Now, shake it the container and watch what happens to the Jell-o.
Pretty weird, huh? The mold shakes and bumps all over and usually goes back to the way it was. However, every so often pieces of the Jell-o break off and float around adjacent to the main body. Other parts develop fissures and cracks.
And even if the shape holds, the shaking loosens the foundation in a way that future shake-ups just might cause things to fall apart.
That Jell-o, friends, is what happens to a brain when it has a concussion. It bangs up against the walls of the skull with what little room is available. Usually, it bounces back and leaves one with nothing more than a really honey of a headache and some dizziness for a day or two. Other times the brain gets bruised and beat and it takes a little longer for it bounce back.
But always, not matter how mild or severe the concussion, the stage has been set for more damage in the future. After the first concussion, it’s so much easier for a person to get another one. After two, it gets even easier still.
In other words, it’s a vicious cycle in the worst way. Brain damage, disease, and even death are the side effects of future concussions.
And that’s why Brian Westbrook should sit down with the people who really love him (as opposed to those who love him as a football player) and contemplate his future in professional football. Having suffered two concussions in 21 days, Westbrook should give serious consideration to hanging ‘em up for good.
So far the Eagles aren’t saying much about Westbrook’s latest concussion aside from the basics. Andy Reid gave his typical lip service and claimed the team will “evaluate it.” But what else could he say?
“I don't know," Reid said, when asked if he thought if it would be wise for Westbrook to call it a season or even a career. “It's too early right now. I'm not that kind of person who's going to stand up here and tell you that without knowing the information. I don't know that. We're going to do everything the right way, that's the approach, and take every precautionary measure we possibly can to make sure Brian's OK. In these types of situations, football is secondary. We've got to look out for this kid and for his future and make sure everything’s OK for him before he gets back out there.”
Why are they even thinking about Westbrook getting back out there? Sure, that’s coach/jock-speak, but slow down and think for a second—two concussions in 21 days? That’s scary.
Others, like LeSean McCoy, said Westbrook will return because he’s a tough guy.
Really? The ol’ “tough guy” argument?
“I don't think it was that bad. I think he'll be back,” McCoy told reporters after the loss to the Chargers on Sunday. “I'm not sure exactly what happened, I was so involved in the game. I know he's a tough guy. He'll be ready to battle back from it.”
That’s the problem. Concussions don’t care how tough a person is or how hard a guy will “battle back from it.” That’s just stupid. But that’s how athletes think. All it takes is hard work and consistent training to return from a broken bone or a torn ligament, why can’t it be the same for a bump on the head?
For one thing, the brain is not a muscle, bone or ligament. Sometimes rest isn’t enough—for ex-athletes like Troy Aikman or Keith Primeau, post-concussion syndrome is a way of life. They live with the after-effects of too many concussions every day. For others like ex-Steelers’ star Mike Webster and former Eagle Andre Waters, the affects concussions led to an early death. At 50, homeless and suffering from depression, amnesia and dementia, Webster had a heart attack and died.
Waters committed suicide at age 44 because, according to neuropathologist Dr.Benet Omalu, his brain tissue had degenerated into that of an 85-year-old man with similar characteristics to those of early-stage Alzheimer's victims.
The cause? Concussions.
There doesn’t appear to be a real treatment from multiple concussions, either. Former Flyers’ captain Keith Primeau tried for two years to return to sports from several concussions—the first suffered in 2000 in a playoff game in Pittsburgh one game after his game-winning goal in the fifth OT—before deciding to retire.
Since then, Primeau has made concussions his cause. Last April Primeau announced that when he dies, he will donate his brain to science.
“We owe it to the kids playing sports,” Primeau said.
Primeau says his first recorded concussion from that game in 2000 (he told me he probably had several concussions when he was young, just like any sports-crazed kid, but just waited for the dizziness to go away and jumped back into the game), was the beginning of the end.
“I think the beginning of my demise goes back to the playoff situation back in 2000,” Primeau said in April. “I got laid out at center ice and got carried off on a stretcher. I stayed overnight in a Pittsburgh hospital, only to return two nights later against New Jersey. And that was ultimately the beginning of my demise.”
Is this the beginning of the end for Westbrook? Only time will tell. However, if he continues to subject himself to more hits and head trauma, there might not be much left in the Jell-o bowl to shake up.