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I have found it troubling that many former athletes that I admired when I competed at Western have had very serious mental health problems. Two of the finest coaches have had multiple strokes which has adversely effected their mental capacity to be able to function.

According to the Public Agency of Canada roughly half of Canadians know little to nothing about the perils of sport-related concussion injuries. Nor where to turn for help to find information on how to avoid falling victim to a concussion.

The findings of concussions and strokes recently came to light at the same time as 4,000 former football players have filed lawsuits alleging that the National Football league failed to protect them from the long-term consequences of concussions.

Here is what I have learned. "Concussion causes temporary loss of brain function leading to cognitive , physical and emotional symptoms, such as confusion, vomiting, headaches, nausea, depression, disturbed sleep, moodiness and amnesia."

However, even when the symptoms of concussion appear to have disappeared, the brain is not yet 100% normal according to Dr Maryse Lassonde, a Neuropsychologist, She had previously worked alongside members of the Montreal Canadianís hockey team members who had suffered from severe head trauma, undertaking the research from severe head trauma, undertaking research into the long-term effects it can have on athletes.

She carried out visual and auditory tests among the athletes who suffered from concussion, as well as testing their brain chemistry, to better evaluate the extent of the damage to the brain after a severe hit.

The results indicate that there is abnormal brain wave activity for many years after a concussion as well as partial wasting away of the motor pathways which can lead to significant attention deficit problems.

Older athletes who suffered from concussions may have symptoms similar to the dreaded Parkinsonís disease. Mohamed Ali was a prime example (Parkinsonís like symptoms) of what happens when a boxer receives thousands of punches to the head. Loss of speech and motor control stayed with him until his death.

Head injuries seem to affect the risk for strokes. 30% of strokes hit people under the age of 65. Those who have had a concussion or other traumatic brain injuries might make the risk of strokes more likely.

Traumatic Brain Injuries scars blood vessels in the brain making them more vulnerable to strokes. The increase was found in Ischemic Strokes victims which in turn cause a blood clot blocking a vessel in the brain.

In addition, further testing revealed that the older athletes who had suffered from concussions experienced a thinning of the cortex in the same part of the brain that Alzheimer affects.

Who could forget Eric Lindros, the elite National Hockey League player, convulsing on the ice after being hit by an elbow to his head? Eric had multiple devastating concussions. For the most part he has never been the same.

" You do not talk about these things" says Lindros "to: admit that you are depressed". The concussions had transformed him, both as a man and as a hockey player . His anxiety levels has affected his self confidence and nearly his life. He admitted that he had suicidal tendencies after his career in the NHL ended.

The 6ft 4 255 former hockey player is now speaking out warning parents and athletes of the hazards of contact sports for the long term health of the competitors.

I feel angry that the coaches/ team doctors for the most part have been aware of the implications but do not really care for the well being of their players.

Many athletes and their families pay the ultimate price of playing the game. The sages teach us that: a young man will often sacrifice his health for the applause/ money and a middle aged man will gladly give up all his wealth and fame for his health but it often is too little too late.

When faced with the long term risks a brave young man will decide to focus on his health and say adieu to his contact level sports. Those who truly love him will accept the reality and applaud the very difficult decision he has made.

Len Lesser is an education/career counselor in Dorchester, Ont.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com