Football and delayed concussion effects

Cal’s quarterback, Kevin Riley, hasn’t been playing as well as expected this year (completely crushing losses in the last two games).  The coach put him in for a full half last year against USC, exactly a week after he suffered a concussion. Brain damage from repeated head impacts can take a long time to show up. Readers are cautioned to draw no implications from any individual example, nor from  anecdotal evidence, nor from the scurrilous study reported last week about professional players, which in any case (i) has absolutely nothing to do with the all-American healthy pastime of big-time college ball, and (ii) who cares what happens to pro players after there’s no money to be made from them?

The Cal coach’s overriding concern is always for the welfare of his players, of whom more than half proudly graduate within six years from the school’s strong academic program, of which its scholar-athletes are rightfully proud.  And no rules were broken last year; Tedford didn’t play Riley for the full seven day required wait.  Seven days is obviously the safe time on purely medical grounds, because any longer and the player would miss a whole game.

Meanwhile, #1 Florida’s quarterback, who went to the hospital vomiting from his concussion last week has a full fortnight to recover, so there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. His coach, Urban Meyer, whose overriding concern is always for the welfare of his players, said so right out the day it happened: “I think it’s a concussion. I think he’ll be all right.”  And who should know better?

Move right along, folks; nothing to see here; just kids having fun and a lot of money being made. Not by them, of course; that would be terribly corrupt and shred their moral fibre. By all those people whose overriding concern is always for the welfare of the players.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

4 thoughts on “Football and delayed concussion effects”


    The latest research peer reviewed by the Academy of Sports Dentistry and a Harvard MGH specialist, suggests a retainer like Mouth guard used in the NFL and with such programs as the University of Texas, should be considered as part of a return to play protocol. One concussion and your six times more likely to have another, this protocol identifies and corrects a known link to the concussion origin.

  2. I'm sympathetic to the pain these guys go through after they get it, but at the same, you have to remember that they volunteered to play. That's especially the case on the college level – these guys can always walk away (the pro guys are on contract, although there are usually ways out).

  3. Brett,

    I don't believe that anyone thought that college football players were forced to play at gunpoint. College kids (and they are kids even if they are a year or two past 18) are unaware that they are mortal; hence they smoke cigarettes, play football, and engage in other stupid and dangerous activities. Adults should not facilitate these activities, whether by selling them cigarettes or running football teams.

  4. I don't know how many of you have had a concussion as an adult. About ten years ago I got hit in the head by a 25-pound hulk of frozen beef at a restaurant where I was working. Wandered around for a while and collapsed. I missed three months of work, but really I wasn't right for at least six months. Mood swings, short-term (and long-term) memory loss, not being able to walk a straight line (I accused the neurologist of having a slanted floor). I remember getting into a screaming argument with a woman at Workman's Comp. I ended up calling her back and apologizing. I told her my problem was that normally I would never have lost my temper and started yelling at her but that was what the concussion was doing to me. that I was angry and and not thinking straight. That was the last problem I had with Workman's Comp. Losing brain function is a scary, scary thing. Eventually I recovered though I still can't remember incidents and people so well from that time. A year later I was in a minor fender-bender got banged in the head and was diagnosed with another concussion. I decided that anyone who would willingly put themselves in a situation where multiple concussions were likely was just crazy and should not be allowed to go back into that situation .

Comments are closed.