Jan 29, 2015
Hanging Up One’s Helmet

It’s a story we’ve seen a number of times over the last couple of years: A young football player leaves the game in his prime due to lingering symptoms after sustaining a concussion. The most recent report comes out of the University of Minnesota, where sophomore offensive lineman Jimmy Gjere announced he is quitting football because of the recurrence of concussion-like symptoms.
After earning a starting job as a redshirt freshman last season, Gjere sustained a head injury during a game against at the University of Michigan last October. He missed the remainder of the season. This preseason, Gjere returned to practice and said he had been clear of any problems for months. Then, just last week, Gjere decided to end his career after the symptoms returned.

Gjere is not the only talented player to make the difficult decision to give up the game. In May, we told you about former Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat, who turned down a tryout with the Cleveland Browns after sustaining multiple concussions as a member of the Buckeyes. Sweat made his decision after experiencing a recent return of symptoms during offseason workouts.

And in T&C‘s March issue, we featured an article on how the University of Texas sports medicine staff recently tackled this decision with two Longhorn football players. In the article, Kenny Boyd, MS, LAT, ATC, Head Football Athletic Trainer at Texas shares the stories of Nathaniel “Tre” Newton and Nolan Brewster, who both decided to end their Longhorn careers after sustaining multiple concussions.

Boyd writes:

The decision to discontinue playing football was Tre’s and Nolan’s alone. Both players’ parents made it clear to their sons that it was up to them and they would support them regardless of their choice. The Texas sports medicine staff also put no pressure on them either way. But what we did do was give them the resources to make a good decision.

I believe that Tre and Nolan arrived at the correct decision for them due to their education about concussions. A cornerstone of our concussion policy here at Texas, and now required by the NCAA, is an annual concussion education session that is attended by all of our student-athletes. Student-athletes must acknowledge in writing that they have received proper concussion education and that they understand they have a responsibility to report possible concussion symptoms to our medical staff.

Listening to Tre and Nolan describe their fears about the lasting effects of multiple concussions was sobering. And listening to their parents voice concerns about their sons’ futures was tough. But it was important for me as an athletic trainer to listen to the athletes under my care and give them a chance to talk about their injuries.

Tre and Nolan each had a unique set of circumstances that brought them to their final decision to walk away from football. It was in their decision that I saw their strength. Though you could say they both had their dreams taken away from them, you could also say that they will surely have future dreams because of their choice.

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