Take a moment and think about your favorite athlete or sports team. Was the athlete or team that came to mind male? Most likely, and that’s by no fault of your own; women’s sports do not receive nearly as much media attention or recognition in our society as men’s do and that’s a result of the idea that women are inferior in sporting capabilities and their long history of restriction from sports due to the fact that some doctors believed it would somehow damage their reproductive organs. Yeah, right. Read More
During the “Sport and the University” themed semester, I went to two events: a lecture by Dr. Jeff Kutcher on concussions in sports and the showing of Miracle, a film about the United States hockey team that beat the heavily favored Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Dr. Kutcher is the director of the UM NeuroSport Program. He is an expert on concussions. He has worked for Michigan Athletics and Team USA in the Sochi Winter Olympics. As someone who has was concussed three times in high school athletics, I thought it would be very interesting to hear from a leading concussion expert.
In Dr. Kutcher’s lecture, he explained the various causes and symptoms of concussions. He also discussed the controversy of head injuries in professional sports, especially the NFL. Many football players and athletes in other contact sports experience repetitive head trauma. When players stop playing, many still experience concussion like symptoms or extreme depression. Many doctors think that this is Chronic Trauma Encephalopathy, or CTE.
Many believe that because of the violent nature of football, significant numbers of retired football players suffer from CTE. Many retired players have extreme depression, aggression, thoughts of suicide, and concussion like symptoms. Recently, many former NFL players who believe that they have CTE or other kinds brain damage have filed concussion lawsuits against the NFL, demanding money due to the league’s lack of attention to player safety and protection. Some retired players have committed suicide, and many assume that CTE has caused the deaths.
However, Kutcher believes that most of these players may not have any sort of brain damage. He says that the symptoms in both concussions and CTE are very similar to normal depression. He has noticed that many players feel depressed after they retire, and think they have CTE. However, Kutcher has discovered that the majority of the cases, the players are depressed because they are not playing the game they love, not because of head trauma. He believes that only about 4 out of about 140 NFL players he has examined actually have brain damage or CTE.
Kutcher even says that a lot of the diagnosed concussions today are probably not concussions. He says that over the past 10 years, there has been a huge spike in diagnosed concussions. Recently, people have been much more cautious with these head injuries, and are wrongly diagnosed with a concussion.
This lecture made me think about how aware we are about sport injuries. We are so conscious of these injuries that we believe that there are more injuries than there actually are. This reminded me of a scene in Miracle, where Coach Herb Brooks gives a fiery speech to his team. One of his players, Rob McClanahan, suffered a leg injury during the game. The doctor said McClanahan could worsen if he kept playing, so McClanahan took his gear off expecting not to play. Brooks accused McClanahan of quitting because of a “bad bruise.” McClanahan kept playing, despite the doctor’s recommendation.
Clip From Miracle
I think this shows how different coaches and players handle injuries today. In the 1980s, coaches like Brooks pressure players to play with injuries. It was expected to play through the pain. If someone got injured on any of my basketball teams growing up, my coaches would rarely let the player to continue to play. Depending on the injury, a hurt player would need a doctor’s note to be cleared to play. Kutcher pointed out that we often diagnose athletes with serious injuries whey they are not even seriously hurt.
Our increase in sensitivity towards injuries is an example of how many of our attitudes have changed and how we approach most things today. You could look at injuries like it is fortuna, as it is beyond anyone’s control and determines how one acts. One can act more passively, be very careful and not risk worsening the injury. Or you can be more aggressive, and play through it. Machiavelli said “All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.”
It seems today as if most people take the safer route when it comes to injuries. When there is a head injury, it is safer to just assume that it is a concussion and take more time to make sure one completely recovers. Are people too careful? Have we become too cautious? Should teams take more risks when it comes to injuries? When Coach Brooks encouraged McClanahan to play through the pain in Miracle, McClanahan’s play inspired the team to work harder, and they won a pivotal game in the Olympics. However, if a player has a serious injury, this attitude can be detrimental to the player’s career. Like what Machiavelli said, calculate the risk, and act decisively.
What defines a sport? Sports, when taken at face value, are physical activities that result in a winner and a loser. So are advanced videogames like StarCraft sports? StarCraft in particular has been compared to chess; the mental processes needed to play the games are incredible and the New Yorker article “The Rise of the Professional Cyber Athlete” described the game as “strategic and extremely difficult, requiring a mathematical cast of mind.” Although the game requires a certain amount of quick hand movements, the overall conception of the game and its players as a sport and athletes respectively is an incorrect classification. Without a certain measure of physical movement involved, videogames simply cannot be called sports.
Pretty late to the game on this topic, but better late than never!!! For class, we read a section of John Stuart Mill’s, “On Liberty.” In Chapter Five, he expresses his opinion that, “There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life. This cannot well be gainsaid by anybody who does not believe that the world has already attained perfection in all its ways and practices.” He means that we should not accept any thing to be set in stone and we should always be pushing for changes to improve ideas and society. For Thanksgiving, it can easily be assumed that 99% of people eat the exact same meal; people go crazy over the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, green bean casserole, pumpkin, and pecan pie.
