Athletes don’t always let injuries hold them back from playing. Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain knows all about that.
"In sports, we have the mentality of being a warrior and toughing it out," he said. "I was always taught as a kid, 'If it’s not broken, you can go.’ But when it comes to the head, you never know."
McClain, head team physician Andrew Tucker, Ravens President Dick Cass and MedStar Union Memorial Hospital President Brad Chambers announced the public safety campaign Tuesday morning at the Ravens’ Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills.
“It’s hard to understand whether a person is concussed or not,” said Tucker, who is the director of sports medicine at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital. “That’s why it’s important for the young athletes to understand the signs and symptoms.”
Through the partnership, the Ravens and MedStar Sports Medicine co-branded CDC fact sheets for coaches, parents and athletes that have been distributed to more than 150 youth and high school football coaches and athletics directors in the Baltimore area. The Ravens also committed a $25,000 per year grant for the next five years to MedStar, which will help fund outreach programs, baseline testing and subsidize testing for Baltimore-area student-athletes.
“The NFL is going to spend roughly $100 million over the next ten years on research and advocacy and awareness programs,” Cass said. “It’s a problem we’re all concerned about.”
Concussions are brain injuries that can happen even without a bump or blow to the head. They can be serious even if the athlete isn’t hit hard. Symptoms include headaches, sensitivity to light or sound, feeling foggy or slow, problems concentrating and problems with memory. In the days after a concussion, athletes may experience a change in sleep patterns and appetite, trouble with schoolwork and difficulty with other daily activities, Tucker said.
McClain recalled the dizzy feeling he had after running head-on into a lineman during a kickoff his rookie year.
“[Team doctors] just had me sit it out and they made sure I was aware what was going on and did all the tests,” he said. “And it was just something as simple as that to make sure I was able to go back in.”
Tucker said a big part of spreading concussion awareness is changing the mentalities of young athletes who may not want to step out of a game, but also that of coaches and parents who came up in a generation that didn’t know as much about the long-term consequences of concussions.
“We have, really, a herculean task ahead of us in terms on education sort of across the board,” he said.
Watch Jameel McClain talk about concussions in the NFL here.