. A human cannot take multiple blows to the head without long-term damage.
However, we know it took multiple events that led to this smart ruling. It took a lot of pain and suffering to lead to their current concussion policy. One of the most famous was the 1999 Royal Rumble. The Rock defeated Mankind in a title match with eleven chair shots to the head. It was bad enough that Mick Foley’s children where watching but the damage to the brain was quite clear. In his 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat, director Barry W. Blaustein received a phone call from Foley after the match. It was virtually impossible to understand Mick. It is a scary moment for the director and for Foley fans everywhere. Even the toughest wrestlers, like Mick Foley, cannot escape that much direct trauma to the head.
However, Chris Nowinski would provide the next evolution in their concussion policy, Nowinski (who I believe is a Harvard graduate) was forced to retire after a full year of post-concussion like symptoms. He is not alone in the world of sports to do so (Troy Aikman and Steve Young come to mind) but Nowinski used his experience to try to change sports for the better.
In 2006, before anyone cared about concussion seriously, Nowinski’s book Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis, he wrote about the damage done to NFL players with multiple concussions. He examined multiple players who suffered so much damage that in their thirties and forties they had brains like 80 year old Alzheimer patients. But few paid much attention to Nowinski’s warning.
The tragedy of the Chris Benoit murders, led to closer attention being paid to this issue. This was supported by the fact that Benoit’s brain had such extensive damage that could have led to dementia. This tragic event led to the WWE to finally wake up to the dangers and chair shots would decline in the next few years with this event and with the push to a PG rating. It was smart business from multiple viewpoints.
The WWE has done some admirable work with concussions in the last few months. The first is in their rules for the upcoming training center in Orlando. I applaud the policy of required headgear for their inexperienced wrestlers. Much like my inexperienced football players at my high school, this will alleviate a lot of issues. I sometimes forget our WWE stars are such highly trained performers who are so used to the constant falling that occurs in our beloved sports entertainment. We never should forget how skilled they are in not hurting each other. The headgear is a simple and effective way to lessen concussion issues in the beginnings of the learning process.
The WWE is additionally being very protective with its stars suffering from concussions. Dolph Ziggler was pulled from a pay per view and weeks of WWE programming because of memory loss after a concussion. This might have hurt their pay per view but likely saved the long-term health of Ziggler. For once, they were putting the long-term health of their athletes over short-term financial gain.
Then comes along Triple H to screw up all the good work of recent years. I know Triple H has gotten a bad rap for his treatment of putting over talent in his wrestler career but he has been a successful COO for the WWE. I am worried were his concussion angle is going and hope he will not go down the traditional path: minimizing the dangers of concussions in society.
For too long football coaches at every level ignored the dangerous of concussions. As long as their star players “seemed” better they were back on the field. A player who refused to play because of his concussion was not “man” enough. After all, what “real man” couldn’t shake off massive head trauma?
This seems to be the route Triple H’s angle is going down. He has made a career of proving his toughness sometimes at the expense of others. This seems to be one of those occasions. Before his recent match with Curtis Axel, he “ignored” doctor’s orders and fought his match. It seems he will return to the WWE in a few weeks going against doctor and family orders to prove his toughness. He will overcome the odds, vanquish his opponents and prove his toughness yet again. This seems to be the trajectory of this angle and it would be a grave mistake.
I really hope I am wrong. I hope that Triple H doesn’t, in a show of toughness, defy the odds and return from his head trauma in short order. Besides being the plot of virtually every “Rocky” movie, it is a product of a long gone era. One doesn’t show his manhood by defying the doctor’s orders. Masculinity should no longer be the overcoming of injury. Being out of action for head trauma is no test of your toughness. It is an issue we are finally beginning to understand. Please don’t minimize its seriousness.
I hope the WWE treads carefully with its Triple H storyline. As one of its best superstars is getting the rest he deserves after a dangerous concussion, lets hope the storyline world of the WWE takes it just as seriously. Set a good example for the athletes of tomorrow. Their long-term health depends on it.