With recent scientific data now linking concussions to brain damage later in life, concussion awareness has never been higher in professional sports. With the recent death of All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau, and only last week the murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City, concussion safety is now a hot-bed topic for all contact sports.

In the state of Idaho, elected legislators began taking notice in March 2010, when the first bill regarding concussion safety was introduced to the House. House Bill 676 was first proposed by Rep. Elaine Smith (D) in order to instate guidelines for concussion awareness education training for coaches, athletes and any one involved with prep athletes.

The Bill, which was signed into law on July 1, 2010 by Governor Butch Otter, states that the state board of education will develop guidelines with the Idaho High School Activities Association to prevent and handle concussions in student athletes.

Now, under state law, each student athlete is required to complete a concussion and head injury information sheet, and must be immediately removed from a practice or game when there is any suspicion of a sustained concussion.

The verdict is out on contact sports; hundreds of athletes are being diagnosed with life-threatening brain damage every year, and with the speed and size of athletes increasing, the dangers are only going to increase.

This year, Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy performed a four-year study of 85 athletes with histories of mild traumatic brain injuries (concussions). The study found that 80 percent of those studies showed evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an incurable disease that includes memory loss, depression and dementia.

Fifty of the individuals found to have CTE were football players, while 33 played in the NFL, mostly consisting of linemen and running backs.

Where do I stand on concussions in sports?

It’s not worth it. Being a sports fan, and someone who plans on making a living covering sports, I can’t imagine not waking up on Sunday morning and turning on the 49ers game. However, I don’t see myself allowing any of my own children to play contact sports (Football, hockey, rugby, ect.) because of the growing risks of concussions and brain damage.

Many current professional football players have made this decision for themselves. Former NFL cornerback Randall Gay retired in 2011 because of the risk of concussions, and the recurring symptoms he felt day-to-day. Gay was a two-time Super Bowl champion, and played beside Seau.

“That was real scary because I know what (Seau’s) feeling,” Gay told NFL.com. “Some days, you just walk around, and you don’t know what you’re walking around for. I can’t play anymore.”

It’s great that concussion awareness is growing all around the country, and legislators are making moves to prevent traumatic brain injuries. However, the risk will always be there, and athletes must ask themselves one question: Is it worth it?

My answer is no.

@engelsportsguy

John Engel
John Engel is the sports editor of the Arbiter. He got interested in journalism when he was cut from the baseball team his junior year of high school. He started writing for his high school newspaper and swore he would one day work for ESPN, and indeed he did. He recently finished an internship with ESPN as a radio production intern where he talked to Kobe Bryant and almost fainted. He still works with ESPN Radio's Boise affiliate, ESPN Boise as a studio engineer, reporter and SportsCenter anchor. He is majoring in communication with an audio production emphasis, and plans to graduate sometime in the next decade. Follow John on Twitter: @EngelESPN

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