Collie sat up, dazed, and had to be helped off the field a minute later. He didn’t return to play for three weeks. The diagnosis: concussion. It wasn’t the first time Collie had suffered what’s clinically called a traumatic brain injury. On November 7, 2010, he spent nearly 10 minutes lying motionless on the 34-yard line after being hit in the head almost simultaneously by two Philadelphia Eagles players. Medics carried him off the field on a stretcher. In his first game back, two weeks later, he left in the first quarter with another concussion. He missed three more games, only to suffer yet another concussion on December 19, which ended his season.
Professional football players receive as many as 1,500 hits to the head in a single season, depending on their position. That’s 15,000 in a 10-year playing career, not to mention any blows they received in college, high school, and peewee football. And those hits have consequences: concussions and, according to recent research, permanent brain damage. It’s not just football, either. Hockey, lacrosse, and even sports like cycling and snowboarding are contributing to a growing epidemic of traumatic brain injuries. The CDC estimates that as many as 3.8 million sports-related concussions occur in the U.S. each year. That number includes not only professionals but amateurs of all levels, including children. Perhaps most troubling, the number isn’t going down.