Like an unstoppable action movie star, for some of the most popular modern video game heroes, recovering from injury is typically as simple as finding a box of bandages or just keeping yourself out of the line of fire for a few seconds. This escape from realism is a storytelling necessity, how is the player supposed to save the world single-handed if he or she isn’t all but invincible?
Unlike Rambo or Halo's Master Chief, there are video game heroes that are not make-believe. One of the most popular games in the nation is the football simulation Madden NFL published by EA Sports. Named for the legendary football coach and announcer, Madden NFL has achieved a level of success almost unrivaled in the video gaming industry and has released a best-selling new version of the game for every new football season since 1988. The millions of fans of this gaming franchise cross all age and gender lines, even attracting large parts of the non-hardcore gamer community.
A large part of this success is the franchise's commitment to recreating the pro football experience, harnessing the ever-developing power of video game consoles to add new layers of realism not only to the statistical heart of the game, but to visual details like real-world stadiums recreated down to the number of seats in the stands. Through licensing, Madden NFL and games like it use simulated versions of real people, and just like the real pros on Sunday these virtual athletes can suffer injury at almost any time that can have career and life threatening implications.
In 2008, the Boston University School of Medicine opened the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy with the goal of exploring the consequences of repeated trauma on the human brain. Their work examining the donated brains of professional football players has led to the expansion of knowledge of a condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Briefly, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) refers to a condition when the brain slowly degrades after being exposed to repeated blows of both a concussive and sub-concussive nature. Over time it can cause dementia, memory loss, tremors, aggression, and depression in its sufferers.
This new knowledge, coupled with the role CTE may have played in the suicides of some high profiles former athletes, including four-time pro-bowler Dave Duerson and professional wrestler Chris Benoit, has begun to effect change in how concussions are handled in professional sports. Having already long recognized the basic danger of concussions, the NFL changed their rules and expanded their work to educate athletes, coaches and trainers about concussions. The Madden NFL video game, despite their players being purely virtual, has taken its own steps to educate video gamers about concussions.On this issue, Rob Semsey, Communications Director for EA Sports released a statement to Newsarama:
The way it works in [the soon to be released] Madden NFL 12 is like this:
If a player in injured in-game, they will be tended to by the medical staff on the field, and then escorted to the sideline. Play will continue with the player on the sideline. If the injury is determined to be a possible concussion, the player will not be permitted back into the game. The commentary team will also address this and comment the seriousness of concussions.
“[This is] a step in the right direction for all youth athletes, those who play football or other sports where a concussion may occur,” responds Steve Alic of USA Football, a non-profit youth football organization endowed by the NFL and NFLPA, “[The scenario] parallels with what USA Football and the Centers for Disease Control share with the youth football community, which is: 'when in doubt, sit them out.' [If] a player is suspected of concussion should be taken out of a game or practice.”
Alic and his organization endorse the move by EA Sports, especially the holding out of a concussed player, but adds a layer of concern for real-world youth athletes, “I'd add that a player in youth football, or any sport, should not return to play until cleared by a medical professional.”
Semsey and Alic concur that education, no matter how one gets it, is the key to preventing long-term brain damage like CTE. Semsey added, “Our game has long been used to help teach the sport of football to several generations, in regards to the rules and complexities of the sport. This is definitely an opportunity to drive awareness to the serious nature of head injuries.”
Steve Alic advises, “[Concussion awareness and education] starts with coaches and parents or even a player's teammates. It's important for all involved to recognize concussion symptoms and what to do if a concussion is suspected. The fact that this is in the game is a positive. It only reinforces that message that players should hear from their coach.”
For More Information: