Football Player's Concussion Raises Questions (interview with Dr. Sloan)

By Alex Goldsmith/Reporter

(KRQE) - Since his high school days, Cole Gautsche has lit up football fields across New Mexico with his play.

The Cleveland High School alum won a state title in 2011 before accepting a scholarship to UNM and winning playing time in 2012. He also won the starter's position in 2013.

But the athletic signal caller has had some significant head issues since he enrolled with the Lobos.

Last season, a heavy hit in Hawaii gave Gautsche a concussion and knocked him out of the lineup for a game. Then on Saturday, another hit meant another concussion for Gautsche. Like many concussions, Saturday's nearly went unnoticed.

"In fact Kasey Carrier was the one that alerted our trainer that Cole Gautsche was acting a little bit different in the huddle and that's how we found out about it," said Lobo head football coach Bob Davie.

Despite another brain injury, Gautsche is only expected to miss one game with the Lobos. The team expects to have the quarterback available for their showdown against Pittsburgh and Davie says Gautsche was concussion-free Wednesday.

But with at least two concussions, what are the risks Gautsche could be taking by taking the field?

"Whether in sports or any other thing, to have multiple concussions is not a good thing," said Dr. John Henry Sloan, medical director at Lovelace Rehabilitation Hospital.

Sloan says research shows each concussion makes the next one more likely and also potentially more dangerous.

"The brain's got a remarkable ability and remarkable plasticity to try and heal this but the more injury that you have, it's important for us to understand that there could be a lasting consequence to this."

The long-term effect could be Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a condition diagnosable during autopsies of several former college and professional football players and athletes in other high-contact sports. Symptoms believed to be connected to CTE include depression, memory loss, aggression and balance issues.

As for the short-term risks, Sloan says the player's concussion symptoms can tell a lot about the risks of continuing to play.

"If they start showing persistent neurocognitive or neurobehavioral changes, you really should be talking about retirement at that point in time," Sloan said.

There are also questions about liability that a string of lawsuits has raised. The NFL recently settled a massive concussion-related lawsuit with its former players for $765 million, although a new group of players recently filed another lawsuit claiming the NFL hid the dangers about brain injuries from them.

Several former college players also recently sued the NCAA with similar concussion-related claims.

KRQE, 10pm

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