Andrew Miller: The more we learn about concussion, the more contact sport must change
Jack Johnson and I are probably of the same species, but the Venn diagram of our skills only overlaps in “sleeping and making banana pancakes.”
Statistics show that a tanned runaway like Jack can find fame as a polyglot singer-songwriter while still reaching the finals of the Hawaiian Pipeline Masters surfing competition—at the age of seventeen.
Some might feel he is a bit greedy but good to him; He is by all reports a really good guy to top it off. Jealous? Me? Do not make a fool of yourself.
The ease with which some can catch a sonic ball or gently make a guitar weep is beautiful to grasp; up there with a multicultural duo of people listening to their jargon.
Tall athletes don’t even seem to be concentrating on what they’re doing – looking mid-distance while extending their arm almost too late to make a one-handed mark.
If the reward for being a star is a trophy at sixteen, multiple knee reconstructions, and an anti-inflammatory addiction in your thirties, then I’m okay with mediocrity.
The neuroscience of sport is in focus as professional teams spend heavily on every tiny performance advantage. Executive function, the ability to make good decisions in under a second, is enhanced through all manner of hybrid video game skill training.
In particular, the ability to stay alert, remember strategies, and initiate movement while tracking multiple moving objects is just as important to a professional athlete as the ability to run or jump better than the opponent.
Better minds win games.
The more we learn about our neural networks through advanced functional imaging and laboratory research, the clearer it is that concussions are a nightmare.
Your brain is a jellyfish in a toolbox – just a delicate network of billions of tiny connections in a protective bony cage.
The difference between the brain vulnerability of the tallest and smallest person on the field is – nothing.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is on the agenda of every professional sports league in the world. The National Football League in the US has given billions – not millions – to compensate ex-players.
The same comes for AFL, with former players Shane Tuck and Danny Frawley just the opening salvo.
Depression, personality changes, emotional lability, cognitive impairment, and loss of motor skills can accumulate over a long period of time, even after relatively minor head injuries. Not a nice retirement.
Children cannot continue to play sports when a concussion is foreseeable. Games need to be modified to reduce contact.
Implementing a return to play policy after a head injury is well intentioned but insufficient. It seems like an attempt to preserve sports culture through regulation rather than facing reality.
There is nothing wrong with touch rugby.
It’s disappointing, but you can’t train someone’s brain to withstand trauma, and if you don’t think being strapped in all the time has done you any harm, I’d like a second opinion from those you know well.
The circuses where concussions aren’t just a by-product to be minimized but a goal to celebrate—cash prizes for a knockout—are unsustainable, dead sport walking.
As much as many appreciate the physique, dedication, and skill of a boxer or MMA gladiator, the damage to their brains from intentional concussions is unjustifiable.
A valid argument is that fighters know the risk they are taking, but even when – great if – this is truthfully explained, the promise of success, money and fame for a teenage fighter is overwhelming.
They click accept faster than a Rottnest gull on a chip, and the taxpayer ends up funding their long-term medical needs.
Whether it’s the refined skills required to surf, play guitar and articulate multiple languages like Jack, or just being ordinary like I’m not jealous at all – it all lives in the brain.
Long live the range of healthy sports that don’t make people unconscious.