Letter to the Editor: On the importance of acknowledging injuries

To the Editor:

I have read the sports pages of the Record for years, but can never recall mention of any type of injury associated with sports practice or play. The number of crutches, braces, supports, casts, etc., currently seen on campus, not to speak of athletes trying to recover from a concussion in darkened rooms, suggests that this is not the reality. What is going on? Could this avoidance of reporting injuries represent another way of denying the known short-term (and long-term) risks and consequences of playing sports at today’s highly intensive, competitive and professionalized levels?

Extensive, published (Journal of Athletic Training, Spring 2007), peer-reviewed epidemiological data exist on the rates of serious injury in most collegiate sports by NCAA division, by gender, by practice or play and by type of injury, i.e., concussion, ACL tear, ankle sprain, etc. This information makes it possible to estimate in a typical season what the number of seriously injured athletes is likely to be. Take football, for example, which, by common consensus, produces about half of all serious injuries in non-club sports. With anecdotal information on hours spent in practice and play, applying the published rates – and assuming that athletes at the College will be similar to others in the NCAA, Div. III – one can estimate, for example, six to eight concussions this season. Similar estimates of other common injuries, i.e., “internal derangement of the knee” (including ACL tears) and ankle sprain would involve even more football players at the College. It is appreciated that these estimates might vary according to the “play of chance,” but they still give a reasonable idea of what we might expect after a season of Williams football.

Serious injury keeps players from practice, takes them out of the “game” and perhaps also the next “game,” not to speak of the long-term consequences of, for example, multiple concussions. So why aren’t they reported? Is this just another instance of the prevailing denial of the serious health consequences of certain sports, as we now play them? Is it prudent or even ethical for an educational institution like the College to be effectively ignoring these costs to body and mind?

Nicholas H. Wright ’57 M.D., M.P.H.


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