Football

‘It’s not sufficient to make me cease enjoying’: CFL gamers say they perceive the dangers posed by concussions

CALGARY — Bo Levi Mitchell is bored with enjoying stop defence in terms of stereotypes about his chosen occupation.

Sure, soccer is a violent sport. And, sure, concussions are a truth of life when grown males deal with each other at full pace.

However Mitchell, the CFL’s most excellent participant in 2016, believes the hazard is blown out of proportion given the trendy guidelines of the sport.

And as he factors out, life itself is a high-risk sport.

“As males and guys who’re getting paid, we all know what we signed up for,” says Mitchell, the beginning quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders. “And sooner or later, you must perceive that you simply may need to hold up your profession as an athlete to guard your self and shield your life and your future. However as a child, you may get concussions doing something … My spouse is a cheerleading coach, and there’s most likely extra concussions in cheerleading than there are in soccer.”

However Mitchell feels his sport is beneath siege, particularly for the reason that 2015 launch of the Hollywood blockbuster Concussion. Within the movie, Will Smith performs Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian neuropathologist who found persistent traumatic encephalopathy in soccer gamers. Omalu studied the brains of troubled NFL greats like Pittsburgh Steelers centre Mike Webster, a four-time Tremendous Bowl champion who ended up sleeping in bus stations earlier than dying at 50.

Bo Levi Mitchell feels his sport is beneath siege, particularly for the reason that 2015 launch of the Hollywood blockbuster Concussion. Ed Kaiser / Postmedia Community

“I noticed the film with Will Smith, and it made me mad,” Mitchell says. “It’s not one thing to joke about. However on the similar time, a whole lot of the issues they’re doing on the Steelers from again within the heyday — the helmets have been horrible. I imply, it was a chunk of plastic with slightly pillow on the within. They usually banged heads again then.”

Nowadays, helmet-to-helmet hits are uncommon, as each the CFL and NFL have tightened guidelines in hopes of stopping concussions and taking higher care of gamers that suffer them. Within the CFL, concussed gamers should observe a strict protocol earlier than returning to motion and may request a second opinion from an unbiased physician as a substitute of simply counting on the group medical workers. An damage spotter displays the sport through video feed to observe for gamers in medical misery.

However helmet-to-helmet collisions — and concussions — nonetheless inevitably occur. In Calgary alone, tailback Jon Cornish, guard Dimitri Tsoumpas and deal with Brander Craighead have all retired since 2014 resulting from lingering concussion points.

In some unspecified time in the future, each energetic CFL participant is inevitably confronted with the query — typically from a partner, typically from strangers, typically from their very own dad and mom or kids — why hold enjoying given the documented hazards?

“I do marvel down the highway,” Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly says of the well being of his mind. “It’s not sufficient to make me cease enjoying. I’m blessed to play the sport. I’ve been enjoying since I used to be six. I’m fortunate that I can present for my household by enjoying this sport. So it’s a threat that I’m keen to take. However I feel in the event you’re enjoying the sport of soccer and also you don’t know at the back of your thoughts that it’s one thing you can cope with down the highway, you’re fooling your self.”

Fellow quarterback Kevin Glenn typically wonders how his physique and mind will react within the long-term to taking so many hits over time.

“What we do, particularly as a gamers’ union, is educating guys,” says Toronto Argonauts center linebacker Bear Woods. Ernest Doroszuk / Postmedia Community

“There are situations the place I can inform you that it’s about to rain, as a result of my knees, the joints, begin to ache,” says Glenn, a CFL nomad presently plying his commerce in Saskatchewan. “I’m wondering like, ‘Man, am I going to have the ability to maintain my children or get up straight after I hit 60?’ So I do fear about it, however not to a degree the place it’s like I’m not going to play.”

Emmanuel Arceneaux included a neck harness into his strength-training routine this winter in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the 2016 concussion that knocked him out chilly in Winnipeg.

“I play a bodily sport,” says Arceneaux, a receiver with the B.C. Lions. “I’m within the trenches. I’m locked in, working beneath and attempting to run by individuals, so it’s necessary for me and my type of play to verify I’m geared up to go to struggle all sport.”

Like Mitchell, Arceneaux says concussions are a threat in all sports activities, not simply the one which includes pitching and catching the pigskin.

“Soccer might be harmful,” he says. “Baseball might be harmful. Basketball might be harmful … You take a look at soccer, and rugby and lacrosse … Any time there’s contact, it may be harmful. People who find themselves doing the stability beam can go on the market and break their leg and do something, nevertheless it goes beneath the radar.”

Not like within the NHL, CFL contracts usually are not assured. Which means younger gamers particularly may really feel like they’ve restricted photographs to show themselves to the coaches. In actual fact, a concussion in coaching camp can show disastrous to the profession prospects of a participant on the bubble.

“What we do, particularly as a gamers’ union, is educating guys,” says Toronto Argonauts center linebacker Bear Woods. “Not attempting to scare guys. Nothing like that. Simply the schooling course of. Your long-term well being is extra necessary than proper now.”

However Woods realizes the decision on whether or not to reveal a concussion is finally a private one.

“Talking to a red-blooded American, I’m going straight to liberty,” he says. “Nobody is forcing anybody to decide like that.”

Trevor Harris understands why some gamers is perhaps tempted to play by a concussion, however he urges them to have a look at the massive image.

“Don’t surrender what you need essentially the most for the factor you need for the time being,” advises the Ottawa RedBlacks quarterback.  “Down the highway, I need to have the ability to throw a soccer with my children. Once I’m 45, 50 years previous. I need to have the ability to coach my children’ peewee group and watch my children’ children develop up. Is that value enjoying in a single sport of soccer?”

Former American president Barack Obama made headlines in 2014 by saying if he had a son, he wouldn’t let him play soccer at knowledgeable stage.

However in a casual survey in March of greater than 20 CFL gamers from throughout the league 100 per cent informed Postmedia they might encourage their kids to swimsuit up in the event that they expressed an curiosity.

“I can’t wait till my son performs soccer,” Woods says. “All people is such sweet tails now. Soccer has achieved a lot for me. I’m in a position to enter a piece setting the place I’m in a locker-room with individuals from throughout  North America with completely different backgrounds and completely different cultures. We study to work collectively. Isn’t that what society is attempting to do all collectively?”

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