During a brutal game with the Aggies, UNM football star Clarence Heald suffered a concussion that knocked him cold. He got up and played, semiconscious, to the end of the game, when he took another blow to the head and was unconscious for half an hour.
It was 1906. UNM’s slogan at the time: “Do or die.”
Today, we know that young Clarence probably paid for those injuries the rest of his life with dizziness, slurred speech, difficulty focusing or depression, among other things.
We’ve learned a lot about brain injuries and sports in New Mexico.
UNM’s Brain Safe Project, which began in 2013, uses MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) taken over time to study the long-term effects of brain concussions on student athletes. By 2014, it had the world’s largest database of student athletes and concussions. Some of its subjects had already looked at the images, decided not to press their luck, and stopped playing.
State law prescribes brain-injury protocols for school sports, including training for coaches, and the New Mexico Activities Association provides clear information about concussions to parents and students on its website.
So we’re more aware and better informed, but we’re not quite there yet.