By Matt Norlander
Concussions are now an issue in all of sports. Football dominates the mainstream conversation, as it should, but basketball players are also susceptible to the long-term, dangerous effects of concussions.
We're so far away from knowing how to examine and deal with and prevent head injuries (some will never be prevented, unfortunately), but the fact that we've moved to a point where it's understood how serious they are is encouraging. It took awhile for many in the sports culture to realize the magnitude of concussions and mental health, but at least there's now an understanding among players and coaches, not just the doctors. The lesson is: You can't mess around with cracking your skull time and again and hope to live healthy and comfortably into your 50s or 60s.
Too much of a diatribe from me? Sorry. I set up the opening graf to praise Alabama's Andrew Steele, who made the tough but wise choice to call it career this week after he and his family listened to doctors and decided playing basketball was too risky. The school announced Steele's decision today.
"This was something I had to pray about a lot and talk to my parents and the medical staff about," Steele said in a statement. "It was a realization that this was a situation where I had to make the best choice for my long-term health after basketball. It was a hard decision, but it was a choice between something [basketball] I had been doing my whole life and something that could affect the rest of my life going forward. For me, it wasn’t worth taking the potential risk. Having the coaches and medical staff in my corner made this a lot easier knowing that they were looking out for me and my long-term health while giving me all the information I needed to make my decision. They have gone above and beyond in helping me, and I couldn’t be more thankful."
Honest and thorough words from the redshirt junior. Steele tried to return to physical activity and the normal regimen of a student-athlete in the past two weeks, but he wasn't completely healthy. There were lingering symptoms from the concussions. Pushing it would have been a mistake, something that probably would have happened in the culture as recently as five years ago.
This came to a head (a pun that was not intended, truly) after Steele took a conk in the SEC tournament in a game against Kentucky on March 12. It was his fourth concussion. He missed out on the team's run to the title game of the NIT tournament, and he waited for nearly three months to make his choice. The school is going to keep him on scholarship, so he'll finish out his classes, aiming toward a degree in marketing.