Most football fans know that concussions are a major problem facing the National Football League, with players who have suffered concussions on the field often struggling with memory loss, depression and sometimes full-blown dementia later in life. But the problem of concussions in football isn't limited to the pros.
As the upcoming episode of HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel documents, concussions are also a problem for football players in high school and youth leagues. In at least eight different cases in just the last two years, children have died from head injuries suffered on the football field.
The Real Sports piece tells the story of concussions through the lens of Zack Lystedt, a teenage football player who suffered a concussion on what looked like a routine play, and then went right back into the game. Lystedt sustained more hits on the field after that first concussion, and just after the game ended, he collapsed. He required immediate brain surgery to stem hemorrhaging,and three years later he is still in a wheelchair, and his speech and memory are affected.
As Real Sports documents, people who have already suffered one concussion -- especially children -- are much more vulnerable to suffering a catastrophic brain injury. That's why Lystedt's parents are working hard to establish laws across the country requiring high schools to remove athletes from competitions if they're showing signs of concussions.
Such laws are clearly necessary, and the Real Sports piece should be a wakeup call to everyone involved in high school football -- from coaches to parents to the players themselves -- that no player who suffers a concussion should be told to shake it off and go back into the game.
Real Sports debuts Tuesday at 10 PM on HBO and re-airs throughout the month.