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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Football concussion crisis is also about suicide, mental health

    Kosta Karageorge, a former Ohio State University football player, was like most college athletes: strong, tough and determined. At 6-foot-3 and 273 pounds Karageorge had been a member of the OSU wrestling team for three years and had just recently joined the football team in August as a defensive lineman. During his college career, Karageorge had earned a reputation of being “upbeat” and “endearing.”

    Perhaps this is why his death last week, by a self-inflicted gunshot wound, left so many saddened and confused.

    The additional tests that will be done on Karageorge’s brain won’t be available for a few more weeks, but it is known that he had suffered four or five concussions during his career and had been complaining of disorientation and mood swings. Just a few hours before he committed suicide, Karageorge texted his mother to complain that “these concussions have my head all fucked up.”

    This isn’t the first time concussions and impact sport-related injuries have resulted in a change in a person’s mental health. There have been cases similar to Karageorge’s in college football and a high prevalence of them in the NFL.

    “In terms of concussions and mental health, we know that any significant injury or illness can have adverse effects on someone’s mental health,” said Bruce Helming, assistant head team physician at Campus Health Service. “Concussions may make pre-existing mental illness worse and can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety due to temporary changes in the brain. There is ongoing research into whether concussions by themselves, or in combination with other factors, cause long-term mental health and brain changes.”

    Over time, researchers have tried to prevent concussions and its lasting effects by implementing technologically advanced helmets and studying post-concussion side effects. But despite these efforts, the problem is reoccurring, as are its tragic results.

    Naturally, doctors and coaches are primarily concerned about treating the physical components of a concussion — if a player is not recovered physically, they cannot play. However, it seems unfair to neglect emotional side effects just because they are not as prevalent or obvious as the physical ones.

    In the case of Karageorge, he was known for keeping his emotions to himself. In retrospect, people have to ask whether this reputation was earned because of a reserved personality or whether he was afraid to reveal his mental distress for fear of appearing “weak.” We’ll never know now, but it isn’t farfetched to assume that many who have suffered concussions while playing contact sports deal with these worries.

    “We follow international guidelines and NCAA recommendations for the management of concussions,” Helming said about the UA. “This includes education for incoming athletes about concussions and its potential consequences and education about mental health services available on campus. We monitor student-athletes with diagnosed concussions during their recovery for changes in mood or mental health. We treat each student individually and do what is best for that patient.”

    It is crucial that both the physical and mental health of a student-athlete be addressed, especially after a concussion. It is important that student-athletes not only know when to receive help, but to inform the entire community of mental health, suicide and how to help those at risk.

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    Emilee Hoopes is a molecular & cellular biology sophomore. Follow her on Twitter.

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