Malik Turner injury highlights danger of concussions


Quentin Shaw

Illinois wide receiver Zach Grant celebrates a touchdown during the game against Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Saturday October 29. The Illini lost 17-40.

By Minju Park, Columnist

parkminjuDuring the first quarter of the homecoming Illinois football game against Minnesota, Malik Turner was carted off the field after a head injury during foul play.

It was a wake-up call and disheartening to see a fellow Illini lying on the grass, hands on his head, unable to get up. While we hear about football injuries and see them happen quite often on the television screen, seeing it live and waiting around for paramedics to take the player off the field was a jarring experience.

But it really shouldn’t have even been much of a surprise — according to ESPN, there were 271 concussions in the NFL in 2015.

For college students, most schools tend to have a concussion management plan for their football players to protect their safety and well-being above all else.

Here at the University, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics Sports Medicine concussion management plan states, “Baseline data along with physical examination, and/or further diagnostic testing may be used in conjunction to determining when a student athlete may return to competition.”

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    But the University has a history of not abiding to these rules and precautions as closely as necessary. A growing list of athletes have suffered concussions, and have nonetheless been put back into the game, despite concerns and complaints.

    Some such athletes include Casey Conine, the former soccer player who suffered three concussions in two years at the University, who filed the 2015 lawsuit against several figures from the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

    Conine said after her third concussion, she was cleared to play another two games that month without a doctor’s approval, resulting in “severe and permanent” damage.

    If a concussion isn’t treated properly, it may lead to permanently disabling symptoms such as an inability to “maintain a coherent stream of thought,” “heightened distractibility” and an inability to perform a “sequence of goal-directed movements.”

    These effects may cause a deterioration in one’s ability to do well on schoolwork. While many athletes continue with their sports career later in their lives, many decide to go into a different professional career field. In order to ensure a successful future outside of a sports career, athletes must do what they came to college to do —  be a student, study and perform well in their classes.

    A well-enforced concussion policy is crucial to protecting the wellbeing and future goals of athletes. The University’s concussion policy ensures a removal of the athlete from play and further medical evaluation from a physician as soon as possible.

    It also promises monitoring for mental or physical deterioration and to promote “cognitive or physical rest.” A player’s return to play must be cleared by a team physician and must follow a progression of protocol to ease the player back into action.

    The final decision is designated by the athlete, whether he/she would want to return in the first place, rather than having coaches or teammates forcing the athlete to unwillingly participate.

    This protocol, while explicated clearly in the documents, are not as easily translated into real life situations. In order to ensure the safety of the athletes, their well-being should be placed into the highest consideration by treating concussions with a high level of caution.

    Minju is a sophomore in Media.

    [email protected]