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Addiction to Sports Blinds Us to the Danger

Many Americans have spent many hours laughing at those online videos showing people getting hurt. Many of the stars of these videos are athletes, who get hurt while playing sports. But sports-related injuries are no laughing matter; they can be quite serious, even deadly, and many athletes, as well as members of the medical community, are starting to take notice.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association estimates that 1.3 to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreation-related activities every year.

Alex Burdeski, a CSUN student and an ice hockey player for 15 years, said he believes that injuries are “part of the game.” Burdeski broke his femur while playing ice hockey.

“I was on crutches for six months and when I got the clearance to get off the crutches I started skating again,” Burdeski said.

The effects of sport-related injuries are the reason why more than 2,000 former NFL players filed a lawsuit against the league this past June in Philadelphia. The suit claims the league is withholding imperative information that links football-related injuries, like concussions, to long-term brain damages.

“A concussion is basically an acceleration/deceleration injury,” said Dr. Eric Sletten, director of CSUN Sports Medicine, who has treated student-athletes for over 20 years. “What happens is the brain is shocked for a moment, to lead to different levels of consciousness.”

Sletten believes that the long-term effects of sports-related injuries can be traced to the violence in America’s sports-obsessed culture in American.

“I would love to see some of the violence toned down because I don’t think it needs to exist,” Sletten said. “We’ve turned into cage-fighting. It’s against the law to put a dog or rooster into a cage and fight, but we’ll put in a human.”

J.P. Gale is the coordinator of CSUN Sports Clubs, and the coach of CSUN’s ice hockey team. He said he agrees that violence is so embedded into the culture of sports that it would be close to impossible to remove it.

“Taking the violence out of boxing or mixed martial arts is elimination of the sport entirely,”  Gale said. “Kids and adults need to take personal responsibility and understand of the effects of what’s possible.”

Even President Barack Obama has expressed concern about violence in college football.

‘‘You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth, and then have nothing to fall back on. That’s something that I’d like to see the NCAA think about,” Obama told The New Republic.

The NCAA promotes student-athlete health and safety. The organization tracks sport-related injuries to help understand the cause and minimize the risks. Soccer is one of the monitored sports, and it continues to grow every year. Soccer players are susceptible to sports-related injuries because of the quick changes of direction and lateral movements required by the game. From 2004-2009, there were more than 55,000 injuries, and soccer players were exposed to a possibility of an athletic injury 7.1 million times. Soccer players are also three times more likely to get injured during a game than a during a practice.

Sean Franklin is a defender on the LA Galaxy soccer team and a former Cal-State Northridge student. He said he has experience with the risks of playing soccer. Franklin had sports hernia surgery in 2009, after three weeks of pain in his lower abdomen. He had continued to play despite the pain.

“The trainers ultimately make the decision whether you can play or not,” Franklin said. “You kind of have to ‘man-up’ and do it for your teammates, for your fans, and your organization.”

A sports hernia is defined by the National Council of Strength and Fitness as “an overuse injury caused by repetitive tissue stress.” Athletes are more prone to suffer from this injury if their sport requires “high speed movements, fast direction changes and/or forceful kicking motions.”

“With a contact sport you’re going to have the warrior mentality,” said hockey coach J.P Gale. “They’ve been taught to play through pain, especially if you’re a better player or a player heavily relied on.”

Gale’s brother, Chris, has played ice hockey since he was three. At 13, Chris broke two bones in his lower back and wore a back-brace for 8 months. But despite his traumatic injury and the risks of other injuries, Chris continues playing the sport.

“I live for the game,” he said. “That’s really what’s kept me driven and kept me going.”

CSUN doctor Eric Sletten said he believes that warrior mentality is decreasing as student-athletes are provided with proper techniques for avoiding injuries. They are now being taught about the risks of sport-related injuries and the possible long-term effects they have, but Sletten said athletes’ passion for their sports may make some overlook the risks.

“One of the most important and hardest decisions I make is to disqualify an athlete,” he said. “Sometimes I have to step in and I have to be your 40-year old brain instead of your 20-year old brain.” Sletten said having a third party on the sidelines to bench injured players for their own safety is one way to maintain the health of college athletes, but he said athletes should learn to protect themselves.

“Injuries are tough and some are more severe than others,” Galaxy player Sean Franklin agreed. “ It’s one of those things where you have realize that there’s more out there than the sport that you play. At the end of the day if I feel that it’s something that will jeopardize my future off the field, then I will definitely step away from the game.”

Anchor: Kiera McKibbens

Moderator: Jonathan Gonzalez

Reporters: Bianca Santillon & Eniola Jose

Producers: Ian Tang & Mona Adem


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