Akomo’s head injury: Wake-up call for UAAP

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AS THE country’s premier collegiate tournament, the UAAP should be responsible for the safety and well-being of its student-athletes.

But the recent incident involving Growling Tiger Steve Akomo should show that despite many of the UAAP members having university hospitals and sports medicine programs, the league still has no established protocol on concussions.

On Sept. 22, Akomo was flagrantly fouled during UST’s game against the Adamson University Soaring Falcons. After he was momentarily knocked down on the court, he was still allowed to finish the game and was able to suit up a week later in UST’s matchup against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.

The Varsitarian later on confirmed that he had been confined at the UST Hospital due to blood clots in his cerebellum after he complained of headache during the Ateneo square off. It turred out he had been compelled to play even if he had a head injury because of the Adamson tiff.

The incident exposed the glaring absence of a protocol in the UAAP on concussions or head-related injuries. It had already been apparent in the first game that Akomo was badly hit and yet he was still allowed by UST and UAAP officials to finish the match and even play in the succeeding game which only aggravated his condition.

Sporting leagues across the world, including the United States’ National Basketball Association and National Collegiate Athletic Association, have long imposed strict measures on concussions.
While it is encouraging to know that the UAAP has offered to set ground rules for possible head injury cases, the fact remains that no action has been done up to this day.

It is appalling how Akomo had to be the sacrificial lamb for the UAAP to realize that the league’s safety protocols have been lacking. What happened to him could have been avoided if only the league had any sense of urgency.

Because of the UAAP’s lackadaisical interest on safety matters, Akomo will be out of action from the UAAP indefinitely.

As part of reiterating its commitment to the health and security of the players, the UAAP should also address the careless opinions of their commentators who tend to downplay injury risks.

After Akomo went down, Christian Luanzon, a former Tiger himself, quickly dismissed the matter, saying it was just part of the player’s “acting job.”

Luanzon might have forgotten the hazards of the game he once played. Basketball is a contact sport and injuries cannot be simply brushed aside.

Though commentators have the right to express their opinions, they should also be sensitive enough to think twice before saying them.
Concussions are a serious matter and the possibility of having one is no joke.

Akomo’s case should be a lesson for other athletes, coaches, schools and the UAAP itself that the well-being of the players should be paramount.

Without protocols in place, concussions are more likely to be missed and untreated, which would result in long-term consequences.
Any injury, be it light or hard, should be carefully examined and medical treatments should be sought immediately to prevent further damage.

While the UAAP is concerned that mandatory sit-outs might have a big impact on the schools’ standing in the league, they should remember that the players’ safety is a top priority.

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