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On Concussions, Didier Drogba and Chicharito


wxwax
Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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In late July, Chicharito was training with Manchester United on their pre-season tour of the United States when he took a ball wrong on his head. He shook it off. But hours later he experienced massive concussion symptoms.

Alex Ferguson held him out for more than a month.

On Saturday Chicharito banged his head on the ground after a rough challenge in the penalty area. It was immediately apparent that he was in trouble. He was withdrawn from the match and he probably faces another lengthy absence. It seems pretty clear that the problem is another concussion.

It's been 2 months since his injury in the United States.

On August 27th Didier Drogba suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was unconscious before he hit the ground against Norwich City. Exactly one month later he played again.

I think it's too early. And I think Drogba is at high risk of a suffering another concussion if he takes a hit to the head that another player might ordinarily shake off.

The science of concussions is pretty crude. No-one can see the damage done to the brain. We do know that the brain doesn't heal like other parts of the body. Damage suffered is permanent. We also know that once a player has suffered a concussion, he's much, much more likely to get a second, and a third and so on. Ultimately the consequences can be grim, with permanent brain impairment and early onset of dementia. The only known treatment is time. The longer a player goes between brain traumas, the more time his brain has to stabilize and the better off he is.

There is one difference between Chicharito and Drogba, and it's an important one. The young Mexican reportedly had a history of concussions in his native country. To our knowledge, Drogba has no such history. To our knowledge.

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel that it's too soon for Didier to be back in action. I watch a great deal of American football, where concussions are a huge issue. And it's sickening to see how easily a player goes down once he's had a couple of concussions. I would hate to see our great player go down that path.

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I agree that the North American sports market is starting to pay a lot of attention to the huge problem of concussions. As you said, the problem seems to largely lie with the un-detectability of the problem - if a player can train without feeling crap, then they'll get put back into the action.

I think the relative low incidence of head contact in football makes this less risk than the issue would be in more contact sports - although the medical staff should definately be monitoring him after every training session and match.

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During the match they said Hernandez had a dead leg. But if you watch the match video, you'll see one trainer is working on his head while the other checks his hip/leg. And while he was certainly limping after leaving the game, he was also hanging his head as though he were ill.

I hope I'm reading too much into this. But you can clearly see his head smack the turf.

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I think the relative low incidence of head contact in football makes this less risk than the issue would be in more contact sports - although the medical staff should definately be monitoring him after every training session and match.

I remember decades ago there were concerns about the effects of heading the ball.

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You have a good point there wywax. I think Cech doesn't wear the headgear just for the (un)coolness of it. He suffered a serious head-injury and he knows second one will end his career or even worse. But as far as I remember Drogs never bangs his head on anything apart from the ball. That drop he experienced was freaky and unfortunate but can't see it happening again, in that scale anyway. But as every injury the most important healing has to happen in the players mind.

I watch Hockey and at the moment the hockey world is waiting to see if Sidney Crosby is going to heal from two consecutive concussions. Arguably one of the best in the trade and still very young. Would be sad to see the young boy forced to quit what he is best at.

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I think our medical staff is good enough to know when a player is ready to play again. And it's almost impossible to compare two peoples concussions. One can get a massiv blow to the head and be out for a week, while another can get a lighter touch and be out for months.

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He's fine. There's a difference between Cech's and Drogba/anyone else who took a smack to the head. I've seen Richie McCaw knocked unconscious in a ruck, and get back up and continue playing first hand. There are field tests medics can do to determine if its a serious head injury or not. Often these things look worse than they actually are.

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Often these things look worse than they actually are.

I would strongly disagree with this. In fact, I would say the exact opposite is true: these things are often worse than they appear.

American football players used to routinely take the field after getting a concussion. (There's a lot of pressure on them to do so.) But in recent years there's been a concerted effort to study of the brains of deceased players (and in some tragic cases, former players who killed themselves.)

And what they've found is that their brains are similar to those of people decades older. Serious damage, in other words. In some cases, early dementia.

These are men who "played through" their concussions.

Our understanding of concussions is really crude. But studies of the brains of men who get them has been sobering.

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Absolutely agree with everything you said, wxwax, and I also share your concerns.

The main concern coming out of the last decade of research is on the cumulative effects of concussion. It's still a new area of reserach given the longitudinal nature of the studies and some findings appear to be conflicting, but three of the more conclusive findings are increased risk of depression, Alzheimer's and long-term memory loss. The study you mentioned, wxwax, was one of the more damning reports and a seminal finding.

One big problem is that by the time these problems surface in a player, clubs are long absolved of their responsibility. These are problems that occur well into middle-age or beyond.

In Australia, all sports treat concussion as a potentially serious injury, given that we are raised on a diet of sports where little protection is worn. Some competitions enforce mandatory 2-week breaks after concussion or similar measures.

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Absolutely agree with everything you said, wxwax, and I also share your concerns.

The main concern coming out of the last decade of research is on the cumulative effects of concussion. It's still a new area of reserach given the longitudinal nature of the studies and some findings appear to be conflicting, but three of the more conclusive findings are increased risk of depression, Alzheimer's and long-term memory loss. The study you mentioned, wxwax, was one of the more damning reports and a seminal finding.

One big problem is that by the time these problems surface in a player, clubs are long absolved of their responsibility. These are problems that occur well into middle-age or beyond.

In Australia, all sports treat concussion as a potentially serious injury, given that we are raised on a diet of sports where little protection is worn. Some competitions enforce mandatory 2-week breaks after concussion or similar measures.

Great post!

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Though I am not a neurologist or a sports scientist, I would say its important to remember they are all case by case. Obviously erring on the side of caution is the best thing, but if Drogba was symptom free and wanted badly to get back playing, then I think he has earned the right to get back out there, as long as he is fully medically okay. Its okay to be careful, but just because Hernandez is out for longer it shouldnt affect DD's situation.

It definitely should be getting much more attention world wide. The NHL is finally starting to wake up to the awful effect head-shots and concussions can cause, but the NFL needs to do far more. In AMerican football there is a culture of loving the huge hit, in which bodies collide at full speed (sometimes in head to body, or midair collisions) yet nobody seems cognisant of the fact that many of these players are leaving the game with permanent damage. Forget about the issue of violence, it just comes down to what Sydney said: the clubs are counting their money as the fans love the hits, but then when the players bodies are breaking down years later there is no help for them.

Btw. DD is on 96 league goals for the club. He will join the century club soon enough.

Edited by TheWestwayWonder
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Fascinating. 5 years later and a good knock sends Cech's head spinning again. (I thought his back took the blow, not his head.)

There's a line in that story which sums up why I started this thread. It points to the low awareness of how serious concussions are:

"Happily for Cech, the scan revealed nothing more serious than concussion"

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