Former Pro Wrestler Warns Against Damaging Effects of Concussions at GMU Sports Symposium

| August 13, 2012 | 0 Comments | Health & Wellness

Chris Nowinski speaks with Jennifer Hill after his keynote presentation at George Mason University. Nowinski showed videos in which he sustained concussions and went on with his pro wrestling routine. One time he couldn't remember who was supposed to win the match.

Lately Prince William County Schools have made concussion prevention and management a key cause, requiring parents, athletes and coaches to attend concussion prevention seminars.

Those who wanted to learn more may have visited the Prince William Hospital’s Children’s Sports Symposium on sports injury prevention and management this Sat. at George Mason University’s Manassas campus,  in which former pro wrestler and president of the Sports and Legacy Institute Chris Nowinski was the keynote speaker.

Nowinski told the audience that a string of concussions from wrestling and college football forced him to retire and  left him mentally impaired for a period of three years.

A recent graduate of Harvard University, Nowinski went on to cofound the Sports and Legacy Institute, which works closely with the brain bank at Boston University, examining the brains of deceased ex-athletes and compiling data. The Institute has found a direct connection between concussions and severe brain damage.

Concussions manifest themselves as dementia, short-term memory loss, loss of executive functioning skills and severe depression in the short term, but some athletes suffer permanently in their later years as well after a sustaining a series of concussions.

It appears to be those symptoms of brain impairments that caused football players like Mike Webster and Terry Long to commit suicide. Football player Dave Duerson even left a suicide note, asking for his brain to be sent to the brain bank.

Based on the evidence he has received from B.U.’s Brain Bank, Brentsville School Board member Gil Trenum, also believes it was the effect of a string of football-related concussions that led his oldest son Austin to take his own life last year.

Chris Nowinski has worked with Gil Trenum on educating Prince William County about the dangers of sports concussions. During the question and answer session, a woman asked how to bring a similar concussion training program to Fauquier County.

Since then, Trenum has helped institute a concussion training education into Prince William County Public Schools. The education to athletes, coaches, teachers and parents may be the most comprehensive in the country. Every athlete must have a parent attend a session on concussion training.

In addition athletes suffering from concussions are removed from play and must be seen by a doctor. They also receive the downtime they need from mental activities, taking time off a school and sports to rest their brains.

According to Nowinski for approximately 80 years the world has long known about the “punch drunk” syndrome in boxers, but other sports have been operating in a state of ignorance or denial.

Now that we know the syndrome is also common in football players, hockey and other sports, Nowinski is asking people to be mindful in limiting children’s exposure to concussions.

Children are the athletes who need the most protecting, said Nowinski. Concussions are also more likely to be harmful in young people, since their brains and bodies are still being developed.

And whereas professional athletes weigh million dollar contracts against the risk of personal injury, children are just on the field to have fun.

Nowinski gives his keynote speech including visual aids on a Power Point Presentation. Nowinski presented his case for concussion prevention in a congressional hearing. He pled that NFL players need to be taken off the field after suffering a concussion.

Parents may think that coaches and trainers are protecting their children, but most of the time these individuals will not  recognize a concussion.

According to Nowinski the vast majority of concussions remain unreported because athletes, trainers and coaches did not think they are serious. We have all been brought up to think concussions are not serious, but that thought is changing in the medical world. Concussions are essentially brain traumas.

Not only is the brain inflamed, but  chemicals are altered, leaving brain functions noticeably impaired. An athlete can heal during the weeks after a concussion, but they require time to rest their brain so that no permanent damage is done.

Children participating in sports are not likely to have permanent effects into adulthood, but they may suffer from the immediate effects of concussions. Actions during times when a person is healing form a concussion might also be erratic or out of character. They may harm themselves or engage in dangerous behavior, so they need to be watched.

While Nowinski said he believes sports are beneficial to young people, he said that concussions are beneficial to no one.

Nowinski has worked to make the NFL and NHL safer for athletes, and has petitioned before Congress. He wants parents, coaches, players, teacher, doctors and teammates to be aware of the dangers of concussions.




© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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