By: Erica Raus
For many, the best time of the year is Fall, because it indicates that football season is right around the corner. Here at Bryant University, the football team is Division 1 and is filled with outstanding student-athletes. This is because the sport requires several hours of participation on and off the field. Football has become a way of life for the players at Bryant University. However, that can all come to a halt due to the unexpected occurrence of an injury.
Unfortunately, the odds are against football players, as the number of injuries per year seems to be increasing. According to the NCAA breakdown of football injuries, the overall injury rate is 8.1 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures between games and practices combined. From 2004 to 2009, there were more than 41,000 injuries from 25 million athlete exposures. These statistics represent the high chance of injury each time a football player steps on the field, whether it be from the daily risk of practice or a weekend game. The NCAA also shares that the knee is the most common location of injury in college football players, accounting for 17.1 percent of injuries overall. The football student-athletes here at Bryant who interviewed have had an injury that kept them out of the game for an extended period of time.
The first interviewee on the team was Derrick Leroy, a sophomore here at Bryant, and he holds the position of defensive specialist. Last spring, he tore his ACL, as well as his medial and lateral meniscus, which put him out of football for a year. This injury occurred at a random moment of simply planting on his leg wrong during a game, and resulted in needing surgery, physical therapy and much attention to healing. Derrick spoke about how he feels being unable to physically contribute towards his team, stating “It’s tough, there’s a mental aspect of being unable to play and I strive to be the best teammate, focusing on doing what’s best for the team versus focusing on myself.” Staying positive throughout the healing process has been a huge aspect of Derrick’s attitude, and he hopes to be on the field healthy again soon. Although in Derricks case the injury was very unexpected, there are precautions recommended for players that should be taken into account when preventing an injury. It is strongly recommended to always warm up before playing to get blood circulating to your muscles, as well as stretching.
Another common injury amongst football players is concussions, and there is a growing amount of research that reveals the effects can be lifelong. Bryant football player senior Brenden Femiano, who plays the position of running back, shared an additional perspective of a different type of injury. Femiano has endured three concussions, his latest concussion, however, had a very serious impact. He explained that his concussion was so severe it required him to withdraw from school, in addition, he shared his devastation of missing an entire season. However, he enlightened this outlook by finding his purpose. He stated, “There’s so much more to life than just football, and it is crucial to find your purpose beyond the field.” This was a tough lesson for Femiano to learn, as he felt exiled from his fixed way of life. Today, he is recovered from his injury but has many symptoms of the lifelong effects that traditionally follow repetitive brain trauma, such as extreme sensitivity to light. He shared some recommendations on how to be a safer player, by emphasizing the importance of protecting yourself as much as you can, specifically avoiding lowering your shoulder. Femiano explained that he has invested in a high- tech helmet that serves as an extra safety precaution as he returns on the field to leave his mark.
One common result of repetitive brain trauma is a degenerative brain disease found in athletes called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University researchers studied the brains of 165 people. The selected individuals played football at the high school, college, or professional level. Their research found evidence of CTE in 131 of them, which is 79 percent of the players that they studied. Of the brains that were researched, 91 of them belonged to former NFL players, and 87 of those 91 (96 percent) had signs of CTE.
It is very important for all players to take extreme caution in recovery when dealing with a potential head injury. The NCAA recommends one safety measure for concussions with the saying: “If in doubt, sit them out.” It is very important to stress the significance of safety when playing contact sports in general.
Although there is clearly a large risk to playing football, that does not stop players from continuing to pursue what they love. Football requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and strength which is represented through the student-athletes here at Bryant University. Get excited to cheer on our bulldogs this fall!