This summer, my brother played on his little league 12U baseball team, and I tried to go to as many of his games as possible. They were pretty successful, as they won their District Championship and were one win away from entering the regional round of play. They always seemed to have a great time on the field and my brother loved playing, but there was one thing that bothered me at every game I attended: parents (including my own). Read More
It was a hot summer day in NYC; as I sat down to enjoy the new Hercules movie in the brand new 86th street theatre. Twenty minutes into the movie my phone would not stop buzzing. At once the whole theater seemed to be staring at me with a look of disdain. I ran out of the theatre while my phone was blowing up from all of the twitter notifications.
A black man, Michael Brown was fatally shot by a white police officer named Darren Wilson. My twitter feed was out of control
with posts about his death. Everything from RIP to “The Wade family hearts and prayers go out to the Brown family. #RIPMikeBrown”.
In the article Where Are the Jocks for Justice?, by Kelly Candaele and Peter Dreier, the authors state how athletes are often scrutinized for speaking up about political issues. In the article, Candaele and Dreier mention how many athletes visit hospitals or do other charity work, but rarely speak up about more extreme issues because they are “expect[ed] to perform not pontificate”. The article also states that many athletes do not voice their opinions because “it is not our role to go around taking positions on things for the sake of taking positions.” (Donald Fehr, Head of MLBPA)
In lecture this week, we also discussed the state of advocacy in todays professional athletics. We learned of Olympic athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who, in the summer of 1968, decided to raise their fists during the national anthem in an act of solidarity for the black power movement. This moment was considered to be one of the defining moments in the history of political activism in sports. However, Where Are the Jocks for Justice? argued that modern day athletes lack the same feeling of individualism held by athletes in the past like Carlos and Smith.
I disagree with Candaele and Dreier view that most athletes nowadays do not speak up when major political events occur. If we look at the one of the most recent political controversies, the death of Michael Brown, we see an outpour of tweets and
posts from athletes. After Brown was not indicted Serena Williams tweeted, “Wow. Just wow. Shameful. What will it take???” and Kobe Bryant tweeted, “The system enables young black men to be killed behind the mask of law #Ferguson #tippingpoint #change”. Social media has given people the ability to voice their opinions to the entire world in a matter of seconds; and athletes have taken full advantage of this. Not only have athletes been voicing their opinions on social media, they have also been doing it with what they wear. After the death of Eric Garner, in a video of the arrest, Garner can be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe.” Many athletes like Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi, wore warm up shirts with the words “I can’t breathe” on them, while others such as Davin Joseph, a guard for the St. Louis Rams, wrote the words “R.I.P. Eric Garner” on his cleats. And after the death of the Late Trayvon Martin, Lebron James tweeted a picture of the Miami Heat wearing hoods with their heads bowed in support of Trayvon Martin. Athletes are glorified and
looked up to as heroes for many people; and because spectators put them on a pedestal they need to be given the right to voice their opinions.
In our last reading, “Where are the Jocks for Justice?”, Candaele and Dreier list several instances where athletes had the opportunity to stand up for a cause, but didn’t, or when athletes did stand up for a cause, but received backlash from media or fans. I realized after reading this article how instances like this exist in our very own athletic department.
Once former athletic director Dave Brandon went under attack this fall, I was instructed by my captains to not say anything negative about the athletic department in any circumstance to avoid anything getting worse. But even though my entire team and I were fans of Brandon, we were also warned against trying to argue with non-athletes who viewed Brandon negatively. We could not fight back against the majority of the student body who could regularly be heard bashing Brandon on our way to class, in the dining halls, and while we ate in the dorms. We had to come to terms with the fact that although we were probably more affected by Brandon’s actions within the athletic department and had much more personal communication with him, the majority of other students disagreed with our opinions.
Seeing that the role of athletes in the political scene has been thoroughly discussed on this site, I want to turn our attention to a different, but equally if not more thought-provoking issue that was raised in lecture. This is regarding the role of academia in politics. Now, whether the faculty members of an educational institution should remain politically unbiased is one debate, and one which I will not discuss in this post having no personal insight in it, but another that I will discuss is whether their students should engage in politics.
Student activists have been famous – or infamous, depending on who’s talking – for organizing energetic protests aimed at the many grievances and worries students may have. This covers a wide range of issues. We don’t have to look far, even in our own university, students protest whenever they feel it’s necessary. Some have been motivated by issues other than politics, like the recent rally that called for the firing of our Athletics Director. The kinds of protests I want to turn our attention to, however, are those which are politically motivated. Examples within the U of M are, among many others, the 1970s civil rights movements led by African-American students, and the more recent protests that called for more affirmative action in university enrollment (I’m unsure whether the latter would actually be classified as political or not in the American context, in Malaysia it most definitely would be).
As an avid golfer in high school, I spent most of my days practicing and playing competitive golf. I started out freshmen year with a serious approach for the game, but knew I needed the right mentors to take my game to that “next level”.
Fortunately, I was on a team with a great group of players and coaches you embodied Machiavellian principles that allowed my teammates and myself to excel in competition.
Photo Courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_University
The integrity of the amateur status of athletes involved in NCAA Division 1 athletic programs has been called into question ever since the Southern Methodist University football scandal of 1987. Athletes involved in Division I programs are working as full-time employees for the school as both athletes and students, yet they are receiving little compensation in return. Throughout the history of the NCAA, it has been felt by most that a full ride scholarship is enough and that the players do not need any more incentive to participate in college sports.