Anyone who follows football at any level has, by now, heard about concussions and has some understanding that they are “bad” for someone to experience. The NFL and online betting world that was watching the Browns–Chiefs’ Divisional Round game was gravely reminded of the dark side of football. Patrick Mahomes, the NFL’s brightest young star, was taken to the ground by his head and struggled to get himself off the turf, clearly showing signs of a concussion.
What is a Concussion?
Like muscle sprains, concussions vary in severity, from mild to moderate to severe. Considered a mild traumatic brain injury, a concussion can last hours, days, or weeks.
The brain floats unattached inside the skull and the brain is a delicate organ, similar to the consistency of soft butter. Any sudden movement with force can result in the brain sliding back and forth that can cause temporary and permanent cognitive damage.
There are three “types” of concussions; focal impact, linear and angular. Simply put the brain can be damaged in three ways: the head receiving an impact, a whip-lash effect where the brain hits against the skull and the third and worst way is when the head experiences a sudden twist.
Mahomes seemed to experience the third and worse way when his head was pulled and twisted once he was on the ground.
The loss of consciousness is the easiest way to know if someone has had a concussion. The more common immediate symptoms shown in a football player is someone who is “woozy.” This usually means someone is having trouble with their balance and has experienced a loss of vision for some time or spots in the vision and a “ringing” in the ears. Back in the day, coaches would merely tell their players they will be alright and that they just “got their bell rung.”
Once the brain is injured the membranes get “leaky” preventing the brain cells from working properly, leading to dysfunction which can affect behavior, concentration, memory, and other cognitive dysfunction. Additionally, brain trauma increases the energy necessary to repair the brain and regain equilibrium, which can cause fatigue.
The Ugly Truth about Concussions
I am speaking from experience when it comes to having these symptoms on a football field. There were multiple times throughout my playing career that I experienced minor concussions where I “shook it off” and kept playing. These small concussions can add up over the course of a long career, and luckily for my brain, I stopped playing at the young age of 23.
I have also experienced two concussions where I had spots in my vision and my ears were ringing. There was one instance in high school when I was hit by a blind-side block as I let my guard down because the whistle was being blown as it happened.
Like Mahomes, I struggled to get up and had to leave the game, but unlike him, I was allowed to re-enter the game because there was no concussion protocol in place and I told everyone I was fine. When in reality, I was not. I had spots in my vision the rest of the night, well after the game. Also, my ears were ringing which made it hard to hear, and I struggled to stay focused and felt confused while trying to call offensive plays as the quarterback.
I doubt I knew the risk, but if I did, I could have cared less about the long-term damage my brain might experience when I went back into that game. We’re talking about a 17-year-old who wanted more than anything to play and beat his rival school. I did not have a clear understanding of the risk I was taking by playing football in general, and honestly, if I was aware, I would not have changed my decision to play. You may already know this, but teenagers do not have a proper risk-management calculator in their heads.
I have not been tested to see if I am experiencing any long-term effects of a concussion, but I can tell you I do show “signs” that I am. I do not know if the mood swings, poor memory, and other symptoms, are from my playing days or some other imbalance in my life. The reality that most ex-football players are facing is that they could have done long-term damage to their brain – a topic that has been joked about between some of my ex-teammates and me. And if it is not the brain the football players have done serious damage to, then it is probably some other body part that is still hurting from the glory days.
Mahomes and the NFL Protocols
Mahomes is the latest example of the dark side of football that the NFL is trying to figure out the best way to approach. The NFL has increased awareness and protocols around concussions but they know it is part of the physical-sport and they cannot stop them. The NFL reported 224 concussions during the 2019 season, up more than 4% from the year before. Now, with the defending Super Bowl MVP having to go through the NFL’s five-step-protocol before he can return to play in the AFC Championship Game, the NFL’s dark-side is shining bright in their face.
— 4kMemes (@4k_memes) January 17, 2021
In the clip above you can see Mahomes neck get pulled on and twisted, which is the worst and scariest way to get a concussion. When this happens there is a disconnection between the brain and the spinal cord. This kind of impact can sever the Corpus Callosum, which is the connection tissues between two brain hemispheres, and a severe case of this movement could mean a “broken neck” – resulting in death most times.
Next Man Up
The Chiefs’ next game — in the AFC Championship against the Buffalo Bills — is less than a week away, which means Mahomes needs to go through all the five phases of the protocols in a week and will only be cleared to play if he can do so with no symptoms. Any sports bettor that wanted to bet on the Conference Championship round should follow Mahomes progress closely before placing your bets. I do think Mahomes had a pretty serious concussion but, I think the below tweet is pretty accurate when it comes to him passing the test to play again.
Patrick Mahomes clearing concussion protocol this week pic.twitter.com/5Lbsc1cb6D
— Shooter McGavin (@ShooterMcGavin_) January 17, 2021