When the Game Overtakes Your Life

Brain Injury in Black Male Athletes
By Cheyenne Tyler Jacobs

The Game is Life is a phrase often used to describe the bond between men and sports it illustrates in the all-encompassing idea that sports are your life. Sports have been given to Black children and adolescent as an avenue for success for decades with not all opportunities resulting in fame or financial gain. Many are led down a path of low security and even traumatic injury to their body and most specifically their brain.

University for Central Florida Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports

Concussions are one brain injury that is very common in contact sports. The CDC estimates that 10% of athletes will face a concussion in a sports season. Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries that can cause long-term and permanent damage to someone’s neurological ways of thinking over time. Memory is one symptom of MTBI, and other symptoms such as anger and sensitivity to light can also happen.

Black men make up a large number of our NBA and NFL teams but often go missed or undiagnosed when faced with athletic injuries. Studies have shown that there is a higher percentage of White men diagnosed with concussions than compared to Black men. Black patients also do not have the same private insurance as White patients and quality care can be impacted. At both the professional and recreational level there is a lack of believing the pain Black men are facing and clear racial differences in both diagnosis and treatment.

Black men are very much exploited with sports at all levels from professional, collegiate, to recreational and this also leads to poor health. In the National Football League, Black men made up 70 percent of the players in 2018, while White men were 70 percent of the coaches and about 100 percent of top executive positions.

The individuals holding these positions of power will often push athletes past the pain and sometimes intervene themselves when it comes to accessing medical treatment. Creating a world where the sport is the only thing that is being focused on does not help these athletes to find love and enjoymentin other places. So when injuries happen they oftentimes put a mental strain on which can create behaviors that are overly aggressive and even abusive.

Brain injuries are preventable in sports it just comes to placing the wellbeing of the athlete above the love of profit. It also takes giving Black men with the space to feel pain and seek medical treatment for their injuries and get a clear diagnosis. Below is a list of ways to lessen the occurrence of brain damage while playing sports:

Ways to Stop Brain Damage:

  • Practice sportsmanlike conduct and avoid purposefully hitting someone in the head.
  • Wear helmets, mouthguards, and all other gear required for sport.
  • Almost half of concussions in high school football happen during running plays.
    • Marar M, McIlvain N, Fields S, Comstock RD. Epidemiology of Concussions Among United States High School Athletes in 20 Sports. Amer J Sports Med, April 2012, 40(4):747-755.
  • Proper eating and sleeping.
  • Stop playing sports until fully recovered
  • Limiting full contact practices.
  • Getting tested by YOUR primary care physician not always the one provided. Search the HUED directory now to find a providor that works for you.

Being constantly pushed to entertain and find fame takes so much out of an individual both physically and mentally. Continuing to put your own health first will allow for the quality of life you are use to as an individual.

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Site content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.