CTE and how it affects student athletes

Branding Iron

February 13, 2020

A lot of people in Wyoming love football and cheering on their favorite teams. Some consider the tackling and the hitting as the highlight of the game, but the hits and tackles come at a hard price.

Some football players come off the field with life-changing injuries. In football, many players walk off the field with a concussion, changing their lives.

Concussions are a brain injury that affects every part of the brain. Depending on the impact, the concussion and following symptoms will range in severity. The symptoms can depend on the person and range from headaches, confusion, nausea, light sensitivity and noise sensitivity.

However, if a concussion is left untreated it can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), according to the Concussion Legacy Foundation at concussionfoundation.org.

CTE is a brain disease that deteriorates the brain and is found mainly in athletes and veterans. The symptoms of CTE can range from depression to paranoia and can start showing up between age 20 to 30 for the person who is affected.

Doctors are still trying to find a way to diagnose CTE before it becomes fatal. Currently, doctors can only treat symptoms like depression and memory problems, rather than the disease.

For the athletics at the University of Wyoming, they have protocols in place for athletes who get hurt on the field. Matthew Boyer, the football team’s physician, said the athletic department has protocols in place for on the field and off the field. When the player is on the field the first action is to assess the play on the sideline, meaning if they are having symptoms they will go into the locker room for further evaluation or they send them back onto the field to continue playing.

“We have three tests that we run players through to get their baseline,” said Boyer. “After the three tests they have the athlete baseline at the time of the injury. We then take those results and compare them to the players baseline results that were taken at the beginning of the year.”

The athletes are not just athletes, however, they are students. Concussions can make everything difficult.

In addition to the concussion baselines, the players also have daily check ups. If the student is struggling in classes, Boyer can write notes to excuse the student. Not only can the students lose their ability to be on the field but they can also lose the ability to function in the classroom.

“Concussions make it more difficult for students to concentrate and function. That is why we let them tell us what they need,” said Boyer. “The students know what they need and they are the only ones that can tell us what they need from us.”

The only way to make a change is to take care of the head, make contact sports safer and listen to the doctor. Hopefully, there will be a day where doctors are able to diagnose CTE sooner, or find a way to treat it.

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