A Twin Cities sports writer said it during a Twitter exchange last week: Concussion is a dangerous euphemism.
A concussion is a brain injury. It can heal quickly; it can heal excruciatingly slowly. It can be life-changing, personality-altering, even deadly.
And as we learn more about the effects of concussions — in particular the effects of repeated blows that shake the brain and bounce it around in the skull — the more troubling the outlook is for some of our favorite sports and the athletes who play them.
In the past week alone:
n Football legend Tony Dorsett went public with his diagnosis of brain damage;
n The Minnesota Twins shifted star catcher Joe Mauer to first base to lessen the chances of a repeat of the concussion that ended his 2013 season;
n A high school football player in Arizona, Charles Youvella, died a week ago today of a traumatic brain injury sustained in a playoff game; another in Missouri, Chad Stover, died Thursday of a brain injury sustained in October. At least five prep football players this year have been killed by head injuries, according to ESPN.
It may seem as if we have an sudden epidemic of sport concussions. The truth is, they’ve always been part of our games. We’re just more aware of them now than ever before — not just of the immediate injury, but of the lasting results that echo down the years.
No sport is truly immune to the risk; Twins fans have seen former MVPs Mauer and Justin Morneau struck down by concussions in recent seasons, as well as regulars Denard Span and Ryan Doumit. But football, a game based on weaponizing the body, is the focal point of concern.
Our newfound greater awareness of concussions may prove a long-term blessing to an athlete whose coach removes him from play; it is also, to some degree, deterring parents from allowing their children to run the risk of football period.