By: Eric Thomas
Kevin Ware’s gruesome injury immediately became the talk of every proverbial water cooler in the country; people arrived at work and discussed it in hushed tones.
Ware has been caught in a landslide of public sympathy; the people reaching out with empathy have their hearts firmly in the right place. No injury in recent memory has been the subject of such discussion.
But there seems to be something missing in all this discourse — Why is there no such sympathy for people with concussions?
Ware suffered the most public compound fracture in history, made worse by the fact that he was wearing shorts. It’s obviously the most severe fracture you can get, when the shattered bone peeks through the skin. “It’s not very common,” says Dr. Victor Faris, team physician for the Southfield Blue Jays, “but it’s not unheard of. Usually a compound fracture is associated with significant force.” The injury requires immediate surgery, as Ware had on Sunday night to set the bone.
Ware will likely recover from this, depending on the success of his surgery; it could be only six months. He’s a young man whose bones will likely knit and with the advances in surgery and rehab technology there is good reason to believe he will make a full recovery.
Those who are victims of concussions, though, don’t have the same sunny prognosis. “We don’t know what the long-term effects of concussions are, and there is controversy in the medical community if one or multiple concussions can lead to the early onset of Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. We really don’t know.”
The difference in coverage is obvious; you can see Ware’s injury. The footage can be embedded on a web site. You don’t find out about a concussion until long after the janitor swept the seats.
While Ware got hashtags and coverage from almost every news organization, where was the same sympathy for Jahvid Best? His career is likely over because of the violence inside his skull. You can’t see it, when the brain bashes into the bone, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less serious. At 24 years old, he can’t currently pass a physical. “You could have one concussion,” explains Dr Faris “and it could cause you a lot of long term damage.”
Head injuries are often dismissed in sports; some fans shrug and call it the cost of doing business. There was significant public grumbling recently when the NFL announced a new rule preventing running backs from leading with their head. At least football is attempting to address this; the NHL doesn’t seem to have any immediate plans concerning player safety. Louisville coach Rick Pitino spoke eloquently about Ware’s fracture on Sunday and Monday but in 2010 following a victory over Gardner-Webb, he told reporters, “Now the new thing is everybody has a concussion. If you walk out and slightly brush the door, you have a concussion. That’s the way it is today.”
The outpouring of concern for Ware is justified and will likely make everyone think about sports injuries for a moment. While we bow our heads, it might be worth mentioning that internal injuries have the potential to be much more serious. Medical science has come a long way in being able to heal a severe fracture. When fans dismiss the severity of concussions, mocking players who can’t get on the field, just think of Kevin Ware.
If a concussion was a more gruesome injury, do you think it would get more attention?