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Former American football player shares his story

August 2023

Brain injuries in sports can happen to anyone. We are very fortunate to have one of those impacted to tell their story. Thank you so much, ex-American Footballer, Christian from Germany for stepping up to improve the awareness and understanding of this critical issue. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us!

Who are you and what is your sports back ground?
I watched Football in Ohio during a student exchange year and started playing in 1988. From then on I played in four German Championships, the EuroBowl Final in 1991, in the US from 1995 to 1999 for the University of New Haven, in 2000 for the Berlin Thunder in the NFL Europe and went back to the German GFL until 2003 for the Berlin Adler. I still love the game and want to give back to it through coaching later on. Currently I am working in cognitive behavioral therapy and I am well aware that your mind is a precious possession that one should keep for as long as possible. Yet when I started playing Football there was a complete disregard for it, even after concussions.

Your incident: what happened, when and how? What happened after it?
Coaches taught to hit with your head, to cause the biggest impact. In the US we had practices with the Sparks Drill, meaning we should collide till sparks flew. No other effect than having the collision to toughen us up. Often it was like this wherever you played. I remember a game in the German League, being in a daze after a hit during a kickoff. The coaches and other players laughed it off and expected you to go in again. No tests back then, you did not want to appear like it had rattled you. The same in the US. In my sophomore year I hit the TE so hard that we both got dazed. In turn it became a challenge, who could hit the other harder. I do not have any recollection oft he last quarter. Testing afterwards was a light in my eyes, no report, and full gear practices again on Tuesday. It was and is hard for me to stay in large noisy crowds, bright lights give me headaches. When my son was born I could not bounce on a trampoline or use a swing, I became instantly nauseous every time I tried. And I really tried! I am worried about the long-term effects, that may worsen over time.

You heard about ACT Head Impact Tracker – what do you think about measuring head impacts and forces acting on a head? What else do you think should and could be done to prevent brain injuries and brain diseases?
The ACT Head Impact Tracker is a great instrument that gives yourself, your team, the coaches and medical staff no more leeway. The uncertainty has been decreased dramatically. And I do not mean just the big concussions that knock you out. We know that even smaller impacts over a long period can lead to CTE (NYTimes 20th, June 2023: Collective Force of Head Hits, Not Just the Number of Them, Increases Odds of C.T.E.). It can set a limit individually, add to the science for everyone. Additionally Coaches, players and medical personnel should be made aware on a regular basis oft he consequences of concussions and CTE. They have to have the proper tools available, like the ACT Impact Tracker and its software. Above all they need to own the responsibility they have for the young, eager teens and tweens they are entrusted with.  No more idiotic drills, teach proper technique!

What is the message you would like to send to everyone reading? 
As I said beforehand: Currently I am working in cognitive behavioral therapy and I am well aware that your mind is a precious possession that one should keep healthy for as long as possible.

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