Why some athletes are stepping away from the game

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (NEWSPLEX) -- More frequently, athletes are being faced with a difficult decision: Whether to continue doing what they love or take precautions to prevent long-term damage.

Fluvanna County senior quarterback, Mark Grooms, was faced with this dilemma just three games into the season.

Grooms had just helped his team snap their 19-game losing streak.

"It was a great feeling. I've always wanted to be the quarterback for the Fluvanna varsity team and it happened. I thank God that he gave me the opportunity and to win the game against Spotsylvania,” he said.

But that opportunity didn't last.

The following game against Culpeper ended up being his last on the field after he took a hard hit in the second quarter.

"I was on the ground and I knew it was over for me playing football. I told my parents before the season started that if I got my fourth concussion, I would have to stop playing football and give it up,” Grooms said.

"It was really depressing because football is my passion and I love football to death. It sucked that I had to give it up in that way,” he said.

But, Grooms isn't the only one making that decision.

John Blake, a football coach at Saint Anne's-Belfield, says he has lost players for the same reason.

"It's hard. I've been there as a dad. I've been there as a coach. We've had a couple of kids that we just said, 'we need to stop.' To see what the likelihood of an even worse injury it's the smart thing to do,” Blake said.

Blake hopes for the sake of the sport that they figure out how to better respond to these types of injuries.

"I'm worried about football, because it's getting a bad name because of this. I think we deserve it, because I don't think we've done it justice to put out what we are actually trying to get done and really trying to defend the game honestly,” Blake said.

He isn't the only one concerned with this issue.

University of Virginia doctor, Jason Druzgal, has been studying concussions for three years.

He says there's a flaw in the current system.

"Right now, we are relying on players to self-report that they have the symptoms of a concussion. If somebody gets hit hard enough and they lose consciousness, we can see that. There are also players that are going to hit hard enough that they don't lose consciousness. Maybe they see stars, they feel nauseous, feel dizzy, but they don't tell the coach or the athletic trainer,” said Druzgal.

Druzgal has a fix for that.

He's been experimenting with sensors that stick on right behind the athlete’s ear to monitor the force of the hit.

"What we are hoping is that sensors may be an objective way where somebody on the sideline can say that person got hit hard enough that we should take a look at them,” he said.

Studies show players tend to want to stay in the game, especially if salaries or scholarships are on the line.

Druzgal hopes technology can help them make a more healthy choice.

"They've already tried to put in some mechanisms where we can have people who are removed from these conflicts of interests decide if they need to be evaluated, but the sensors might be a step towards an even better mechanism,” he said.



 
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