Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Dec 2014

Brandon Fields Teaching Concussion Awareness - Life Extension

Miami Dolphins’ punter Brandon Fields has a driving mission to educate people, especially kids, about the dangers of concussions, which can cause dementia, Alzheimer’s, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

By Alexis Franzi.

Brandon Fields
Brandon Fields

Brandon Fields is no stranger to success. The 30-year-old punter for the Miami Dolphins has started every game since joining the team in 2007. He holds franchise records for gross and net averages for both single season and career. He also played in the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl.

But as impressive as Fields’ NFL career has been, perhaps his most important successes have been off the field.

In 2011 and 2012, Fields won the Miami Dolphins’ Nat Moore Community Service Award for giving back to the community. In 2012 and 2013, Fields received the Miami Dolphins’ nomination for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, which honors volunteer and charity work.

In addition to donating his time and effort to numerous charities, Fields and his wife Katie started the Youth Fitness Fund, an organization that encourages today’s young to be physically active and live a healthy lifestyle. A big part of being physically active is learning how to stay safe, which is why Fields’ passion is to raise awareness among children and parents of a serious problem plaguing the sports world: head injuries.

NFL Controversy

Fields has made it his mission to educate people about the dangers of concussions—an issue that has caused major controversy in the NFL in recent years. The NFL has been accused of covering up the dangers caused by repeated blows to the head, but the latest research makes this issue impossible to ignore.

Last year, in the NFL alone, there were 228 diagnosed concussions during preseason and regular season practices and games combined. Concussions can result in brain damage and may eventually increase the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

CTE is a disease of the brain found primarily in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of brain tissue that can begin months, years, or even decades after the last concussion. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, paranoia, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.

Originally, CTE was most associated with boxers and was diagnosed as far back as 1928 when it was called “punch-drunk syndrome” because boxers experienced symptoms such as an unsteady gait, slowed movement, confusion, and speech problems.

But researchers have determined that CTE is far more prevalent than first realized, and more and more professional football players have since been diagnosed.

Over the past few years, autopsies of more than 50 ex-NFL players revealed evidence of CTE. Although the disease can only officially be diagnosed post-mortem, the latest advances in brain imaging technology have allowed doctors to spot signs of the disease while a person is still alive. Recently, famous living players such as Hall of Fame inductees Tony Dorsett and Joe DeLamielleure, and former NFL All-Pro Leonard Marshall, have been diagnosed as having signs of CTE.

Because there’s no current way to treat CTE, prevention is the best—and only—way to avoid the tragedy of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

And that’s exactly what Brandon Fields has made it his mission to do. He knows that pro football players and boxers aren’t the only ones facing the dangers of head trauma. All kids who play sports are at risk, which is why Fields has taken it upon himself to educate kids, parents, and coaches of the dangers of concussions, how to avoid head trauma in the first place, and how to recognize a concussion when it happens.

Should Kids Play Football?

Should Kids Play Football?  

Naturally, given the increased awareness over the potential dangers of contact sports, many parents are questioning whether they should allow their children to play football, or any sport that could possibly allow for concussions.

But in a society where getting kids to be active is increasingly difficult, Fields believes keeping kids out of sports poses a far greater risk to their health.

As a professional athlete and a new parent himself, Fields explains why parents shouldn’t worry about letting their kids play football, or any other sport that would possibly allow for concussions.

“The benefits of playing sports outweigh the general concerns that parents might have about their children playing any contact sport,” Fields says. “Parents and coaches need to be aware of the warning signs of all on-the-field injuries, while players need to be careful and practice proper techniques to avoid injuries. Contact sports, by their nature, have risks, but they also have benefits like teaching kids about sportsmanship, team building, working together, etc.”

It’s all about knowledge and awareness, he adds, such as knowing how to prevent these kinds of injuries in the first place, then being aware of the warning signs when such an injury occurs.

While there’s always a risk when you play contact sports, there are many safety precautions parents and coaches can take in order to help lower the odds of sustaining a concussion. These include wearing the right protective equipment, such as a well-fitting helmet, following the rules of safety, and not going back into the game if a concussion is suspected.

This last precaution is especially critical because if an athlete suffers a second blow to the head before fully recovering from the first one, he or she is at risk of a rare but often fatal condition called second impact syndrome.

Some common symptoms of a concussion include headache, loss of memory, and confusion. These symptoms may last days, weeks, or even longer. But be aware: Concussions aren’t always easy to identify, and contrary to popular belief, they don’t always involve a loss of consciousness.

In fact, according to research done by the Centers for Disease Control, 90% of most diagnosed concussions don’t involve a loss of consciousness, and this might falsely allow the child, parent, or coach to think everything is okay. Most kids are resilient and even if they’ve been knocked down, they want to go right back out and play. However, Fields stresses it’s the job of the parents and coaches to know when it is time for a player to sit out.

How Brandon Fields Keeps Himself Healthy

How Brandon Fields Keeps Himself Healthy  

When it comes to maintaining optimal health, Fields practices what he preaches. In addition to a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, Fields takes numerous supplements specifically designed to support both his overall health, and ones specifically designed to support his knee and hip joints—the joints most important to his profession as a kicker.

“I take a general multivitamin and fish oil, as well as joint support supplements such as glucosamine and manganese,” Fields says.

These are excellent choices for keeping joints and bones healthy. Glucosamine stimulates the manufacture of glycosaminoglycans, which are important components of the cartilage needed for healthy joints, while manganese plays a role in energy production as well as normal bone formation and development. Fatty acids from fish oil support focus, mood, learning, and positive behavior.

Perhaps most of all, Fields believes that staying active is essential for good health, which is why he dedicates so much time to organizing programs designed to teach kids about health, fitness, and maintaining a positive attitude.

By teaching kids the importance of staying active and safe today, he believes they are well on their way to a healthier tomorrow.

To find out more about Brandon Fields’ charities or to make a donation, visit www.BrandonAndKatieFields.com.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.

Subscribe to Life Extension Magazine®

Subscribe Now

Advertise in Life Extension Magazine®

Learn More